By Miriam Bernard
It’s Spooky Season and the month of Halloween, and while this brings lots of fun for so many families, it can also usher in uncertainty and new routines for neurodivergent children and adults. The NODCC wants a Happy Halloween for EVERYONE, so we’ve assembled some tips for making it a great holiday this year, including alternatives to the traditional activities.
1. Wear your comfy clothes underneath a costume – Neurodivergence presents many sensory and texture aversions, which can make for difficulty when wanting to wear a special costume. Putting your normal comfy clothes with familiar fabrics beneath your costume could be a good step to making sure the costume doesn’t bring about unnecessary discomfort.
2. Talk it out ahead of time – One way to ease transitions is to plan ahead and prepare. Try using a visual planner to show what is going to happen and in what order. This can help your DCC loved one understand what’s coming next.
3. Build in breaks – as many DCC families are already so well-versed in doing, building breaks into any Halloween event where there is quiet reset time can turn an activity from overwhelming into manageable.
4. Practice and role-play before the big day – if a Halloween activity is new for your child, work it out in advance step by step in a role-play or practice session! This can give a loved one a hands-on way to know what to expect, and for them to voice their discomforts or preferences.
5. State your preferences – if certain actions can cause anxiety for your family member, print a sign to wear or place somewhere prominent that will let others know in advance how they can make things more comfortable. Ask them not to ring the doorbell, or leave treats on the porch rather than expecting strangers to knock on the door. Small adjustments can make a big difference!
6. Choose nontraditional activities – trick-or-treating and scary motifs are not everyone’s cup of tea, so celebrate how your family prefers! Many community centers and houses of worship host Trunk or Treat events or Harvest Festivals that avoid spooky scenes. Or, staying home and watching a fun movie with a fall-themed craft is a perfect option, too! Have a bon fire or fire pit with or without a Halloween movie. Enjoy a family baking evening with fall treats. Hold a game night with candy prizes. Visit a nursing home and show off your costume. Go on a Halloween scavenger hunt in your home or yard. Have a pumpkin decorating contest. In short, do what works for YOUR family. (More alternatives in the first link below!)
7. Have an exit strategy and a back up plan – if things don’t go according to plan, knowing an easy way to leave and having a fun activity lined up to replace the one that didn’t work out can ensure your Halloween is still a success for your ENTIRE family!
For additional tips or to read more about the ideas listed above, access any of the following helpful articles. We wish you and your family a wonderful Halloween!
- 25 Fun Alternatives to Trick-or-Treating — Super Healthy Kids
- Our Top Tips for a Happy Halloween – North East Autism Society
- Help your Neurodiverse Child Have a Happier Halloween – Parent Map – by Sarah Bradley
- No Tricks, Just Treats: Tips for Celebrating Halloween With Neurodiverse Children – Comprehensive Therapy Center – by Syd Martin