Trick or Treating with Autism

trick or treating with autism

Trick or Treating with Autism

Trick or treating with autism is not the same for our kiddos. For most kids, Halloween is a time of excitement. It’s a time when you can dress up as your favorite character. All the grownups in your neighborhood tell you how beautiful you look in your Cinderella dress or how tough you look as the Incredible Hulk. And then, they give you candy – just for knocking on the door. What’s not to love about that!?!

Yet for other kids, like our Ethan, Halloween can be overwhelming. It is a time that brings great anxiety for some kids on the autism DSCN0435spectrum. Likewise, our kids’ anxiety brings much angst for us parents too. Not to worry. We autism parents are a resilient bunch. We are determined to make sure our kids can have as normal of a childhood as possible, and we’re not going to let that anxiety prevent our kids from enjoying the tradition of trick or treating. For our family, we must overcome 2 major obstacles in order to enjoy trick or treating with autism: candy and costumes.

Trick or Treating with Autism: Challenge#1 Costumes

Most kids love getting dressed up for Halloween. Gavin is so excited about dressing up as Greninja (Pokeman) this year. He’s so eager in fact he has already put on his costume and went out to play in the backyard several times. For Ethan however, costumes are not so exciting.

A couple years ago, he was really into The Muppets, so his grandma made him a Kermit costume. When we tried to get him dressed, he freaked out. He cried and screamed as we tried to get him dressed. Mom and I thought if we could just get the outfit on him, then he would see that he was Kermit and want to wear it. We wrestled with him for over 30 minutes before finally giving up. Personally, it was a very tough moment for me. I was saddened that trick or treating with autism was never going to be how I imagined it to be. As a parent, you have an picture in your head of what Halloween should be like with your kids. I remembered how it was when I was a kid, and I always imagined this same thing for my kids.  The anxiety and resulting outcome that happened on this year was never something I had planned for.

Mom saved that Halloween as she pulled out a pair of Ironman pjs.
He went as Ironman that year, and had an absolute blast going from door to door trick or treating. I was very down to start the night, but Ethan quickly picked me up. As I watched him jump with excitement as he went door to door screaming “hi, hi, hi” to the all neighbors, I couldn’t help but smile.

That Halloween was a defining moment for me. Who cares, if Ethan doesn’t dress up in a traditional costume. He still enjoyed himself and got to have the same experience all the other kids did that night. Now, we choose very simple costumes, and focus on the experience not the costume.

Last year, I bought him a Dallas Cowboys jersey and he and I went as football players complete with a “football” (2 month old baby Kaitlyn) This year, we are looking at just getting a Batman t-shirt with black pants and he can go as Batman. We still offered him the traditional options.  As soon as we went down the costume aisle at Target, that anxiety quickly came back. He started emphatically saying, “No Way! No Way! No Way!” That’s just fine kiddo. A Batman t-shirt it is.

Trick or Treating with AutismTrick or Treating with Autism: Challenge#2 Candy

Now that we have a plan for the costume, we can tackle the other challenge: the candy. Our family focuses on eating more of a whole-food diet that’s mainly in line with the paleo diet. We eat very little processed food anymore. This means we have to have candy alternatives for our kids. We’ve created a non-candy trade in for Gavin, and he understands that the candy he gets at Halloween is quite unhealthy for him. Ethan on the other hand, does not yet understand. When he is given candy from a neighbor, he wants to reach right in and eat it before leaving the porch. That’s when I swoop in with an already opened, highly desired, food item. For example, when he reaches in to grab the Snickers bar, I give him a piece of organic dark chocolate instead. trick or treating with autismI keep them in my pockets ready to go in order to keep everyone happy and keep the fun going.

This system works quite well and has proven an easy workaround to avoid diet infractions. We also empty his bucket into Gavin’s pumpkin every few houses to further reduce the risk of Ethan eating one of these unhealthy candies. I don’t start with candy right away. I’ll try healthier options first. Ethan loves fresh blueberries, so I start with those. If the berries stop being effective, that’s when I break out the big guns, the dark chocolate. This year, I may order the spicy coconut chips from Amazon that he loves so much.
There are tons of better options to swap your kids candy. We love organic dark chocolate, but you can find tons of suckers, fruit twists, fruit snacks, gummies, and hard candies that are free from gluten, dairy, artificial flavors, and preservatives. Enjoy Life is a great brand. They make yummy allergen free chocolate bars as well.  YumEarth Organics makes gummy bears and suckers. Annie’s is another brand that offers better options.


This Halloween choose a simple costume and bring healthier, highly desired candy alternatives when trick or treating. This is how our family handles trick or treating with autism. If you are a parent of a child on the spectrum, don’t let the Halloween anxiety ruin the fun to be had on October 31st. This works well for us. Find what works for you. Halloween is not about the costume the kids wear or the candy they receive. It’s about the experience we have with our kids, and the memories we create with them.


What does your family when trick or treating with autism? Do you have any tips or tricks to keep Halloween healthier? Leave a comment.


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For more tips on trick or treating with autism check out some of the resources below.

Trick-or-Treating That’s Fun for Kids with Autism and Sensory Processing Disorders

Trick or Treat from TACA

13 Healthy Trick or Treat Ideas