Halloween means costumes, candy, and fun for kids of all ages. However, what seems fun and exciting for many children can be extremely stressful for children with sensory issues or other special needs. These kids can easily be overwhelmed by things like flashing lights, masks, or costumes. Here are four tips for adapting your Halloween celebration so that your child with special needs can enjoy all the fun of the day.

Practice trick-or-treating.

For children with anxiety, autism, or developmental disabilities, the actual act of trick-or-treating may not come naturally. You can prepare your child by practicing trick-or-treating at home before you head out Halloween night. Break the process down into steps so it is more manageable for your child. You can even bring a list or flashcards with you as you trick-or-treat to help remind your child of the right things to do.

Try reverse trick-or-treating.

For some kids, things like leaving the house in a costume, going door-to-door, and encountering other people dressed in costumes and masks can be incredibly overwhelming. In a situation like this, reverse trick-or-treating can allow your child to experience the fun of Halloween without the stress.

Dress your child up at home, and ask familiar family and friends to come over with candy in fifteen minute intervals. Let your child answer the door with his treat bag and a greeting of “trick-or-treat!” The visitors leave their candy in the child’s bag, and the child gets to experience all the fun of trick-or-treating without leaving the house. This option is also great for kids with mobility issues who may have trouble walking door-to-door.

Choose an appropriate costume.

Children with sensory issues often cannot handle wearing traditional costumes. Things like masks and make-up can make them feel very uncomfortable. Thankfully, there are many costumes you can make with regular clothing. Put on some overalls and a plaid shirt to make your child a farmer, or let your little girl wear a fancy party dress to be a princess. Stripes painted on a sweatshirt can transform your child into a bee, tiger, or zebra. Or, you can let your child raid your closet and create a look of her own!

Find alternative ways to celebrate.

Traditional ways of celebrating Halloween just don’t work for some children with special needs. But that doesn’t mean the day can’t be fun and special! Find a way to celebrate that allows your child to enjoy himself. Spend the evening watching Halloween-themed children’s movies, paint pumpkins, bake cookies – do whatever works for your family. What matters most is your child’s enjoyment; don’t worry about how to make your child fit into traditional Halloween traditions. Instead, create a tradition that fits your child!

Halloween doesn’t have to be scary for children with special needs or their parents. Children with special needs are like any other child; they love the excitement of a special celebration. By planning ahead and making some adjustments, you and your child can have a Halloween that is fun for everyone.