Thursday, October 10, 2019

20 Awesome Tips for Making Autism and Sensory Friendly Halloween Costumes

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Lots of autism Halloween tips to ensure your child wears a sensory friendly Halloween costume.

Halloween can be an extremely overwhelming holiday for many kids, especially autistic and sensory kids.

There's just so much sensory input going on during Halloween. It's like a sensory meltdown is just around the corner. There's the itchy costumes, the copious amounts of sugar that's consumed, the spooky Halloween imagery, kids shouting trick-or-treat, and the constant ringing of doorbells...

You can see how it could be overwhelming now, right?

There are lots of things you can do to make Halloween more autism and sensory friendly. Tackling any issues with the costume is the perfect first step.

Here are 20 ways to make autism friendly Halloween costumes.

Sensory friendly Halloween costumes - autism Halloween tips

Autism and Halloween: How to Make Your Child's Halloween Costumes Sensory Friendly

You can use these tips to help make any costume more sensory friendly for your autistic child, whether you are buying a costume from a store or making your own.

1. Use comfortable clothes for a base layer beneath the costume

Putting a physical barrier between your child's costume and their skin is a great starting point. You can avoid any itchy fabrics or scratchy tags this way. Plus, it will make your child feel more comfortable because they're wearing something they're already familiar with underneath.

2. Remove tags

Speaking of scratchy tags...I highly recommend removing all tags from the costume as many kids find them bothersome and annoying.

3. Choose the fabric and materials carefully

Many autistic kids have tactile sensitivities so be sure to consider the fabric of the costume. Let your child feel the fabric against their skin to determine whether they can tolerate it. Or let your child pick out their favorite fabric if you are sewing them a costume like I did for this Pikachu costume and this Squirtle costume.

4. Avoid masks and/or face paint

Kids with sensory issues find masks and face paint to be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. For example, masks can sometimes have a weird smell or they can feel like they are pulling your hair or skin.

And face paint can feel slimy, itchy, and tight on the skin. So pick costumes that don't require a mask or face paint.

Or if your child wants to wear a mask or face paint, definitely practice wearing it prior to Halloween, which leads me to my next point...

5. Practice wearing the costume prior to Halloween

You should also have your child try on the costume before buying it or making it to ensure it is something that they will feel comfortable wearing.

6. Wash or clean the costume before wearing

If you are buying a costume, then it's a good idea to wash or clean the costume before they wear it. Many store bought costumes, especially masks, can have a weird smell to them or they might have stiff, scratchy textures. Giving them a wash before Halloween is a way to soften up the fabrics, remove funky odors, and make them more tolerable to kids with sensory issues.

FYI, we use and love Nelly's Laundry Soda. It has zero scent and has no nasty stuff in it.

7. Consider the weather

Will your child feel too warm in the costume?

Will they feel too cold?

You want a costume that will help your child feel comfortable wearing it without overheating or getting chilled. So keep that in mind!

8. Aim for costumes that are easy to get on or off by themselves

You'll want to do this for two simple reasons.

One, if your child gets overwhelmed when wearing their costume, they'll want a quick way to escape from it. So opt for costumes that can slide off or on really quick or use buttons or velcro instead of buttons or ties.

Two, many autistic kids have fine motor delays and find things like buttons challenging to do up on their own. You want the costume to be easy enough for them to put on by themselves.

9. Consider the accessories carefully

Some costumes come with things that make noise or light up. If your child is bothered by lights and sounds, then you might want to avoid those kinds of accessories. Avoid capes or bow ties if your child doesn't like to wear things around their necks. And avoid scratchy wigs or hats that might be bothersome to your child.

10. Consider the length of the costume

Since most store-bought costumes are generic sizes, they often don't fit well or are they are completely shapeless. So it's important to consider the length of the costume.

Will it be a tripping hazard?

Will it get caught on something?

Is the hood too large and ends up sliding down and covering their eyes?

You can always do a quick hem on the costume if needed, but it is definitely important to make sure the costume fits your child well.

11. Go up or down a size based on sensory preferences

If your child finds tight clothing comfortable and calming, consider buying a smaller size costume so it fits a bit snugger. Or if they hate the feel of tight clothing, then go up a size.

