Halloween Costume Ideas for Kids with Autism and Sensory Disorders
October 11, 2021
October 11, 2021
Whether your crew likes to go all out for Halloween or your family prefers simplicity, we have costume solutions for your children. Polyester, tulle, masks and wigs can be uncomfortable for anyone, so for a child with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or sensory processing disorder (SPD), wearing a traditional costume may not be appealing. For others, princesses and pirates are just not interesting, so parents may have to think outside the box to engage them in the season.
No matter where your child’s interests or challenges lie, we came up with six buckets of accessible, autism-friendly costume ideas, all without the itch factor and suitable for those who have minds of their own.
1. Sensory-Friendly Store-Bought Costumes
While we love all the innovative creations parents create, we are so excited to see big box companies selling more inclusive options this year. Target offers adaptive Halloween costumes that include options like Paw Patrol, mermaids, Elsa and dragons, which are made with soft materials, flat seams, hidden openings, detachable elements, and often most importantly, no tags! Other small businesses are embracing comfort with a number of soft character dresses and rompers made for everyday wear ready to turn your little into Fancy Nancy, Doc McStuffins, Black Panther or one of the My Little Ponies. While not exactly intended for wear outside the house, there are also a number of 100 percent cotton pajamas that make perfect costumes, like these superhero sets featuring Captain America and Superman.
2. Special Interests
Now is the time to focus in on your kiddo’s favorite things and let him or her live out those dreams. This is where the “unconventional” can become the coolest on the block. While it may take some creative thinking on your part, you both can have a lot of fun turning your child’s special interests into a one-of-a-kind costume. You’d be surprised how many cute washing machine or vacuum costume tutorials you can find on Pinterest! Or, if you do not want to be so literal, consider a slice of pizza for someone who can’t wait to open the doors in the freezer section of the grocery store. Maybe it’s a thunderstorm or meteorologist for a child who enjoys talking about the weather, Oscar the Grouch for the kid fascinated by garbage cans. Is your kid obsessed with a specific city or location? Think of a landmark like the Statue of Liberty or one of the area’s historical figures. Does your child have a passion for the alphabet? Use cardboard to dress up as a Scrabble piece. The key here is to let your child take the lead. Cardboard boxes, plain clothes and fabric markers will become your best friends as you bring these restricted interests to life.
3. Easy DIY Costumes
Homemade costumes are some of our favorites and they do not require a seamstress. As a bonus, you have complete control over the comfort for children who may have sensory sensitivities. Add some felt triangles to a hooded sweatshirt and a tail to sweatpants, and your child is suddenly a dinosaur. Have a yellow t-shirt, overalls and a yellow beanie? You have a Minion. Or, get a white sweat suit, adorn it with various colors of electrical tape, and you’re on your way to having an astronaut in your home. If you have a box, plastic cups, glue and paint, your kiddo can transform into a Lego brick … all while wearing his or her own clothes. You get the idea!
4. A Sweet Ride
Trick-or-treating can be a lot for children with autism to handle, especially this year. Beyond the sensory overload, walking house to house can be exhausting and distracting, even without wearing a full costume. For those who plan to trick-or-treat (or trunk-or-treat!) and need a break from time to time, consider transforming the transportation… A.K.A. decorate a wagon, stroller or battery-powered car to give them the ultimate ride. This route may take some artistry, but can be a ton of fun to create together. A little foam board can turn a wagon into a dump truck. Adorn a small picket fence and hose from the hardware store, then top it with a red light to make an even easier fire truck. If you’re feeling extra silly, you can even wheel your kiddo around in a giant vintage-style toaster, like this one from Studio DIY!
5. The T-Shirt Costume
For some, costumes may be too overwhelming, and it is not solely for sensory reasons. If they are not into wearing a full getup, there are plenty of t-shirt options perfect for the occasion. From simple Halloween-themed shirts, to tees printed to look like police uniforms or characters from Toy Story, you are sure to find one that suits your kiddo.
6. A Family Affair
Autism families with multiple children sometimes have an extra layer of stress on Halloween, but group costumes are still an option. For those with siblings hoping to dress as Jasmine or Ariel, a “Princess Protection Agency” t-shirt might do the trick for the bro or sis who is not as ecstatic about dressing up. There are also a ton of shirt options with Velcro capes for all our little Batmans or Supergirls joining a legion of superheroes. If your child will tolerate a soft headband with animal ears and some light face paint, the circus or the zoo are other fun family costume themes.
As parents touched by autism are well aware, the challenges associated with Halloween do not solely stem from costumes. From trick-or-treating to Halloween parties, check out even more tips on how to make this fall holiday fun for you and your child on our blog.