One of the most popular moments of fall season (besides our beloved PSL) is celebrating Halloween. This nostalgic celebration brings memories of childhood to adults and is one of the most anticipated holidays of the year for children — usually. If you’re a parent of a child with autism you understand the stress and desire for inclusion this celebration can bring to autism families.
Like many celebrations, Halloween is not exempt from requiring layers of accommodation for those with autism. In fact, accommodation goes beyond the battle for sensory-friendly costumes, adjusting to the lights, sounds, and crowds that create a recipe for sensory-overload for children on the spectrum.
You see, Halloween, is when society comes into direct contact with autism in ways they do not usually anticipate. Let’s be honest, most of our neighbors, want to hand out candy to children that are grateful and move quickly so we can get on with our evening. It is safe to assume that most children will comply with whatever standards we set in order to fill their bags with candy on Halloween.
However, many kids on the spectrum are ridiculed because they do not dress up for Halloween, are not able to communicate their thanks for a treat or spend too much time finding the only candy they want to eat and cannot understand that they are holding up the line in their search for that one type of candy. Let’s not forget about children that have dietary restrictions due to their autism diagnosis, but want to partake in the celebration because let’s face it — they’re kids, too.
I know it’s hard to embrace autism on a night where we celebrate kids for creativity in their costumes and socialization within their communities. It’s difficult to know how to embrace autism (or any special need) in children when we do not know what to look for. Children within the same diagnosis will most likely have unique differences. Whether you are looking to accommodate children with autism at your home, or you’re a parent looking for inclusive strategies to help embrace autism in your community we have some great strategies for you to use.
1. Go Teal… put out a teal pumpkin.
The Teal Pumpkin Project was created for children with dietary restrictions to enjoy Halloween. It was created by a family with a child with autism that wanted to make it easy to identify homes that were autism and diet-friendly for children with special needs. When you have a teal pumpkin you are letting your neighborhood know that you have treats for those that have dietary restrictions.
This project has grown in popularity and teal pumpkin products are now used in identifying your home as a friendly place for people with special needs. At my home, we have a teal pumpkin out each Halloween and special treats to give to those that cannot have candy. We, also, have a teal pumpkin basket for my autistic daughter to use to collect treats to represent her special needs. This simple tool identifies special needs to help all of us create an inclusive environment that embraces autism and those with dietary restrictions in our communities.
2. Consider small toys and party favors for those with dietary restrictions.
Along with going teal this Halloween considers purchasing small party favors, stickers, stamps or glow items to accommodate those with autism that cannot eat candy. Providing alternative options for kids on the spectrum helps our autistic children experience Halloween in a new way. You do not have to forgo the candy completely. Simply purchasing inexpensive, non-edible treats can go a long way for children that have special needs.
3. Embrace kindness.
It can be difficult for children with autism to communicate with others, especially on Halloween. It is important to be mindful of kids that may not look at you, say trick-or-treat or anything. Autism in children manifests in many different ways and understanding that some are verbal and others cannot speak is important to support an inclusive home on Halloween.
Most parents of children with autism will come to the door with them and help support the lack of communication. Others will not, as my daughter has grown I let her walk to the door with her friends and sibling to participate in a fully inclusive Halloween. As such, I am not there to support her lack of manners (not rude behavior for a kid with autism) and inability to make eye contact. So, keep in mind, these kids are out there appearing to blend in with others and snide remarks about being rude will only diminish the point of embracing autism every day.
I speak from personal experience when it comes to the months of preparation many therapy sessions focus on to create the best Halloween experience for autistic children. Many children with autism are taught through therapy to utilize manners and appropriate social cues, however, that may not come out the way we envision as parents of kids on the spectrum. Kindness, to say the least, goes beyond any words. We Rock the Spectrum provides some tips that many parents use to prepare for Halloween. This perspective of preparation for the celebration is important to help support an inclusive environment for those with autism.
4. Keep the route to your candy friendly for everyone.
Kids with autism are literal thinkers. They, usually, do not embrace figurative language, sarcasm or interpretative language or behaviors. This means they can interpret your Halloween displays literally. Parents with kids on the spectrum do plan for the scary house displays and know how their autistic children will react. However, consider a candy-route for those with autism to use to embrace their literal interpretation of your pretend display.
Embracing autism is not always the easiest thing. It takes a shift in thinking to understand how everyday routines or celebrations like Halloween have layers of needed accommodations to make it enjoyable for children on the spectrum. As we move towards a fully-inclusive society, utilizing one or two of these points can help significantly for autism families.
Embrace Autism is devoted to building a community that fosters inclusivity for those on the autism spectrum. We would love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below or contact us for more help with blog development.