Navigating Halloween 2020 for Kids with Special Needs

Halloween can require some extra planning and precautions when celebrating with children who have autism. UAB Medicine published an article stating that recent studies have suggested at least one in 20 children is affected by a sensory processing disorder, and these symptoms can become more pronounced at Halloween. The costumes, extra sugar, noises and disruption of routine can all be very triggering and may lead to some challenging behaviors. This year with the additional safety and health precautions due to Covid-19, certain areas are restricting the ways in which we can celebrate, but parents can still make this a memorable holiday for their kids.


Halloween won’t seem like such a disruption of routine to children if parents plan ahead of time and let their kids know what to expect. Parents should discuss costume ideas, if their child is interested in wearing one, and have them participate in the process of choosing or creating it. Families can also incorporate family friendly Halloween movies during the month of October to associate positivity with the concept, like trick or treating, dressing up and the spooky décor, before the actual holiday takes place. Children with autism are able to adapt to new scenarios more favorably when they are not caught off guard and have ample preparation.


Sensory activities are very beneficial for children with autism as it helps to stimulate the brain, improves social and communicative skills, facilitates coordination, and can have a calming effect. Lemon Lime Adventures published quite a few sensory play ideas themed for Halloween that would allow for a fun and unique celebration. Decorate pumpkins, cookies, or your home in lieu of trick-or-treating. If your child is interested in costumes, try a family themed one that everyone can be involved in.


Trick-or-treating is unlikely to happen in many parts of the US right now, so this year is a good opportunity to celebrate from home. There are numerous avenues to try, from online Halloween scavenger hunts, pumpkin carving competitions and virtual costume contests. Parents can incorporate Zoom, FaceTime or any number of remote apps that have risen in popularity this year. Click here for a full list of remote ways to celebrate Halloween with kids this year.

While the world continues to adjust to life during a pandemic, we are continuing to find ways to adapt traditions and holidays to this new virtual format. Children can have an especially hard time with the transition and keeping some traditions alive, even in a remote setting, can help them feel grounded during this time of uncertainty.