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13 Reasons Halloween Sucks



Tips to take the fright out of this night from a mom with a toddler on the spectrum


Halloween can be chaotic for any parent, but as the mom of a toddler with autism, it can be exhausting. I've listed 13 challenges this holiday presents for families with children with special needs and ways to overcome the stress.

1. Costume conundrum
My son is not a fan of costumes. Like many children on the spectrum, he has a low tolerance for different textures.

Last year I bought us all colorful tee shirts from A.C. Moore and declared us the Sesame Street family. Each shirt color represented a different character. I only spent a few dollars and we were all very comfortable.

2. Candy, candy everywhere

Some children suffer from food allergies while others have disabilities that can prevent them from chewing and swallowing. My son has sensory processing disorder which basically means he doesn't allow anything inside his mouth unless it's a goldfish cracker.

The Teal Pumpkin Project was started a few years ago by families and neighbors who understand the challenge of this holiday tradition. Homes that display teal pumpkins on their steps offer non-food treats to avoid any possible allergies.

Another activity gaining attention is Trunk or Treat gatherings. Friends and family from the neighborhood or schools plan a time to meet at one location so their children can trick or treat to each participating car. Since these are planned events, it's so much easier to prepare other parents with appropriate treats to hand out for your child.

READ MORE: Top family-friendly Halloween movies

3. Lost in the crowd
Crowded events can become especially worrisome. My son is a runner, as in, he sees something interesting and takes off.

Fortunately, I found quite a few different ways to help keep him close in big crowds. Backpacks with a safety strap are a great way to give your child some independence while keeping him close.

I've also invested in a GPS bracelet for my son. The bracelet locks into place and syncs with my smartphone. If he wanders out of range, my phone gets an immediate alert notification along with a map showing me his location.

4. Overwhelming attractions
Many attractions do not offer handicap accessible rides or events while others are entirely too stimulating (strobes lights, very loud music, etc.) for children on the spectrum.

The Galleria at Crystal Run provides trick or treat hours for young children on Halloween day. The well-lit, open space complete with accessibility for disabled children can be a great way to enjoy the holiday.

The Mid-Hudson Children's Museum offers a similar spooky-themed event. With a limited number of tickets available, families register ahead of time which ensures a much smaller group of children can participate in activities and thus avoiding all the big crowds.

READ MORE: Halloween safety tips

5. Rules change just for today
I struggle with this concept every year. We teach our children never talk to strangers, except on Halloween. And definitely never, ever accept
candy from strangers, oh again, except on this day.

I try to explain to my toddler that this day is special and also to never say hi to strangers without Mommy right there. For younger children or children with cognitive disabilities this still could be incredibly confusing. In that case, going to events at a family's house or a school is the safest way to enjoy the holiday.

6. The non-verbal approach
I hate having to explain to other people that "no, my child is not being rude or shy, he doesn't talk."

Add a note to their costume or trick or treat bag to bypass all of the strange looks and questions from strangers. A simple note like "Hi, I'm Batman, but I can't talk. Trick or Treat, please," can put strangers and parents at ease for a less awkward interaction.

7. Spooky store decor
Some stores go all out with their Halloween decorations and suddenly a familiar environment turns into a haunted house for a child.

Ask a friend to check if your favorite store has turned into zombie central before venturing out.

8. Practice run
There's so much comfort in knowing what to expect each day. Halloween can be full of the unexpected and for a child that relies on routine, not knowing can be frightening.

Create a Halloween "practice" day to provide the security your child needs to understand what to expect before the big night. You can practice trick or treating, wearing costumes and even come up with an escape plan if the evening proves too much to tolerate.

READ MORE: DIY Halloween costumes

9. Hectic hayrides
I love hayrides to the pumpkin patch, but for my son, the itchy, bumpy ride is infuriating.

To prevent any problems from unruly stalks of hay, bring a diaper pad for seat protection. Some farms even have small patches within walking distance from the parking lot to avoid the hay ride altogether.

10. Judgment from others
Parents have been judging other parents since the beginning of time. And if my son and I don't dress up for Halloween but still participate in a festive activity, you can imagine the side-eying we get.

There's no way to avoid it or educate everyone we meet. I've learned to take a deep breath, chug my coffee and move on knowing that they just don't get it. The only person I care about having a good time is my son.

11. Masks, makeup and mayhem
For children with disabilities, they may not be able to fully understand that a familiar face is just hidden under makeup or a mask.

At home, wear silly masks or put on makeup in the mirror and then wash it off. If this concept is still too unnerving, ask friends and family to forgo the mask while visiting with you and your child.

12. In for the night
Staying home during Halloween can have its own set of new challenges. Groups of tiny ghouls running and screaming outside and constant knocks at the door can create panic inside.  

Last year, we only opened the door for the first few costumed-cuties that rang the bell. After those first few visitors though, my son was exhausted by the excitement so we just turned off the porch light and called it a night.

13. Halloween is over already?
There's always a chance that this year will be the year Halloween becomes his favorite day and that costume will never come off. In that case, we'll celebrate all week and I guess I'll just have to get more candy!

Rielly is a part-time writer and full-time mama to an adorable autistic toddler. Her favorite hobbies include naptime, drinking coffee, and trips to Target. Follow her Hudson Valley Parent blog "Sailing the Spectrum."