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Neurodivergent Friendly Halloween — Make it Spooktacular for All

Updated: Jan 8

For many adults and children, Halloween is a fun and exciting time, full of wonder, make believe, and most importantly — candy. It’s a tradition that neurodivergent children should be able to participate in — if they want to.

As a parent, you know Halloween can be an enjoyable family experience, but not always for your neurodivergent child — and let’s be honest, sometimes for any child. There are elements of this spooky season staple that can cause overstimulation, frustration, or be plain frightening. Here is a reminder of potential triggers for younger children and how to work around them.

  • Costumes can be a sensory challenge and cause anxiety. It might be best to skip masks, wigs, and makeup. If they want a mask, ensure it has large enough openings for vision and breathing.

  • A night of trick-or-treating or Halloween party is a deviation from their routine. Even if your child has participated before, help them understand what will happen that night, what they might see, hear, or experience. Plan ahead of time and prepare them without scaring them. Develop a plan for the times they feel overwhelmed. Use language that your child will find calming and help them understand the surprises and how to navigate them (to the best of their ability).

  • Discuss that they will see decorations, some will be cute and some might seem scary, but they are not real. Let them go up to the decorations and examine them (if safe to do so).

  • Let them know that they might hear unexpected noises and what that means.

  • Make sure they know the streets might be more crowded than usual but that everyone is out having fun.

  • If you can, walk the route in advance.

  • Some kids love to ring doorbells and yell “trick or treat” to strangers, but for some children this is also unwanted pressure to interact with others. Assess your child’s comfort-level, walk them through what will happen, and have a plan for when they want to stop the activity. Be prepared that the night may end early and assure them that is okay.

  • A healthy snack before the event, so they don’t get hungry during.

  • Hand fidgets for waiting and walking.

  • Picture communication guides as needed.

  • Noise-canceling headphones for sudden loud noises.

  • Sunglasses if you will be around bright/strobe lights.


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