Preparing for Halloween with Neurodivergent Young People: Ask, Accept, Develop

By Dr Freya Spicer-White, Head of Neurodiversity Practice and Standards

Halloween can be an exhilarating time filled with spooky decorations, thrilling costumes, and tons of sweets and treats. However, for neurodivergent young people, the festivities might come with their unique set of challenges. By adopting the principles of our Neurodivergent Strategy Ask, Accept, and Develop, we can ensure that Halloween is an enjoyable and memorable experience for everyone involved.

Ask: Provide Consultation to the Young Person

Dialogue: Start by engaging in a conversation with the young person about their thoughts and feelings regarding Halloween. Some might love the idea of dressing up, while others may find certain aspects of Halloween overwhelming or upsetting.

Discuss Sensory Sensitivities: Halloween can be a sensory-rich experience, from the feel of costumes to the noise of neighborhood celebrations. Understanding the young person’s sensory needs can help tailor the experience to be more enjoyable for them.

Consider Preferences: Whether it’s the type of candy they like or the kind of activities they prefer (trick-or-treating, attending a party, or staying in), ensure their voice is central to the planning process.

Accept: Embrace a Neurodivergent Affirming Perspective

Different, Not Deficit: Remember that being neurodivergent is not a deficit, but rather a different way of experiencing the world. Embrace and celebrate these differences. Halloween is a chance for everyone to express themselves, and neurodivergent young people should feel encouraged to do so in their unique way.

Flexible Expectations: It’s essential to be adaptable. If a young person doesn’t want to wear a full costume or partake in certain activities, that’s okay. Find alternative ways to help them enjoy the day in a manner that feels comfortable for them.

Educate and Advocate: Use the opportunity to educate friends, family, and neighbors about neurodivergence. A little understanding goes a long way in ensuring a more inclusive environment for everyone.

Develop: Foster Growth and Enjoyment

Skill-Building Activities: Leading up to Halloween, engage in fun activities that can help the young person build confidence. This might include practicing trick-or-treat runs, making DIY decorations, or baking Halloween-themed treats together.

Rehearse Scenarios: If a young person is anxious about specific aspects of Halloween, consider rehearsing certain scenarios. For instance, practice trick-or-treating at a friend’s house before the actual night or brainstorm ways to decline if they’re offered something they’re uncomfortable with.

Encourage Social Interaction: Halloween offers numerous social opportunities. From attending themed parties to participating in community events, find activities that match the young person’s comfort level and interest.

Reflect and Celebrate: After Halloween, take some time to reflect on the experience. Celebrate successes, acknowledge challenges, and consider what might be done differently next time. This reflection can be a foundation for even more enjoyable experiences in the future.

In conclusion, by adopting our Ask, Accept, and Develop framework, we can ensure that neurodivergent young people experience the magic of Halloween in a way that’s comfortable, enjoyable, and tailored to their unique needs. Halloween is a time for fun, laughter, and making memories, and with a little preparation and understanding, it can be a wonderful experience for everyone