Last Halloween, Sarah’s parents were anxious. Their daughter, who has autism, had always found the loud noises, bright lights, and unfamiliar costumes overwhelming.
They wanted her to enjoy the festivities like other kids but didn’t know how to make it happen.
After seeking advice from other parents and experts, they made a few adjustments to their Halloween plans.
Instead of a store-bought costume, Sarah wore her favorite soft pajamas with a homemade cape. They practiced trick-or-treating at home and even created a ‘safe word’ for when things got too much.
The result? Sarah had her best Halloween yet! She felt included, had fun, and even made a new friend.
Halloween activities can be challenging for special needs kids. But with some preparation and understanding, it can become a memorable occasion for everyone involved.
Here are my best Halloween tips to ensure every child gets to enjoy the magic of Halloween without it being a terrifying, tantrum-inducing experience for the whole family.
Simple Special Needs Friendly Halloween Planning Tips
Simple things to remember as we head into the bustling Halloween season:
#1 Don’t Overcommit
Less is more when it comes to party and activity planning. Curb the urge to fill the calendar and say yes to everything.
As these events approach, reserve space on your calendar as soon as you know the dates and times.
Pencil in the main activities or events, then stop. Do not feel pressured or obligated to keep your child’s schedule booked to the max.
Instead, find creative ways to solve your scheduling challenges to meet the needs of your differently-abled child (and might save your sanity in the process).
#2 Approach with Empathy
Quietly observe how your special needs child might react when possible and adjust accordingly.
Try to empathize with how your sensory-affected child may react to things like:
- Sudden scares
- Flashing strobe lights
- Crowds of noisy people all wearing masks and face paint
And think about the other aspects of Halloween that we have grown accustomed to but may prove frightening or overwhelming to your differently abled kid.
You’ll have to gauge facial expressions and body language if your child is non-verbal. Check that things haven’t reached the point of being overwhelmed periodically.
#3 Check-in and Communicate
When preparing for Halloween with a special needs child, keeping communication lines open is essential. Regularly checking in with your child about their likes and dislikes ensures they have a positive experience.
By understanding their preferences and boundaries, you can tailor Halloween activities to their comfort level, ensuring the holiday is enjoyable and stress-free for both of you.
#4 Modify When Necessary
Cut it short if an event goes longer than your child can handle. If pumpkin carving is not ability-appropriate, then bring along stickers and markers to decorate your child’s pumpkin instead.
#5 Get Your Child Involved Slowly
Change is hard for many special needs children. Keeping it simple and gradually building up will help.
This could be adding 2 or 3 new Halloween decorations per day. Have your child help you arrange them on the front porch or around the house. Be mindful and stay in the moment.
For example, ask your child: “Do you think Wendy the Witch would prefer to sit in the porch rocker? Or would she rather be on her broomstick by the mailbox?”
Try your child’s suggestion if she has one.
Remember that Halloween need not be picture-perfect but that the perfect Halloween is one where everyone has a say and takes a turn.
On another day, you could do fingerpainting in black, orange, purple, and neon green to create a spooky Halloween scene.
Keep a healthy perspective. The goal is togetherness, happy times, memory-making, and skill development. If something isn’t a fit for your family, it’s okay.
Special Needs Friendly Halloween Costumes
Halloween is all about getting to dress up! But picking the right costume for your special needs child can make a big difference.
Here are some tips to help you choose the best one.
#7 Think Comfort First
When picking out a costume, always go for ones that feel soft to the touch. Some costumes can be itchy or too tight, especially if they have tags. It’s a good idea to choose outfits that are comfortable and familiar.
#8 Try it on
Before the big night, consider having a “dress rehearsal.” This means letting your child try on the costume a few days before Halloween.
It gives them a chance to get used to how it feels. If you’re feeling creative, you can even make a costume at home using clothes your child loves. Add some fun accessories like hats or homemade capes to make it unique.
#9 Accessories for Your Child Needs
Apart from the costume, remember that Halloween can be loud. Fireworks or shouts can be startling.
Consider carrying earplugs or headphones if these noises are too much for your child.
And for those who aren’t fans of the dark, a small flashlight or glow stick can be a comforting companion.
Trick-or-Treating Tips for Special Needs Kids
Going trick-or-treating is one of the best parts of Halloween! But for special needs kids, it can sometimes be a bit much. Here are some strategies to make it a smooth and fun experience for your child.
#10 Planning the Route
Don’t try to visit every house in the neighborhood. Choose a few close-by houses or a short street. This way, it’s not too tiring or overwhelming.
Here are other questions to think about:
- Will trick or treating in daylight be a better option for your group?
- How long to stay out and how many houses to hit?
- Which houses and Halloween characters to steer clear of that may frighten or overwhelm your special needs child?
- Would a trunk or treat work out better?
#11 Use a Visual Guide
Make a simple map or schedule of where you’ll go. This helps your child know what to expect next. You can even use pictures of the houses or landmarks.
#12 Practice Makes Perfect
Think about doing “practice runs” a few days before Halloween. Walk the route and practice saying “trick or treat.” This helps your child get ready for the real thing.
