When traditions are scary: Dreaming of a friendlier Halloween

One of the most problematic times of the year for special needs children is one of the most exciting times for neurotypical children.


Some children can’t tolerate wearing costumes. Others can’t even tolerate seeing them. Young friends who struggle with fine motor skills may have trouble grabbing one piece of candy. For us it all started at age 2. Henry took one look at the Elmo costume Keith had lovingly purchased and FREAKED OUT. We wondered if he perhaps thought it was a dead Elmo. It does, after all, look a bit like an animal pelt. After weeks of exposure to the costume, he finally agreed to wear it and trick-or-treated at a few houses that night.dsc_0571

The next year, at age 3, we knew we were dealing with autism and sensory issues, so I made his costume as normal as possible. He was a train engineer. (He did have a hat but took it off almost immediately.)

dsc_0045Since then, we’ve simply followed Henry’s direction. He picks his costume. No trick-or-treating? Fine. Last year he declared he would be “the candy giver-outer,” and his neighborhood pals stopped by our house before carrying on with their evening. They even brought him gifts, which pretty much melted me into a puddle.

One of the goals we have for UUMC is to make our costume carnival more sensitive to special needs. The church fellowship hall bursts with fun at this event, but “burst” is exactly what some kids would do after a few moments, so they stay at home.

While no child should even feel forced to participate in Halloween activities, it is also true that some would like to participate and simply can’t. I’d love to make our church a place where all children can join in without fear or anxiety.  In Your S.P.A.C.E. we could offer Halloween-themed activities in a quieter environment. Perhaps we could offer a trip through the fun house before the carnival officially opens. Maybe someone smarter than me can come up with even better ideas…

(That’s a request for ideas, smart people!)


With excellent models of inclusion already in the Triangle area, I know we have a great future ahead of us. We’re crawling before we walk, but we’re gonna get there one faithful, baby step at a time.

New here? Glad you made it! I write about my unique joys and challenges as Mom to Henry, a smart, tender, quick­-witted, train-loving, autistic 10-­year­-old with an infectious smile. I long to encourage autism parents and empower all to see inclusivity doesn’t have to be difficult - it can be beautiful. Like what you see? Sign up here to receive news and occasional freebies just for insiders.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.