GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Celebrating Halloween can sometimes be overwhelming for the 1 in 36 children who, according to federal data, are affected by autism. 

Employees of the Autism Center for Child Development, run by Wedgwood Christian Services, have a few tips that can help make Halloween more accessible.

Katrina Newman, a behavior analyst says parents can look for Halloween events like trunk-or-treats that are more sensory-friendly.

“Being inside is something that is an easy change out you could do because parking lots can be really hard for many parents to wrangle children especially if you have more than one child,” Newman said.

For children who are comfortable going trick-or-treating, practice can make a difference so the children can prepare.

“Even putting on the costume and taking it off can be something we need to practice at home,” Newman said. “Just have them knock on a door and when you open it they’ll say ‘trick-or-treat’ and you hand them their treat, and then they’ll say ‘thank you’ and you shut the door and you can practice that a couple of times. We do it in the center twice a day right now and the kids really love it.”

If the child is non-verbal but able to go trick-or-treating, there is a way they can participate as well.  

A card provided by Wegewood Christian Services that helps children with autism trick-or-treat. (Courtesy)
A card provided by Wedgwood Christian Services that helps children with autism trick-or-treat. (Courtesy)

“Everybody says trick-or-treat, knocks on the door, they can hold up their sign and it will say trick-or-treat or boo,” Newman said.

A blue pumpkin is also a sign of a welcoming home, according to Mary Kay Anderson, the interim executive director for Autism Support of Kent County.

“It can represent two things that either that house has someone with autism or it is somebody who is aware of people who have autism and this is a safe place to come for them,” Anderson said.

Anderson says avoiding crowds and smaller celebrations can be helpful. 

“Take them to familiar households. Family, friends, people who know them. Even the costumes themselves can be kind of scary, especially if they’re over the face,” Anderson said.

Above all, a little patience can be the best way to make sure every kid has a happy Halloween.

“Understand that some of them get a little excited some of them do what they call pacing back and forth, they may continually talk about something but that’s just the way they process things and it’s nothing to be afraid of. They just want to have fun,” Anderson said.