Neurodiversity and Halloween

31st Oct, 23

Neurodiversity and Halloween

Neurodiversity and Halloween

Halloween, is a celebration loved by many. A time for fun and games with thrilling activities and events like pumpkin carving, Halloween discos and of course, trick-or-treating. However, for some, this celebration may be a challenge.

Those who are neurodivergent often take in every little detail in their surroundings and at times they can feel overwhelmed by everything that is going on around them during this month. The eerie music, frightening costumes, flashing lights, large crowds, and people intentionally scaring one another can present challenges for young neurodivergent individuals and their families. Recognizing these challenges and finding ways to adapt and support their unique needs is important during this time.


Dressing up in costumes is a significant part of Halloween, but it's important to recognize that not all children enjoy wearing costumes. Some children might find costumes uncomfortable or irritating. It's crucial to think about both material and size when selecting costumes. Try to locate a costume that is comparable in material to what your child would often wear, and make sure to get a suitable size to avoid any tension that could irritate your child. Many parents and children find it difficult to choose the perfect costume. In such cases, designing and creating a homemade costume from old clothes may be a fun and creative project that can make your child feel proud and most importantly comfortable.

Communication Challenges

Sometimes, we don't realize how much we're expecting from our children, as what seems easy to us may be quite challenging for our children. Saying "trick or treat" and maintaining eye contact, or simply saying "thank you" after receiving a sweet, can be more intimidating for them than we think.

We can help our children better understand the Halloween tradition and feel more at ease during the festivities by:

  • Practicing what to say, for example, "trick or treat" when someone opens the door and ‘thank you’ when a sweet is given. You can simulate these interactions within your home by knocking on bedroom doors or visiting family and friends' homes first to prepare. This is a comfortable learning environment and can boost your child's comfort and confidence to participate in Halloween celebrations.
  • Using Halloween-themed communication cards. These cards enable your child to actively participate by either displaying cards with phrases like "trick or treat" written on them or using them to practice what to say. This can be a helpful tool for preparing your child for Halloween interactions.
  • Using social stories with pictures. This can be incredibly beneficial during Halloween. Unanticipated social interactions can trigger anxiety in children. Social stories offer a visual and structured approach to preparing children for when this happens. They illustrate what to expect, step by step, helping to reduce anxiety and confusion. making the spooky experience more predictable and manageable for your child.

Sensory Challenges

Halloween can be overstimulating for some, especially for hypersensitive individuals, due to bright flashing lights, loud noises, various textures, and strong smells.

For hypersensitive children. It's important to have a well-thought-out exit plan or a quiet, safe space where your child can take a break. Taking regular breaks is crucial during this month. You might consider incorporating scheduled breaks into your child's routine or having a quiet space when attending parties or events. This can ensure your child's comfort and well-being throughout the Halloween season.

Fidget toys can provide relief for overwhelmed children, helping them soothe their senses and find comfort. If noise is a concern, you can consider using ear defenders. If ear defenders are uncomfortable for your child, noise-cancelling loops can serve as a suitable alternative for noise reduction.


Halloween can be an upsetting time for some children and their families, children may withdraw or show reluctance to participate in activities due to various reasons. Teaching "stranger danger" while also encouraging taking sweets from strangers can be very confusing and frightening for your child.

If your child refuses to participate in traditional Halloween activities like trick-or-treating, consider alternative ways for them to experience the fun that comes along with Halloween. They could hand out sweets, engage in spooky arts and crafts, invite friends over to watch a film, bake and decorate cupcakes, or go for a nature walk.

However, It’s important to reassure your child that they should not feel pressured to conform to Halloween traditions if it makes them uncomfortable. They don't have to dress up or go trick-or-treating just because that is what everyone else is doing. Engaging in conversations with your child to understand their preferences and concerns can help with deciding how to celebrate.

Reflecting on Past Experiences may help identify any negative incidents that might have affected your child's attitude towards Halloween. Understanding the source of their reluctance can help address specific concerns that they have which can then be worked on. However, it’s essential to let them know that it's okay to take breaks and have their space when needed.

If your child is hypersensitive to sensory stimuli and is withdrawing, consider starting with home-based activities and gradually increasing their involvement as they become more comfortable. Remember to reward Positive Behaviour to encourage your child this can be with stickers or praise when they have done something well or something that they were previously nervous about.

Halloween should be a time for children to express themselves, have fun, and unleash their creativity. By being understanding, patient, and adaptable to your child's needs, you can help make Halloween an enjoyable and inclusive experience for all. The key is to remember that Halloween is about imagination and fun, and every child should have the chance to participate in their own unique way.

Going trick or treating?

There are several things you can do to help your child enjoy trick or treating, for example:

  • Prepare your child by discussing scary costumes and decorations to familiarise them with the concepts, hopefully reducing anxiety. Incorporate humour into the event by pointing out that scary decorations can also be funny. This can help put children at ease.
  • Plan the route with your child. Begin with a short route and gradually expand it.
  • Use visual aids like visual schedules and lists of events to help your child understand the Halloween celebration and what's happening throughout the day.
  • Create or purchase trick-or-treat cards to remove communication barriers.
  • Start Halloween activities earlier in the evening when it's lighter and attend fewer parties if necessary.
  • Praise and encourage children when they face Halloween activities that make them nervous. Positive reinforcement can boost their confidence.
  • Plan for short breaks during Halloween activities to allow your child to decompress if things become overwhelming.
  • Ensure your child has sensory objects such as fidget toys, ear defenders, loops, or a comforting object.
  • Practice trick-or-treating by knocking on family and friends' doors or even through role-playing at home. This is a great opportunity to teach your child what to say.


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