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5 Tips for a Sensory-Friendly Halloween

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Do you need a sensory-friendly Halloween celebration?

Halloween is typically a kid favorite — no long meals to sit through, fun costumes to plan and put together, plus they get to stay up late and have a ton of candy.  While our current health crisis is causing many families to rethink Halloween, many families with children on the autism spectrum have already redefined this childhood hallmark.

At its most typical pre-pandemic state, Halloween was the definition of sensory overload. Unfamiliar faces. Odd lighting. Spooky noises for haunted houses and pop-up “graveyards.” All combined with staying up late and too much candy. In other words, a recipe for an autism meltdown. So many families have reimagined a sensory-friendly Halloween — a version I think you will find safer for all kids and families in 2020.

Comfy costume

Many autistic individuals struggle with tags on T-shirts, let alone complex costumes.  Consider a costume that can be worn all day — an embellished sweatshirt, a themed set of pajamas, or a graphic tee.  That way the day can be marked without the dreaded “transition” from regular clothes to costume.

Videochat your greetings

Say hi to family and friends on Zoom, Facetime or Skype.  If your child can tolerate it, try a fun headband, hat, crown or mask to add a festive note. If your child is crafty, or into precision-paper-folding like origami, check out these innovative paper masks from Paper Craft World.  This method of celebration allows for familiar faces only (you’re not likely to Zoom with strangers!) and allows your child to control the amount of time they are on-screen without derailing the call for everyone.

Skip the trick-or-treating

A couple of years ago we made the decision to send B out with his friends and just stopped taking our son on the spectrum, “Mr. D.,” trick-or-treating. It was one of the best holiday decisions we have made. Even though we usually only took him to see a handful of neighbors, we didn’t really appreciate the level of dysregulation that caused until we stopped. While it is safe to say that many neurotypical children will return to trick-or-treating in the coming years, hopefully, a year “off” will make it less of a wild candy hunt, and more of a chance to get out and show off creative costumes to neighbors and friends.

Favorite, fun meal

Without the rush to get out on the street, there is time for a favorite, fun meal. Bonus points if you want to make it festive by adding some spooky touches — like plastic spiders, or a creepy name — like calling your spaghetti “worms” or your deviled eggs “eyeballs.” Just be sure to leave room for dessert.

Here are some favorite savory options you can make at home. Pizza is a Halloween favorite — why not grill your own? Tacos are an easy, fun way to please the entire family. Want something a little different? Try these samosas. You can make them as spicy — or mild — as you like!

Festive sweet treat

If you’re like me, you see tons of cute Halloween treats on Pinterest, but you rarely make them, because there is just so much candy everywhere this time of year.  So rather than buy a bag of candy to eat yourselves, think about having your annual sugar rush from a different source.

Swap the mint flavoring in these brownies for orange extract, add some orange food coloring, and you have a black-and-orange treat. Roll and cut some spooky shapes with these sugar cookies. There are plenty of tasty fall options to try here, and a few more here.

Whatever form Halloween takes for your family this season, have a spooky fun time!

This story originally appeared on The Piece of Mind Retreat.

Getty image by Losw.

Originally published: October 17, 2020
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