Halloween can be a fun time for many children with autism spectrum disorder. However, the holiday can also present some unsafe and dangerous situations. This is true for all kids but can be especially concerning for kids with disabilities such as autism.
Tips for Keeping Kids with Autism Safe During Halloween
Although each child is different, there are some recommendations for how you can keep your child with autism safe during the Halloween season. We will discuss ways that you can keep your child physically safe while also helping your child to have an enjoyable Halloween.
Trick-or-Treat in a Familiar Area
Trick-or-treating in a familiar area can make your child feel more comfortable. Plus, if your child has a tendency to elope (or run away) from an adult, they are more likely to be familiar with their surroundings. You might also have a better idea of where your child might have gone. For instance, if you are trick-or-treating in a small-town neighborhood near a park, your child might go to the park if they have been there in the past with you.
Give Your Child a Flashlight if You're Out at Dark
Your child might feel more comfortable when trick-or-treating if they have a flashlight, especially if you are out when it is getting dark outside.
You can also use the flashlight to help you if you need to take a closer look at the candy that your child is receiving. This is particularly important if your child has allergies, or you want to keep certain types of candy away from them.
Have Your Contact Information Easily Accessible
Depending on your child’s needs and abilities, you might consider having some way of connecting your personal contact information with your child. This could be on a bracelet or on a card that your child carries with them or any other method that seems appropriate for your child.
By having your full name, phone number, and address, your child can easily give this information to an adult if they were to get lost. Also, if your child is non-vocal or if they could get overwhelmed or shut down and have trouble communicating for some reason, another adult could use this information to contact you.
Having this contact information can help your child stay safe not only when they are trick-or-treating but also when they are at a holiday event, attending a social get-together with peers, or when they are in a public place like a store.
Discuss Staying with a Buddy
Give your child instruction to always stay with a buddy. Depending on your child’s needs and abilities, your child might be taking part in Halloween activities with you, a teacher, caregiver, or they might participate in these activities with their peers (particularly for higher functioning, low support needs older adolescents or young adults).
No matter who attends the Halloween activities with your child, try to ensure that your child knows to stay with a buddy - to always stay with someone - and never to be alone during the event.
Use Social Stories
Social stories are stories designed to help kids better understand specific social situations and other experiences of daily life. These might help kids better understand how to communicate with others or how to independently complete a common activity one has to complete in daily life such as brushing their teeth.
You could create a story or purchase a premade story about Halloween. If you are creating a story, you could include information about the process of how a child would go trick-or-treating as well as tips on staying safe during Halloween.
Manage Your Child's Consumption of Candy
Part of the excitement of Halloween is getting a lot of candy. A safety tip to keep in mind for many kids is to manage the child’s candy consumption. Consider any previous behavioral or physical effects on your child because of the overconsumption of sugary treats. You know your child best. It’s recommended that you be proactive in managing your child’s consumption of candy and help support your child during and after having sweets (particularly if they have more than they typically consume).
Helping Kids with Autism Have Fun During Halloween
In addition to staying safe, you probably also want to help your child enjoy the Halloween season. Here are a few tips for how you can help your child with autism to have more fun during Halloween.
- Use a calendar to prepare your child for Halloween. Helping your child know what to expect, specifically when the Halloween events will take place, is helpful because kids with autism can sometimes get overwhelmed when new things happen that they weren’t expecting.
- Consider your child’s unique needs and preferences. Your child doesn’t need to participate in Halloween activities like most other children might. You could limit trick-or-treating to visiting relatives or for a short duration. You could allow your child to skip the costume if it makes them uncomfortable or if they simply aren’t interested in dressing up.
- Make it fun. Use positive reinforcement, praise, and interact with your child in ways that show you are interested in them and that you truly want to be spending time with them. Limit your demands and go with the flow. Have fun with your child!
Keeping Your Autistic Child Safe During Halloween
As a review, some of the ways you can keep your child safe during Halloween include:
- Trick-or-treat in a familiar area
- Give your child a flashlight if you’re out at dark
- Have your contact information easily accessible
- Discuss staying with a buddy
- Manage your child’s consumption of candy
- Use social stories
Also, remember to have fun. Consider your child’s preferences and adjust how you approach Halloween so that your child has a great time!
8 Easy Tips for Children with Autism to Enjoy Halloween