Halloween is a great time for fun and to take a break from the normal routine. With costumes, candy, and parties galore, people in the U.S. and beyond enjoy the festivities. However, Halloween comes with some challenges for those on the autism spectrum.
Common symptoms of autism spectrum disorder include trouble reading nonverbal cues and a need for routines in life. With difficulty in dealing with these concepts already, Halloween can throw a wrench into the normal interaction patterns of those living with autism.
Costumes can potentially make familiar people autistic individuals would normally recognize seem like a different person entirely. This unfamiliarity with the costumed look of a person can be something for which to prepare your autistic child, especially if they will be attending Halloween activities.
Parents and caregivers can practice interacting while you both are in costume to help young people with autism acclimate themselves to costumed interaction. This way, when they see others in costume, they’ll be better prepared to recognize people they already know and better prepare for unfamiliarity in their routines.
This practice with interaction can also help them deal with more uncertainty than normal in recognizing nonverbal interaction. The difficulty reading nonverbal cues can be compounded with certain obscuring costume pieces, such as masks. While an autistic individual may have learned better over time to recognize facial expressions and other nonverbal cues, this exercise can help make interaction with even less nonverbal clues to go on than usual easier.
Although costumes can hinder nonverbal communication and interrupt a familiar routine, Halloween also can be a chance for autistic individuals to express themselves in newer and creative ways. Another common symptom of autism is narrow, concentrated interests.
While these interests may be something an autistic individual wants to express, these interests can often be out of context in a normal social interaction. However, a Halloween costume is the perfect time to express oneself through a costume themed around personal interests. Self-expression can increase confidence, and wearing a costume that shows off personal interests is a great way to show hobbies or fascinations in an appropriate context.
For example, an autistic individual who has a fascination with a TV show, or a specific character on that show, can dress as their favorite character. This can serve as a great conversation starter at a Halloween party, as compliments on the costume can get them talking with other partygoers about their favorite interest.
If you feel like you need further help in preparing your autistic child for Halloween interactions and life beyond, look no further than VedaOT. We’re here to help you with your child’s needs by creating an individualized occupational therapy program tailored to their needs. We believe that every person on the spectrum deserves a meaningful life, and we’re passionate about giving them the tools they need to achieve that. Schedule a consultation today with us to get your autistic child on track to live up to their full potential.