Halloween is almost here, along with costumes, trick-or-treating, and lots of candy and snacks. There are many ways to prepare to keep your child safe while having a good time. For families of children with special needs there are often extra precautions needed to ensure a fun holiday. Below is a brief list of suggestions and resources that may be helpful.
General Safety Tips
-Choose light-colored costumes that are easily seen at night. If necessary, add reflective or glow-in-the-dark tape to the costume and treat bag.
-Be sure to buy flame retardant costumes or use flame retardant materials. This means the material will not burn.
-Be sure your child can breathe and see out of the costume; be sure masks, wigs and beards don’t cover eyes, noses or mouths. Instead of masks, consider using non-toxic face paint or makeup.
-Put a name tag with your phone number on your children’s costumes.
-Avoid oversized and high-heeled shoes to prevent falls. Be sure costumes aren’t so long a child can trip over them.
-Make sure any props such as swords or wands are short and flexible.
-Walk on lit sidewalks and walk from house to house (no running).
-Cross at crosswalks and do not assume vehicles will stop for you.
-After trick-or-treating, check all treats to be sure they are sealed. Discard any candy with torn packages or holes in packages, and spoiled items.
Under age 12:
-Children under 12 should always go trick-or-treating with an adult.
-Be sure your child knows your cell or home phone number.
-Children should know how to call 911 in case they get separated or lost.
-Older children should have a route and a time limit
-Be sure your child carries a cell phone, and a flashlight or glow stick.
-Children should go in a group and stay together, and only go to houses with lights on.
-Children should never go into strangers’ cars or homes.
For Children with Autism
The sights, sounds and smells of the holiday can be immensely challenging for a child with autism. In many cases, if children know what to expect beforehand, Halloween can be a bit less stressful. Some preparation suggestions include:
-Reduce anxiety by maintaining your child’s regular routine as much as possible.
-Use stories to prepare your child for the holiday and activities you may do. Watch movies with scenes of children trick-or-treating and participating in Halloween activities.
-Mark event dates on your calendar. Consider adjusting how far in advance you prepare your child if he gets anxious when anticipating an event.
-Respect your child’s limits when planning and scheduling activities.
-Practice wearing a costume before Halloween. Allow your child to dress up as their favorite character regardless of age. There are even pajamas that look like costumes.
-Avoid props that may cause sensory overload.
-Make fun, Halloween-themed food throughout the month.
-At parties, find a private room for your child to safely relax when overwhelmed.
-Attend drive-up or drive-through Halloween events.
-Instead of trick-or-treating, consider creating a candy/toy scavenger hunt in your house or yard, or buying a pinata to fill with allergy-friendly candy and toys, and allow your kids to break it open on Halloween.
-Play sensory games with slime, squishy brains, etc. Click here for some great ideas for sensory games.
-Make Halloween crafts to use as decorations.
-Create innovative ways to safely hand out candy to trick-or-treaters such as a cool candy slide Here’s an example.
For children with sensory issues, many activities during this time may be additionally difficult. Below are additional accommodations that may help:
-Discuss Halloween and costumes with your child before the holiday arrives.
-Select a sensory-friendly costume and have your child wear familiar, comfortable clothing underneath. If possible, wash the costume before wearing to soften the material and remove any unfamiliar scents. Consider having your child wear a compression or weighted vest underneath.
-Have your child practice wearing their costume before the holiday and make necessary adjustments.
-Factor in time for breaks.
-Bring items that comfort your child, such as noise-cancelling headphones, ear plugs, weighted vests and comfort items.
The Teal Pumpkin Project
The goal of The Teal Pumpkin Project is to make trick-or-treating more inclusive and safer for children with food allergies. By placing a teal pumpkin on your stoop, you are letting trick-or-treaters know you have non-food treats that are safe. Read more here.
Halloween can be celebrated in a variety of ways that provide safe fun for all. A little planning and preparation can help greatly toward enjoying any holiday and Halloween is no exception. It is important to assess your family’s needs and go from there. There is no gold standard to which we must adhere in order to enjoy this holiday. Create your own way of celebrating and enjoy! Happy Halloween.
Note: The information in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not an attempt to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Always consult your child’s pediatrician with any specific medical questions. MKSA is also available to answer questions about child development. Contact us at 516-731-5588 or www.mksallc.com.
Halloween Tips for Autism Families: https://tacanow.org/family-resources/trick-or-treat/
Halloween Safety Tips: https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/halloween.html
Halloween Sensory Play: https://lemonlimeadventures.com/totally-awesome-non-spooky-halloween-sensory-play-ideas-kids/
Keeping Your Kids with ASD Safe: https://tacanow.org/family-resources/keeping-your-kids-with-asd-safe/
How to Have a Safe and Sensory Friendly Halloween: https://www.myautism.org/news-features/how-to-have-a-safe-and-sensory-friendly-halloween
The Teal Pumpkin Project: https://www.foodallergy.org/resources/about-teal-pumpkin-project