Tips for a Successful Halloween for Neurodivergent Children

Halloween can be an exciting time of year for families who celebrate. While the costumes, colours and candy can be lots of fun, for neurodivergent children, this holiday can also pose a lot of challenges.

This month, your ACT Learning Centre SLPs are here to help prepare you and your child for the fun!

New Routines/Trick-or-Treating

For some children, Trick-or-Treating is the most exciting part of Halloween. But for others, it can be a new and challenging activity.


  • Ask your child if they would like to go trick-or-treating, or if they would rather do something else. If they say yes, but then change their minds, honour their decision not to participate.
  • Plan the route you will take, with a limited number of predictable stops, and walk it together to practice. Practice lots and let your stops know you are doing so.
  • Read themed books or even a social story about what to expect on Halloween and what to do. Talk to your ACT SLP if you would like help creating a story to help prepare your child.
  • Consider inviting friends or family and having everyone involved to model how to participate. Try practicing by having your child go door to door within your home and having friends or family members inside each room. This will be a safe space for your child to practice all the steps of trick-or-treating, including knocking, initiating with or responding to the person behind the door, receiving their treat and trying out their chosen “thank you” method (if this is important to you).

In the Moment

  • Only go on the route you pre-planned but finish early if your child indicates they are all done.
  • Be prepared to advocate for your child or to support them with strangers using some of the tips in the categories below.

Communication Differences

Communication differences can sometimes make holidays a bit trickier, especially if there are strangers or new communication partners. By planning in advance, you can be prepared to help your child navigate this new social-communication environment.


  • Let the people whom you will be visiting know that you and your child will be coming by and that they communicate differently.
  • Ensure the vocabulary required for your fun night is accessible to your child through their AAC if they use it. Reach out to your ACT SLP for help selecting and adding relevant vocabulary for your spooky celebration.
  • Consider an augmentative communication tool, even if your child generally speaks, to help in this new situation. This can be as simple as a picture of home to touch when they are ready to go, or a small sign that says “Trick-or-Treat” and “thank you”.

In the Moment

  • Model language for your child and help them to self-advocate if necessary (e.g., “I don’t like scary things”, “My costume is too itchy” or “All done!”).
  • Make sure your child’s device is charged up if required, and that it is readily available to them.
  • Be a detective and monitor your child for their variety of communication modalities. They may need a little extra help identifying feelings or communicating their thoughts in this new context.

Discomfort with Costumes

Although playing dress-up can be magical for some children, for others, it poses challenges, such as changing or limiting communication styles and possibly creating sensory discomfort.


  • Get your child involved in choosing their costume and in deciding which parts (if any) they want to wear.
  • Consider how a chosen costume might impact your child’s ability to communicate (e.g., does it limit their vision, limit their movement or cover their ears). Make changes to it if necessary.
  • Consider if the costume has any elements that might be irritating, like scratchy material or tags, to get rid of in advance. This is especially important for kids who might not yet have the vocabulary to describe what is uncomfortable in the moment.
  • Let your child wear their costume around the house or out with you on errands to get used to the feeling.

In the moment

  • Bring a comfortable change of clothes and communication supports with you on the day, even if you have not needed them on any of your practice runs.

Playful Peers

Children can have lots of fun with their peers on Halloween, but the holiday can also bring new social communication expectations and challenges. Help your child to feel successful in this new social environment by trying some of the following:


  • Invite family friends or other predictable friends to join you so that your child has a safe social circle and models for participation.
  • Give your child options for those who can help them as they participate in activities such as parents, siblings or friends.
  • Your ACT SLP can give you suggestions on how to navigate social-communication challenges you might encounter.

In the moment

  • Support your child by facilitating peer interactions. For example, helping your child tell another that they like their costume or that they do not like something the peer is doing.
  • If your child requests a different support person in the moment than who they originally requested, honour that decision whenever possible. For example, although during practice, they might have felt comfortable with a sibling, on the big day, having a parent might feel more comfortable instead.
  • Praise your child for participating and their other accomplishments throughout the day/activity.

For this holiday, as with others, it is important to remember that the comfort of your child is more important than completing a task or following a specific routine. Halloween can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways, and it is best spent as an opportunity to connect, be silly and have fun together. As always, your ACT SLP team is here to enthusiastically support you and your child through preparing for a new communication environment. We wish you the best this Halloween!

Jane Woodworth, M.A. SLP-(C)
Speech-Language Pathologist, Reg. CASLPO (cari.ebert.seminars Instagram),distress%20and%20ruin%20their%20fun.