Like it or loathe it, you just can’t ignore it. What are we talking about? Halloween of course.

With aisles of orange and witches in windows the UK is fast catching up with our American counterparts who love to trick or treat on October 31st.

But for those of us who are autistic, Halloween can be a sensory feast for some or a night of terror for others.

Here are our five top tips for a Happy Halloween:

1 – Over the top

No, don’t worry this isn’t about spending or doing more. Our first tip is about Halloween costumes. Sensory differences affect almost all of us if we are autistic. Whether we are understimulated and so we crave sensory stimuli, or whether we are hypersensitive to sensory experiences so need to avoid an assault on our senses, clothes have to be thought about to meet each of our needs. If you enjoy the feeling of crispy, noisy fabrics then shop-bought costumes may work for you but, if not, why not wear a comfortable outfit that you’re happy in, and then add the costume – or your adaptions to the outfit – over the top. This small tweak could be the difference between happy haunting or a night of upset.

2 – Go public

There are so many uncertainties about a night like Halloween. Who will come to the door? Will they knock or ring the bell? Will the visitors be wearing colourful or noisy outifts? Will they be loud or quiet? Or if you go visiting neighbours yourself will they be in? what will they ask? What if they don’t answer the door? What if they give me treats that I don’t like?

For many autistic or neurodivergent people this uncertainty can be tricky to navigate so why not decide in advance a few non-negotiables – and then go public with it.

For example – if you don’t want uninvited visitors why not print off our sign and display it a few days ahead of Halloween and on the night itself. We've created some posters that you can download and print off below.

Same goes if you want to take part but have your own preferences or challenges. If you find verbally communicating difficult then print off, or make your own cards explaining this so your neighbours understand. 

Similarly if you don’t mind visitors but would need to make some adjustments why not use our template as a basis for a Halloween sign for your home.

We loved seeing one family say ‘no trick or treaters’ but they still left treats on the door step!

3 – Play to your strengths

As we’ve said already Halloween can be a sensory fairground – which can be an absolute delight for some of us. Why not make the most of this opportunity and experiment with some of the games and elements of Halloween that appeal to you?

Some super sensory ideas include bobbing for apples, having your face painted, eating brightly coloured garish foods, listening to haunting sounds, find treats (jelly sweets) in slimy worms (cold tinned spaghetti). If, on the other hand that’s all way too much – there couldn’t be a better night to turn down the lights, snuggle up and read stories. We suggest Room on the Broom, Roald Dahl’s more disgusting tales or Revolting Rhymes.

4 – Think ahead

For parents of autistic children, it could prove beneficial to take some time to prepare your child for this weekend’s festivities. There are bound to be plenty of people around wearing masks and costumes, and these can be scary because they look different. A good way to prepare could be to use visual stories.

Autistic individuals may also feel anxious as Halloween approaches, so why not use a visual countdown on a calendar to show how many days there are left.

5 – Preparation is key!

Transitions are a part of everyday life, but they can cause feelings of anxiety, stress and prove extremely challenging for some autistic individuals. This could also be the case at Halloween as its unlikely that getting dressed up and going door to door trick or treating is part of your child’s typical routine.

To help children understand and prepare for when trick or treating will start and end, there are a number of things you could do. One way to ease transitions is to plan ahead and prepare. Try using a visual planner to show what is going to happen and in what order. Remember that not all autistic people are visual learners so information may be presented in a different way. Could you use voice memos or tactile items?

When all is said and done, Halloween can be a great opportunity to spend time as a family having fun – and there are no rules as to what that needs to look like. Make your favourite food, do your favourite activities, dress in your favourite outfit and make memories together. We’d love to see your Halloween photos when you’re done!

Click each image below to download our Halloween posters.


Access our free downloadable resources