Monthly Archives: October 2014

Creating a Safe & Accessible Halloween

Strobe lights might seem fun to create a “scary” atmosphere, but they are not safe for those with epilepsy or sensory sensitivities to lights.   Strobe lights can trigger seizures and migraines.  Lanterns and soft, glowing lights are a safer alternative that will let ALL know that they are welcome.

 There is a difference between “spooky” and “scary”.   For kids, Halloween should be spooky and not terrifying.  If you are giving out candy or having a “haunted house” or party, there is a difference between a scary character holding a bowl of candy and a scary character jumping up and trying to grab you.  It’s not funny or cute to make a child cry because they are afraid.  Children need to feel safe and accepted.  Even on “spooky” holidays.

Please remember that with Autistic children, even those children who do use “verbal speech” regularly, talking can be difficult and take a lot of energy.  Forcing children to say “trick or treat” or “thank you” at every house can be exhausting.  Autistic children are not being rude, they are doing the best they can.     If a child comes to your house, party, gathering, etc. and doesn’t respond to you by using verbal speech, do not make a big deal about it!  Consider using  communication cards to support your kids on Halloween.

Many Autistic children have strong preferences.  Kids are not being rude if they refuse candy or dig trying to find a favored item.  They are just kids, not miniature adults.

 Costumes and “dressing up” should be FUN for your children.  If it is not fun, or causes them distress, don’t force them to do it.  Makeup, masks that restrict vision and cause confusion, itchy costumes are no fun when they put your sensory system on high alert.  If your child doesn’t want to wear a costume, that’s okay.  If you see a child out trick or treating who is not wearing a costume, that’s okay too.

Planning to visit “safe” houses, those of family and friends might be a less intense alternative than going door to door.

 Sometimes, Trick or Treating is too much.  It might be better to stay home and pass out candy.  Sometimes passing out candy is too much.  It might be better to turn off the porch lights and watch movies with popcorn and treats.  Make your own traditions!

Remember that Halloween means a break in routine and a lot more sensory input!  Autistic children may need even more down time than usual.  Also, it’s important to remember that we sometimes process things slower or on a different time frame than non-Autistic people.  We might need a lot longer to “recover” than you think!

This is about children having fun, not about your expectations of what the holiday needs to look like.  Let the kids have fun in their own way, and have fun with them!

Most importantly, BE FLEXIBLE!  Be willing to change your plans and open to celebrating Halloween in unexpected and Autistic ways!

Check out some more accessible Halloween tips on our Facebook page