I love Halloween and used to really enjoy trick or treating and apple bobbing as a child. Many young autistic children struggle with holidays as they are a break from the routine. Routines are what lots of autistic people use to cope with the expectations of everyday life. A holiday like Halloween is a really weird concept for logical thinkers to get their head around.
Why would people dress up in scary costumes to knock on strangers doors. Then why would those strangers give out sweets when someone has tried to scare them! You have to admit Halloween is a bit odd!
Preparing your autistic child for Halloween
Preparation for any change or break from the norm is really helpful for most autistic children. My son gets so excited about holidays now that I start preparing him early. My 5 year old is still non-verbal and struggling to understand spoken language so using visual aids is really important for us. Another great way to prepare a child for an event is to use a social story.
Free Halloween Visual Aid
I have created a free Halloween visual aid that you can use to talk to your child about Halloween. I have put it up on the bathroom door for the month of October so my son has time to process it and we can talk about it when he is on the loo!
Halloween activities for autistic children
Attention Autism Halloween Bucket
Attention Autism is a brilliant activity for young autistic children. It has helped my son’s attention enormously. For Halloween why not have a themed bucket. You get lots of spinning wands, noise makers and Halloween themed items in the shops that can be used. I tend to buy lots in the first week of November when its all on sale and save it for next year.
For your attention builder in stage two of Attention Autism you can make a spider web. Start with a piece of black card, drizzle over some glue from a height in a circular motion, then some stripes to create a web effect:
Then cover the web with silver glitter and knock the excess off to reveal your spider web:
For stage 3 the children can take a turn at adding extra glitter colours or more web with the glue.
Alternatively you can add your own spider to the web using some pom poms and eyes. This could also be used as an independent activity for stage 4.
PECS®- Picture exchange communication system is the main communication method that my autistic son uses. PECS® provide a free sample sheet of Halloween PECS Cards on their website. I have used these for some great commenting with PECS and requesting activities.
Top 5 Halloween Books
One of the best ways to prepare a child for something is by sharing books together. Using books to improve understanding can make a real difference. Visual books are best and here are my top five Halloween books.
I loved Meg and Mog as a kid. The books are really simple to follow and great for little ones developing language. My youngest loves shouting out ABRACADABRA as the witches do their spell. There is also some lovely sequencing pictures as Meg puts on her witches outfit.
A modern classic, Room on the Broom is a wonderful book for Halloween. Follow the Witch on her adventure with the cat, dog, bird and frog.
This is one of my favourites as a child. The text at the beginning makes it a really fun read from the start. Follow the big skeleton, the little skeleton and the dog skeleton on their night time adventure. The best bit for me is singing ‘the toe bones connected to the foot bone’ song.
Both my boys are huge fans of the ‘Ten Little’ series. Ten Little Monsters is a great book to introduce all the classic Halloween characters at the same time as practising some counting! The exceptional illustrations make this a really fun visual book to explore with your kids.
Many kids find it easy to learn about new things when they involve their favourite characters. The book is all about a pumpkin competition and we often read it before we do some pumpkin carving at Halloween.
Most young children love scooping out the insides of the pumpkin. If they are artistic get the child to draw out the face that will be carved on the pumpkin. You can also get LED candles which are great if you want to avoid using real candles with younger children.
My kids love dressing up for about five minutes then want the costume off straight away. I often find that bought costumes are made out of plastic or uncomfortable materials which can be irritating for some. My preference is to go with lots of props and dress up as your favourite characters.
Cooking and Crafts
There are so many different craft and cooking activities you can do for Halloween. I like to use Pinterest to get ideas. We had a go at making meringue ghosts:
My son helped to weigh out the icing sugar and separate the eggs for the meringue. He loved helping to put the sugar in the mixer as we made up the meringue. I was abandoned to do the piping but he helped stick on the edible silver balls to make some eyes.
Other Halloween Activities
Personally I love a good Autumn walk around Halloween, get outside and kick up all those leaves. You can buy some great activity books like:
Pepper Pig Halloween Sticker and Activity Book
Remember to prepare your child for Trick or Treating
Trick or treating is a big part of Halloween in some areas. Before taking your child out at Halloween make sure they know what is happening. If you are staying in prepare them so they can enjoy opening the door and handing out the sweets. And if your child really struggles with strangers then get a sign for your door saying not to knock, you can always leave a box of sweets outside for kids to help themselves.
I hope there is something here you want to try, if so stay in touch and sign up for my monthly newsletter. I would love to hear about your Halloween activities with autistic children in the comments.