As you know, my kids love Halloween- it is the official kick off to the holiday season, after all! But as the number of children with autism, SPD, food sensitivities/allergies/Celiac and other problems continue to rise, Halloween can be a harbinger of stress for a family raising a child with special needs. Here, then, is Mom-Blog’s Guide to Surviving Halloween through your child’s special needs.
Don’t Make a Big Deal About Costumes
Ok, so having just written a report about toxins in makeup for Mamavation.com, and in reading about the report on toxins in costumes, I feel that we need to be careful when buying them. Here are my tips about buying costumes for kids with sensory issues or autism:
- Go small. You know, even a headband or sports jersey can work.
- Scour their closet first. What do they already own and love to wear that you can make into some sort of costume? A few years back, we let Zoe dress as Dora. It was so easy – pink sensory turtleneck that was a favorite of hers, orange shorts, yellow socks & sneakers, purple backpack, and viola! Easy, cheap and she was happy.
- Let her pick it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a character. Maybe she likes to wear a hodgepodge of colors, hats and toys on her (Amelia loves to do this). No worries! That’s fine and the bonus – you’ve let her creativity win the day and she feels empowered in dressing herself. Progress!
- Accessorize! Yes, a toy or several can be a costume. Your kid loves to carry her teapot? She’s a hostess! He’s carrying paintbrushes? Artist! Won’t take that Nerf Rebelle of her back? Katniss!
- Avoid makeup. Oh, boy, I just did a report on how toxic make up is. And did you see this? Keep their faces clean!
Take the “Scare” Out of Halloween
Halloween shops put up terrifying displays so we used to keep our kids away. We were pleased this year to discover they didn’t bother Zoe at all – she can separate reality from play! Keep an eye on TV shows and ads, especially on cable (I’m talking to you, cable network that played the terrifying “Annabelle” ad during the day while showing an old Star Trek movie.) We have also embargoed “Coraline” since it’s been keeping Amelia up. In fact, “Toy Story of Terror” still scares Zoe, so you may want to keep the Halloween shows to “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and “Monster High.” PLEASE skip Treehouse of Terror if you have little ones!
Now if your kid loves a good Halloween film, though, here are the great kid movies (may contain Amazon Affiliate links). Rating scariness from 1-5, with 1 being the tamest and 5 being the MOST terrifying:
- Monster House: Super scary cartoon movie. Scare Factor: 5
- ParaNorman:Super scary but fun! An homage to classic horror too.Scare Factor: 5
- Frankenweenie: Somewhat scary but bring a box of tissues! This is the one and only movie that my movie addict, Amelia, wept through.Scare Factor: 3
- Coraline (2D Version): Based on a Neil Gaiman book, beautifully done but the stuff of kid nightmares!Scare Factor: 5
- Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas [HD]: LOVE LOVE LOVE this film!! Not scary and good fun but it does slide you right into Christmas.Scare Factor: 2
- Hotel Transylvania: Totally goofy and not at all scary. Kiddos loved this one! Scare Factor: 1
- Box Trolls: not really scary but a lovely film. In theaters. Scare Factor: 2
- Book of Life: We’ve yet to see this one! Scare Factor: Uncertain, but doesn’t look too scary.
Addressing the Candy Issues
Candy does not have to be a scary issues. Here are some work-arounds so that your child can trick or treat and not overload on junk:
- After trick or treating, sort the candy by what they can and cannot have. Read Mamavation’s Guide to NonToxic Halloween Candy, all hand selected by me!
- Make your own candy that fits the diet your child requires. In fact, go ahead and have fun by getting her to help out!
- Instead of trick or treating, try throwing your own Halloween costume party, with safe food and treats on a different night. Or it can just be a small intimate gathering. That allows you to control the food and create a totally non-toxic meal!
Use the Autism Card
People are not always educated as to why your child cannot trick or treat like others. TACA has a card that you can print with a read out about your child that you can attach to his costume and bring with you.. Download the PDF here. My experience has been that people “get it” when they see our kids, and they applaud their tries.
Add Up the Tiny Footsteps of Progress
Did your child remember to say “trick or treat” at every door for the first time this year? Did she wear a tutu, even though everything else was a regular outfit? Did he paint a pumpkin for the first time? Or make it through a party without incident? Then celebrate! Whatever the first is, if your child accomplished something he enjoyed this holiday, take a picture, shoot video, post a blog, and share it with the world.
Make Your Own Traditions
If at any point this stops being fun for your child, pull him out. It’s ok not to be included 100% of the time. And, if you are doing treatments, they can take a long time for small improvements to occur. There is ALWAYS next year – until he’s too old, that is, but honestly, I’d give candy to a 20 year old if he or she had a developmental disability! Avoid conflict by filling his time with something that makes him happy. You can also skip trick or treating altogether (go take to your kid to the movies or bowling – think how empty it will be!)
A little planning goes a long way in helping kids who are scared easily and unable to eat candy enjoy Halloween. A successful time will help encourage you and your family that you can survive the upcoming holiday season – and maybe even dare to enjoy it!
- Bitsy’s Brain Food For Halloween
- Enjoy A Fear-Free Halloween
- Fill Your Teal Pumpkin: Allergen-Free Halloween Candy
- Gluten, Dairy, Soy and Corn Free Halloween Graveyard Candy Cake
- Halloween Recap: A good year
Stock Up For Halloween
Affliliate links for purchase: