Halloween is fast approaching: candy, parties, and costumes can be challenging given the food sensitivities and sensory issues that many children with autism have. Last week, we polled our readers for their input on the following question, “What strategies do you have to ensure Halloween is healthy and stress-free for your family?” Here are your Top 10 Tips:
1. Think comfort when planning costumes. If possible, make your child’s costume by adding extra items to existing clothing he already likes and will be comfortable wearing. If purchasing, look for extra soft fabrics that fit as closely as possible to favored everyday clothing items.
2. Use role playing to practice the door-to-door trick-or-treating protocol.
3. Avoid face-painting and masks if these are uncomfortable for your child.
4. Stick with family and friends when selecting which homes to visit for trick-or-treating. People aware of special diet needs or unique behaviors will be prepared for you and your child.
5. Raise awareness if you do choose to visit neighborhood homes where the family isn’t familiar with your child. Place “Autism Awareness” stickers on the treat bag or make cards that list facts about autism to hand out to new neighbors.
6. Check local resources for Halloween parties especially for people with developmental disabilities and bring your own special treats if needed for restricted diets.
7. Replace unhealthy treats with more wholesome options. You can either swap after you’re back home—perhaps along with small party-favor like gifts–or provide healthy treats in advance to your neighbors to give to your child.
8. Plan your own party with other autism families bringing a variety of healthy foods and snacks that meet dietary guidelines. Fun decorations, costumes, and healthy Halloween recipes are available at familyfun.com.
9. Be extra vigilant during trick-or-treating, especially if your child tends to be a “wanderer.” Try to have an additional adult accompany you as the heightened level of activity can be a distraction and may also spark the urge to bolt.
10. Put your child in charge by having him be the official “treat-giver” in the house for trick-or-treaters who come calling. This can be an especially good option if going door-to-door is too stressful for your family, and will still allow your child to have an important role in the festivities.