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Planning a Sensory-Friendly Halloween

8 Oct 2014 – 05:38 PM EDT

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By now you’re probably getting pretty familiar with some of the sensory issues affecting some children (and adults) with autism and similar disorders. Many little ones, these days, are sensory seekers, sensory defenders or a pretty diverse combination of both. With current CDC numbers at 1 in 68 children with autism, we will be interacting with children with autism this Halloween. Here are a few tips to ensure that this year you can provide a sensory-friendly Halloween experience to anyone that comes to your door. Are you planning a Halloween party? Use these tips to ensure all of your guests have a great time.

Take it Easy on The Special Effects

Sure, the loud music and fog machines can be fun but they can also be overwhelming to a number of children. Tone that Halloween party down and just watch how many more children can come to your door. If I had a nickel for every time a parent had to take their child (autism or not) home from Halloween sensory overload, I’d be rich.

Let The Little Monsters Choose Their Prize

It’s important not to decide what each child takes from the treat bowl. Feel free to impress upon them that one treat is sufficient but don’t be surprised if ooey gooey gummy worms are too much for a child with autism to manage. The visual, the feel and the smell of such a candy can be revolting to some children. Having a few nonfood options is always a great idea. Halloween pencils are always a hit. Want to learn more about autism and food aversion? Click here.

Dressing Up Can Be Really Hard

Some children that wish to participate in Halloween may find it almost impossible to wear a costume. Their sensitivities to fabrics can be an issue. Some fabrics may feel like sandpaper to their sensitive skin. Moreover, the idea of change can be a tough one. If a child shows up at your door wearing this, please understand this may be the best they can do.

Don’t Expect Eye Contact or a Greeting

For children with autism eye contact can be very difficult and even painful. Please do not mistake their averted gaze for rudeness. They are simply trying to manage an evening that can be very overwhelming. Furthermore, many children with autism have limited verbal skills. They made not have the ability to greet you. On the contrary they may be too friendly and even say or do things that may seem inappropriate. Go with the flow and look to their parent for guidance. A kind smile will go a long way on an evening when autism parents have their work cut out for them.

Age Can Be Irrelevant

Sometimes children with autism may have reached a chronological age that seems too old for trick or treating. Sure, in some cases, there are teenagers running around well after dark knocking on your door and making you uncomfortable. Please understand, if an older child is trick or treating with an adult at an appropriate time you can safely assume that child is there for the love of Halloween and their age is irrelevant. This is another great opportunity for you to share that kind smile with a tired parent.

Will you house be a sensory-friendly stop this Halloween?