Preparing for a Successful Halloween for Your Child with Autism

Halloween is a favorite childhood holiday, but for a child with autism it can be more challenging. Planning ahead and preparing your child can result in a better experience on this popular day. Here are some tips for sharing a fun holiday with your child.


Use Social Stories

•    Create a Halloween social story with your child, maybe using pictures of him or her in previous years’ costumes.
•    Visit A Day in Your Shoes for pre-made Halloween social stories.

Wearing a Costume

•    Have your child wear a costume only if they want to.
•    If your child is not comfortable wearing an entire costume, maybe try one that just has items that can be worn over your child’s regular clothing, such as a character hat, fairy wings, cat ears headband or Halloween character tee shirt.
•    Practice wearing it for a short period each day leading up to Halloween.


•    Practice going to a friend or cooperative neighbor’s house, ringing the bell, saying “trick or treat,” accepting the offered candy and saying thank you.
•    Go for walks around the neighborhood in the evenings leading up to Halloween if your child is not used to walking outdoors after dark.
•    Take a friend or sibling with you if you think it might help your child to follow their lead.
•    Plan ahead for disruptions to the plan, such as no one coming to the door when the bell is rung, or candy in a bowl on the front porch.
•    Parents and educators spend a lot of time teaching children to not take things (like candy!) from strangers, yet on Halloween we they are encouraged to do that very thing! Talk to your child beforehand, explaining that this is a special occasion when it is allowed.
•    If your child has a very restricted diet, you can plan ahead with some neighbors that you will drop off treats with them beforehand that will be acceptable to your child. Or let your child “trade-in” disliked candy for a special treat, such as staying up late or going to a favorite activity the following weekend.

Halloween Night

•    Set realistic expectations, such as only planning to go to three houses. If that’s a success, ask your child if they want to do one more, etc.
•    Go early during daylight hours if your child is more comfortable then than after dark.

Alternatives to Door-to-Door Trick-or-Treating

•    Go to a Halloween party at your child’s school, program or social group where they will be more comfortable.
•    If going door-to-door through the neighborhood seems too challenging a prospect, consider staying home instead and giving out candy to other trick-or-treaters. Experiment with friends or neighbors to see if this is something your child might be more comfortable doing, in or out of costume.
•    Dress up in costume and go out to eat, by-passing trick-or-treaters coming to your door.
•    Put a bowl of candy outside your front door for trick-or-treaters and stay home and watch a Halloween (it doesn’t have to be scary!) movie.

Additional Reading