#13 Have a Safety Plan
Choose a signal or a particular word with your child. If they feel too overwhelmed or scared, they can use it. This tells you they need a break or want to go home.
With these strategies in mind, you can ensure trick-or-treating is a fun and happy time for your child!
Let’s Talk About all that Candy
Halloween candy gorging is expected this time of year, long before the costumes go on and the treat bags come out.
It’s a challenge, but try to keep the sugary snacks to a minimum.
You’ll be helping your child stay on an even keel and avoid the dreaded sugar high that often results in tantrums, anxiety, and meltdowns, followed by an energy crash and burn.
Here’s how you can ensure your child enjoys treats without worries.
#14 How Much?
Think about how much candy you will permit on a school night that won’t lead to a meltdown or trouble sleeping later.
#15 Create a Swap Basket
Have a basket of safe candies at home if your child has special dietary needs. If your child gets sweets they can’t eat, swap them for ones from the basket. This way, they still get a treat they can enjoy!
#16 Think Beyond Candy
Not all treats have to be candy! Consider giving out or trading for non-food items like:
- Small toys
#17 Talk to Your Neighbors
Let your neighbors know about your child’s dietary needs if you can.
They might have special treats ready or avoid giving out things your child can’t have. It’s a great way to ensure your child feels included and safe.
With some planning, you can ensure your child enjoys all the Halloween treats without worries!
Helping with Social Interactions
Halloween is a time to meet people and have fun! But sometimes, social situations can be tricky. Here are some tips to help your child feel more comfortable and enjoy the social side of Halloween.
#18 Practice with Role-Play
Act out different Halloween situations at home. Practice saying “trick or treat.” Take turns waiting in line. Remember to say “thank you” after getting a treat.
#19 Choose Smaller Gatherings
Big parties can be loud and overwhelming. Think about going to smaller gatherings or having a little party at home. This way, your child can have fun without feeling too crowded.
#20 Have a Safe Spot
Create a quiet place at home or a party. If things get too much, your child can go there to relax. It could be a room, a corner, or even a special tent.
With these tips, you can help your child enjoy the social parts of Halloween and make lots of happy memories!
Create Routines for Halloween
Halloween is super exciting, but it’s also different from regular days. Keeping some things the same is essential so your child feels comfortable. Here’s how you can maintain a routine even during Halloween fun.
#21 Stick to Bedtime
Halloween can make kids want to stay up late. But it’s a good idea to keep bedtime close to the usual time. This helps your child rest and be ready for the next day.
#22 Get Ready for Tomorrow
After all the Halloween fun, the next day is still a school day. Lay out school clothes for the next morning. Pack lunches in advance so mornings are easier.
#23 Use Helpful Tools
Changes can be hard, but tools can make them easier. Create a countdown calendar so your child can be prepared as the day gets closer.
Use visual schedules or pictures to show what comes next during events.
Set timers to give a heads-up when it’s time to switch activities.
With these tips, you can ensure Halloween is fun without turning everything upside down. Your child can enjoy the holiday and still feel the comfort of their usual routine!
Fun Alternative Halloween Activities
Not every child likes to go trick-or-treating or to parties, and that’s okay! There are lots of other fun ways to celebrate Halloween.
Here are some great activities you can do with your child to make the holiday special.
Look for sensory Halloween activities or activities that work on their fine motor skills.
Try one or more of these ideas:
#24 Halloween Crafts
Get creative with some Halloween crafts. Pumpkin painting can be a fun and less messy alternative to carving.
Try making masks together. Your child can choose their favorite character or creature and enjoy wearing it around the house.
Or try one of these sensory friendly Halloween crafts.
Or one of these 10 accessible and sensory friendly Halloween ideas.
#25 Halloween Movie Night at Home
Choose some of your child’s favorite Halloween movies or any fun film they love.
Make some popcorn, get cozy under a blanket, and enjoy a movie marathon together. It’s a relaxed way to get into the Halloween spirit!
Check out these Halloween movies for kids.
#26 Baking Together
The kitchen can be a place of magic on Halloween! Bake some spooky cookies or cupcakes.
Let your child help with decorating. Use icing, sprinkles, and candies to make ghostly or funny faces on the treats.
Try one of these Halloween treats to make with kids.
#27 Reading Spooky Stories
Find some Halloween-themed books or stories suitable for your child’s age.
Read them together under a blanket fort or by flashlight. It adds a touch of mystery and fun to storytime!
Check out this Halloween books for kids list.
Remember, Halloween is all about having fun and making memories. Whether you’re out trick-or-treating or staying in, the most important thing is to enjoy the time with your child!
With the right preparations, they’ll be all set to enjoy the Halloween festivities to the fullest!
We wish you a safe and spooktacular season!
And if you need more help or resources, we’re here for you. Our website has many resources to support you and your child. We’re on this journey together, so let’s make the most of it!
Additional Resources to Take a Look At
- Fun Family Alternatives to Black Friday Shopping
- 7 Fun Family Christmas Traditions for Children with Special Needs
- Easy 12 Days of Christmas Activities For Families Everyone Will Enjoy
- Fun Winter Break Activities for Kids Guaranteed to Bust Boredom