Halloween can be a challenging time for children with autism, as they may struggle with sensory sensitivities, social interactions, and changes in routine.
In the United States, about 1 in 36 children have been identified with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to estimates from the CDC.
This year, education experts from ProCare Therapy are sharing their essential tips for creating an inclusive trick-or-treating experience by encouraging communities to support children with autism and other developmental disorders.
Ellen Sentell, a special education teacher, shares the positive impact of inclusive Halloween experiences:
“Making trick-or-treating more inclusive not only benefits children with autism but also fosters a sense of community and understanding. When we try to be mindful of everyone’s needs, we create a more compassionate and enjoyable environment for all children,” said Sentell.
To promote an inclusive Halloween experience, ProCare Therapy recommends the following tips for parents and community members:
- Provide non-food treats
- Give children the option of different treats such as stickers, pencils, or small toys, as some children with autism may have dietary restrictions or food sensitivities.
- Display a blue pumpkin
- Having a blue pumpkin outside your home indicates that you offer a sensory-friendly trick-or-treating experience.
- Be patient
- Give children extra time, as some struggle with decision-making or motor skills. Children with autism may have different ways of participating in trick-or-treating, and some may need extra time to approach a door or choose their treats, may not want to wear a costume, or may not say “trick-or-treat.”
- Try to avoid overwhelming sensory elements
- If possible, avoid strobe lights and loud music within your Halloween decorations, which may be overwhelming for autistic children.
- Keep your pets inside
- Keeping your pets safe inside, and away from the door, will help to minimize anxiety for children who may be afraid of animals.
“We encourage parents and communities to embrace the spirit of Halloween by creating an inclusive and supportive environment for children with autism. Simple adjustments, such as offering non-food treats, providing quiet spaces, and using visual aids for communication, can make a significant impact on their experience,” said Sentell.
“Remember, the key to a successful celebration is understanding, empathy, and the willingness to adapt, ensuring every child can enjoy the festivities without feeling overwhelmed or left out.”
Please visit ProCare Therapy for more information on promoting inclusive experiences for all children.