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Autism is a neurodevelopmental and behavioral disorder that impedes social interactions and is often accompanied by sensory issues that cause heightened anxiety and tantrum-like behaviors (meltdowns).

Autism Spectrum Disorder Levels
Description of the various levels of the DSM V classification of Autism.

With Halloween coming, and so many exceptional children who are “outside the curve” have a difficult time during Halloween, we have made Halloween introduction cards for our ASD friends!

To download all four designs, scroll down to the end of this post.
To download all four designs, scroll down to the end of this post.

Children with Autism can have issues with Halloween making it a scary time for parents. Many children with autism have issues with pretend play, like dressing up for Halloween.  The costume may frighten them or cause sensory issues.   Over-stimulation of the senses can cause meltdowns (behaviors) to occur and turn a fun night into a night of horrors.

Here are some tips before Halloween:

  • Create a visual story of what Halloween may be like for your child, with some pictures or drawings. This will help your child prepare for the day’s activities.
  • Try on costumes before Halloween. If the costume is uncomfortable or doesn’t fit right, it may cause unnecessary distress and ruin their fun.
  • If your child does not like their costume, don’t make them wear it. Instead, talk about the situation with your child and try to uncover the reason why they don’t like it. After you talk with your child, they may gradually get used to the costume. Have them wear it for short periods of time and at increasing intervals over time.
  • Consider a Halloween costume that fits over your child’s regular clothes, such as butterfly wings or capes.
  • Practice going to a neighbor’s door, ringing the bell or knocking on the door and receiving candy.

Here are some tips for the day of Halloween:

  • Attach your phone number to the back of the costume in case they wander or elope
  • Know your child’s limits and do only what he or she can handle. For example, if your child is not comfortable trick-or-treating, you can start by going to three houses. Assess how your child is doing and build up to more houses the following year.
  • Take your child to an activity in the community, such as a school festival or a neighborhood party where the child is already comfortable and knows people.
  • Partner with family and friends that your child likes.
  • If you are giving out candy at your home, give your child the option to give a piece of candy. During the day, practice greeting people and giving out candy.
  • If your child is afraid of going out at night, plan indoor or daytime Halloween activities.

13 Social Stories for Halloween:

Social stories can be found all over the web.  Here are a few examples of the free social stories you can use with your child.

  • AndNextComesL has a social story on trick-or-treating along with video on Halloween for children.
  • HANDSinAutism has a handout of tips for Halloween that includes a social story.
  • Positively Autism has a unit on Halloween including fun activities, a vocabulary sheet, and a social story on what to expect while Trick-or-Treating.
  • ALegionForLiam has a cute little social story available for use.
  • AutismTank has a social story available for download that features familiar PECS-like symbols.
  • The CommunicationStation has an adorable social story printout on trick-or-treating.
  • Therapics has a wonderful handout on tips for Halloween along with a small and simple social story on Halloween.
  • ChitChatAndSmallTalk is a blog run by a speech therapist who created a social story for Halloween.
  • TheSucessBox has SIX social stories including a story on going to a pumpkin patch and another story on carving a pumpkin!
  • CreatingAndTeaching has 2 great Halloween social stories available for download.
  • PomptonSpeechPlus has a free social skills lesson concerning Halloween and the social skills needed to navigate through the night.
  • SpeechAndLanguageKids tells you how you can make your very own Halloween social story customized for your child.
  • The Indiana Institute on Disability and Community has a wonderful handout that explains the idea of Halloween as a holiday along with the process of dressing-up and going trick-or-treating. It is the most comprehensive social story I have seen available online.

Teaching the neighbors about Halloween

Halloween cards have been made for you or your child to give to neighbors and give them an opportunity to learn about Autism.  Either click on the hyperlink in Halloween cards if you cannot see the images.  If you can see the images then you can get your own copy just right click the image, select Save Image As, and save the image to your computer so you may print it out.

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