12. Wear a compression vest or weighted vest underneath

Similar to the point above, if you buy a larger costume size, then your child could wear a compression vest or weighted vest underneath. Many kids with autism or sensory issues find these tools helpful and can help keep kids calm.

13. Use noise reduction ear muffs as part of the costume

If your child is bothered by loud noises, incorporate ear protectors into the costume. Your child could wear them underneath the hood of a costume, for instance. Or you could turn the band of the ear muffs into cat ears or a unicorn horn. You could also cover the ear muffs with fabric to make long dog ears or cover them with elephant ears made from poster board. The possibilities are endless!

14. Provide other sensory tools like chewelry or fidgets

You can incorporate other sensory tools into your child's costume. If your child's costume has a zipper up the front, then you could attach a chewable toy to the zipper pull for your child to chew on. Or look for costumes that have pockets so your child can store their fidgets in.

15. Look for costumes that have built-in stimming or fidgeting components

If your child likes to wiggle and fidget, then consider costumes that have components that let them fidget. Some ideas to watch out for include: reversible sequin fabric (aka mermaid fabric) for your child to brush their hands on back and forth, buttons to press, necklaces, and so on.

16. Make a costume from regular clothes or incorporate their regular clothes

You can buy all sorts of onesie pajamas or even regular two piece pajamas these days that can double up as a Halloween costume. These options are usually made from soft, comfortable fabrics and make great alternatives to other costumes.

You can also just use your child's regular clothes to make a costume (e.g., black pants and a striped shirt for a quick and easy mime costume). Or make a cardboard costume that can slide on overtop of your child's regular clothes.

17. Line plastic helmets and costumes with fabric

If your child wants to be an astronaut or fire fighter, for instance, then they might want to wear a helmet. The problem is those helmets are hard and cold as they're made of plastic. You can make them more comfortable for your child by hot gluing strips of fabric inside the helmet where the helmet would rest on your child's skin.

18. Keep the weight of the costume in mind

Your child might feel more comfortable in a costume that is light weight and barely noticeable. Or maybe your child likes the deep pressure that comes from heavier costumes. Regardless, it's important to keep the weight of the costume in mind when picking the costume out with your child.

19. Have a backup plan

Kids change their minds all the time so it's good to have a backup costume just in case.

20. Skip the costume completely and opt for a fun themed t-shirt instead (aka keep it simple!)

Your child doesn't have to wear a costume to participate in the Halloween festivities. They could simply dress in orange and black, wear a Halloween themed shirt, or even wear their favorite character t-shirt.


Quick Recap of the Autism Friendly Halloween Costumes Tips

Whew, that was a lot! Here's a quick recap for the skim readers (yes, I'm looking at you):

  1. Use comfortable clothes for a base layer beneath the costume
  2. Remove tags
  3. Choose the fabric and materials carefully
  4. Avoid masks and/or face paint
  5. Practice wearing the costume prior to Halloween
  6. Wash or clean the costume before wearing
  7. Consider the weather
  8. Aim for costumes that are easy to get on or off by themselves
  9. Consider the accessories carefully
  10. Consider the length of the costume
  11. Go up or down a size based on sensory preferences
  12. Wear a compression vest or weighted vest underneath
  13. Use noise reduction ear muffs as part of the costume
  14. Provide other sensory tools like chewelry or fidgets
  15. Look for costumes that have built-in stimming or fidgeting components
  16. Make a costume from regular clothes or incorporate their regular clothes
  17. Line plastic helmets and costumes with fabric
  18. Keep the weight of the costume in mind
  19. Have a backup plan
  20. Skip the costume completely and opt for a fun themed t-shirt instead (aka keep it simple!)

Other Autism Halloween Resources You'll Love

Free Halloween Social Stories

Free Printable Trick-or-Treating Social Scripts

Halloween Activities for Kids

Autism & Halloween: tips on how to make autism and sensory friendly Halloween costumes for kids

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Autism parenting resources Hyperlexia resources Sensory diet activities Speech activities and printables Social skills resources Emotional self-regulation resources
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