Your Healthy Family: Having a sensory-friendly Halloween

Posted at 7:38 AM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 07:55:20-04

Halloween is almost here, and finding the right kind of celebration can take some extra planning for families with children who have autism.

Both of Kelli Higgins' daughters have autism, and are getting ready to celebrate Halloween. She said it's a time of year that can be really tough, and even scary for children with autism.

"The noises of certain decorations that pop out at you to scare you. It's sometimes the unknown of what's going to happen that could be kind of hard for individuals. And even some smells," Higgins said.

Mikaela Malott, a representative for Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers, said the sights and sounds of the holiday can be overwhelming for kids who have autism.

“One of the symptoms of autism is feeling that sensory overload that comes with loud noises, large crowds, any situation where they may have to socialize in a large group setting," Malott said.

Higgins recommends getting your kids' costumes early.

"Start practicing wearing the costumes. Also, some costumes can be more confined or itchy, and that way you figure out a lot sooner, so that you can adjust it to make it easier for them," Higgins said.

She also suggests reading stories that explain Halloween and the process of trick-or-treating.

"Practice at home, giving and receiving treats within your own buckets and baskets or bags that you have," she said.

Hopebridge Autism Therapy Centers practices this with families it sees, and is asking you to be aware of the challenges of Halloween and be more inclusive.

"Not all children will be wearing a costume because of some of those sensory challenges. Also, be understanding if they don't say 'trick-or-treat,' or if they don't say 'please' or don't say 'thank you,'” Malott said.

"They might not say anything. Just offer them the treats that you have, and just be mindful if they're grabbing for a lot of treats at the same time, they might not understand to take one or two," Higgins said.