Autistic children and adults may have sensory and social issues, but that doesn’t mean they want to miss out on holiday celebrations.
Large, loud gatherings, however, can present a major challenge.
Autistics often want to join in celebrations, and may even look forward to them, but when they are at an event, their sensitivities can be pushed to the limit. Less is more, and preplanning can greatly reduce stress at Halloween parties and gatherings.
With children, it is good to rehearse. Caretakers can explain what to expect, and even practice the social interactions that will be required, such as saying, “Trick or Treat” and “thank you.”
Costumes should be tried on beforehand, taking costume seaming, fabric, masks and tags into consideration for physical comfort.
If they can go to the site of the party or walk around the block, as they will on Halloween night, it is good to include this in the dress rehearsal portion of the holiday planning. Having an idea of where they will be going, and what will happen when they arrive, will give the child something to focus on and provide a sense of stability in what can be an unpredictable night.
It is wise to avoid events like haunted houses where there will be sudden, loud noises and frightening shocks to the senses.
Whether the person is a child or adult, it is good to discuss beforehand and monitor the consumption of candy, sweet snacks and beverages. If there are sensitivities to certain foods, it might be possible to bring a favorite “safe” snack.
Autistic adults who are of drinking age, might have a friend watch them to prevent overindulgence and help them with difficult social interactions.
Meltdowns are always a possibility. It’s best to plan for them and be ready to leave early, or find a safe place for the person to go to calm down.
Being autistic is not the same as being anti-social. The anti-social person doesn’t like being around people; the autistic doesn’t know how to interact with people.
An autism diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of all holiday fun. With a little preparation and close monitoring of the situation, safe Halloween activities can be a great opportunity for learning and creating memories that will last a lifetime.