Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, but it comes with a LOT of sensory input that can make it extra scary for people with ASD or other sensory processing disorders. We all deserve to enjoy special holidays, and these tips can help to make participating in Trick or Treating a fun event to enjoy as a family:

Explain What Happens — Helping your child to understand the process of Trick or Treating can make it feel less unpredictable. Watch a family friendly movie together that visits Halloween themes and shows other kids Trick or Treating. My personal fave? Halloweentown!

Practice What Happens — Now that you’ve started to explain the process of Trick or Treating, why not give it a practice run with a neighbor? Get excited and celebrate this victory!

Pick the Perfect Costume — The perfect costume is one that your child loves that loves her back. Favorite characters are always great options. Be sure to try the costume on ahead of time to make sure that the material or tags aren’t going to bother your child. If you expect it to be cold, practice wearing it with long underwear or a sweater to make sure it’s still comfortable.

Talk to Your Neighbors — If your child has dietary restrictions, is non-verbal, is pre-verbal, or is older than a “typical” Trick or Treater, you may prefer to talk to neighbors ahead of time, so they know how best to help her enjoy Halloween.

Enjoy Your Routine — Follow your regular routine all day as much as possible. Starting Trick or Treating earlier in the evening will let you come home to do your bedtime routine. It’ll also help you beat crowds and make navigation easier.

Invite Friends — Tackling potentially scary situations with other children can make your child feel more comfortable. Invite supportive friends to tag along.

A word about blue and teal pumpkins. After several moms’ Facebook posts went viral, blue Halloween buckets have become the unofficial symbol of a Trick or Treater with ASD. This is a great way to help residents understand why your Trick or Treater may be a little bit different. Since blue buckets aren’t an official campaign, not everyone will recognize this symbol. If you want to adopt the blue bucket, you could send a message to neighbors ahead of time through forums like a neighborhood Facebook group or the Next Door app. TACA has cute printouts that you can bring along to help your non-verbal child introduce herself. On the other hand, the Teal Pumpkin Project is an official campaign by Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE). Teal pumpkins are official symbols for homes that are offering non-food treat options. Since many children with ASD have food allergies and sensitivities, candy may not be an appropriate treat option. You can visit FARE’s website for a map of participating homes. There are plenty of GF/CF candy options like Nerds, Skittles, and Starburst. There are some specialty chocolates that are GF/CF and soy free. You can always drop off safe candy or fun toys to homes you plan to visit ahead of time if you aren’t sure they’ll have appropriate options. If you’re concerned about added sugar, food dyes, or other additives in candies, you can have your child trade their candy for a fun activity instead.

At the end of the day, what works for one child and family may not work for another, and if it works for you and feels right, you’re doing just fine!

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The views expressed in this blog are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any condition and should not be substituted for medical or nutritional advice.