Costumes, candy, and chaos- for many kids, Halloween is their time to shine! Neurodivergent individuals, however, can often find this holiday stressful and overwhelming. Itchy costumes, noises, eye contact, and an out of routine evening can have everyone involved feeling the dread of the day. This doesn’t have to be the case, though.
Here are three helpful tips to giving your child a successful trick-or-treating experience that you’ll want to repeat.
1. Plan accordingly
Halloween can be a sensory overload for many neurodivergent children. The lights, strangers, and all the uncertainties of who they will see and what they will encounter can have a negative impact on the evening. If you plan accordingly, you can be sure to support your child with a few familiar comforts. Getting ahead of sensory overload might be the best thing you do for your evening, as supported in this article by a neurodivergent clinician.
For instance, many costumes can be made from scratch that have familiar fabrics, and can help avoid the meltdown over the uncomfortable costumes. Want to be Spider-Man? Try a red sweatsuit as the base, and go from there! Or maybe a princess better suits your fancy…well, ditch the itchy dress from the box store and start with leggings and a shirt. Any costume can start with a comfortable base.
Also, make sure you plan your route. This allows for familiar scenery on Halloween night. Even at a trunk or treat, if your child has seen the scenery before, they are more likely to be at ease. This is also to your benefit as a parent in case you need an escape route early. If you’ve been there, you can easily and calmly plan an exit if necessary.
Lastly, make sure you plan a good experience for your child. Depending on the need, maybe conventional trick or treating would work for your child, but if not, be aware of your local options. Oftentimes churches, malls, or parks provide a less overwhelming feeling for those with sensory needs.
2. Manage Expectations
To avoid keeping things ghostly, make sure to manage expectations all around- yours and theirs! Communicate about only grabbing 1-2 pieces of candy, not a fistful. Communicate with them about when and how much of their candy they can eat once they have it in their possession. Explain to them the kinds of things that will be available in a trick or treat bucket- if they assume it’s always candy, and then are given a bag of pretzels, that could be confusing.
Make sure to manage your expectations, too. How long will you stay out? Will you avoid certain booths with triggering lights or sensory overload? How many adults will be there with you to help? All of these details matter, and when planned out can only aid the evening.
3. Have Fun!
No matter what happens, be sure to take things with a grain of salt and have fun!! Allow your child to experience the events and make memories. The best comfort to your child is when you are having fun with them. Dress up alongside them, remind them to say please and thank you, and eat some candy at the end of the night when you get home. Be sure to let them enjoy the evening just being a kid- neurodivergent or not.
No evening will be perfect but follow the tips above and you will have a night to remember- one that has you looking back saying, “Fangs” for the memories!
Written by: Meg Perry