The spooky season is approaching fast, meaning it’s the perfect time to explore the relationship between autism and Halloween. Autumn brings much anticipation and excitement for children on the spectrum, but various sensory challenges can inhibit their ability to enjoy a stress-free holiday season. Between changes in routine and sensory overload from social interactions and costumes, Halloween poses risks for those with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). But have no fear! ABA Centers of New Jersey is here to offer valuable tips for an autism-friendly Halloween.
Whether you’re from Hoboken, Trenton, Princeton, or anywhere in between, a spooktacular New Jersey Halloween is possible for those on the spectrum. We understand how valuable planning ahead can be for holidays, so we’re sharing this helpful information ahead of time to ensure you get the most out of your season. Let’s explore some tips about autism and Halloween, so no matter what your child does on the holiday, they can do so with confidence and glee.
Complications Between Autism and Halloween
Halloween and the surrounding weeks can be tricky for individuals with ASD for many reasons. From the bright lights and disruptive sounds on nearly every block to the purposefully haunting decoration displays in many public settings, it often seems you can’t go anywhere without being thrown into the festivities. For individuals with ASD, these festive acts present sensory-related challenges for the unprepared. Overstimulation and anxiety can quickly develop, especially on Halloween night, while trick-or-treating around people dressed as monsters, ghosts, and other scary creatures. It may be fun for some, but certainly not for everyone.
8 Tips for a Stress-free Halloween
ABA Centers of New Jersey has compiled some stellar tips so you and your child can enjoy Halloween without worry. While many of these tips pertain to trick-or-treating, they also discuss other activities to consider if a costume and prolonged walking seem out of reach.
1. Plan in Advance – Proper planning goes a long way during the fall season. By telling and showing your child what to expect, they can prepare for these anxiety-inducing moments to avoid meltdowns or sensory challenges. Consider familiarizing them with the context of the season and its spooky aspects to show how these festivities are good-hearted.
You can also use visual aids such as picture books, TV shows, movies, or a neighbor’s decoration display to show them aspects they’d otherwise find frightening. Films like Hocus Pocus and Casper humanize elements of Halloween, such as witches and ghosts, to show they’re not all that frightening!
2. Decorate the House With Your Child – Another great way to acclimate your child to Halloween is by having them help with your house decorations. Let them choose a light color or zombie friend to put in the front garden. Seeing the decoration process in action can lessen the shock value of other displays and reduce the chance of sensory concerns. Involvement is massive when discussing autism and Halloween, so keep your child active and included.
3. Make a Schedule and Map Your Route – If you plan to trick-or-treat with your child, ensure both sides know when they should leave, where to go, and what to expect. Take note of the neighborhood and the houses you wish to approach. This way, you can avoid overly scary decorations or displays featuring jump scares. Even a simple drive down the street one afternoon can give you a heads-up on where you should and shouldn’t go.
4. Take Breaks and Bring Reinforcement Items – If your child may be susceptible to sensory issues, take breaks as you venture through the day or night. You can also benefit from having sensory items on hand, such as a toy, fidget spinner, or their favorite snack, to keep them calm and confident if challenging situations arise.
5. Let Your Child Be Themselves – Social pressures should never limit what a child wishes to dress up as or act like around Halloween. No matter what their hobbies or interests are, let your child express him or herself as they see fit. If your child wants to be a superhero for Halloween, don’t shy away from allowing them to save the world (or your house) in the prior weeks. Halloween may only last a night, but imagination has no limit. An explorative and playful mind significantly boosts confidence and reduces stressors regarding what they can and can’t do.
6. Spend Halloween With Close Loved Ones – Trick-or-treating isn’t a necessity on Halloween, and you can do many exciting activities with family and friends who support you and your child. Think of things you can do with the ones you hold near and dear, such as a movie marathon, small get-together, festive dinner, or pumpkin carving. These moments can create core memories that associate Halloween with positive experiences for your child, giving them the expertise to approach the following October with poise and confidence.
7. Set Up a Play Date – Socializing with friends benefits your kiddo no matter the time of year, so a play date is a great way to ensure they have fun with someone they trust and care about on Halloween. Your loved one can bond and connect positively with the holiday at home or in public. Consider activities like pumpkin painting, movie marathons, hayrides, or baking delicious treats to keep your child engaged and happy.
8. Attend a Local Festivity – New Jersey is a gold mine for fun and exciting things to do and see on Halloween. Many cities and towns even offer sensory-friendly events or excursions for those with ASD and special needs. These events eliminate many of the typical stressors someone with ASD may experience on Halloween. Plus, they’re strapped with cool stuff to do, such as hayrides, costume contests, pumpkin decorating, and shows. Any memorable event is a win for someone with autism, and Halloween is no different.
Local Halloween Events in New Jersey
Check out some of these local Halloween festivities we found for this year!
Western/Philly Suburbs – The town of Blackwood comes alive each October with a Pumpkin Festival at the Mainstage Center for the Arts. This event will occur on Sunday, October 1st, featuring various activities for kids, such as pumpkin painting, hayrides, scarecrow making, bounce houses, face painting, and a costume contest. Whether you live near Voorhees, Mount Laurel, Mount Holly, or Glassboro, this is a perfect opportunity to acclimate your child to Halloween.
Northeast and Hudson – The northeast region and NJ/NYC metropolitan area have a handful of fun Halloween events for children on the spectrum. The Pumpkin Patch Train in Whippany departs on Sundays on October 1st, 8th, and 15th, each hour from 1 – 4 PM. This 10-mile, 45-minute round trip is a perfect way to spend the afternoon. Child passengers even get to pick out a free kid-sized pumpkin from the patch!
Monmouth/Ocean Counties – Residents of eastern New Jersey, especially those near the shore, can enjoy an exciting Halloweenfest in Brick Township on Saturday, October 7th, from 12 PM – 2 PM. This event is sponsored by POAC Autism Services, a nonprofit organization specializing in recreational and support services for autism families.
Trenton/Princeton – This year, Mercer County residents can attend a Halloween Dance Party in Plainsboro for individuals with special needs and developmental disorders like ASD. It will kick off on Saturday, October 21st, at 6 PM. This party gives your kid a perfect chance to show off their costume and boogie on the dance floor.
Get Started With ABA Therapy at ABA Centers of New Jersey
If your child or loved one needs additional assistance with their autism care, ABA therapy is for you! At ABA Centers of New Jersey, we offer comprehensive ABA therapy programs tailored to each child’s unique talents and skill sets. We work to alleviate many sensory-related concerns that can run rampant around Halloween. From behavior and social skills to academics and fostering independence, your child can receive the guidance they need as they venture into their teen years.
Aside from our tips for autism and Halloween, we also provide helpful autism care resources for parents. Call (855) 640-7888 or visit our website to learn more about our services or a free consultation. We hope you enjoy a spooktacular Halloween!