Happy Halloween to all of you reading!
Halloween is my favorite holiday. I love to get dressed up in fabulous costumes. I love the annual Halloween party my housemates and I throw. I love the playful macabre of the holiday. I love so much about it.
Starting at age 6, I wasn’t allowed to celebrate Halloween. My parents had become very involved in the church and were morally against Halloween. It wasn’t until I was 17 that I was able to celebrate again. I dove in wholeheartedly trying to make up for all the lost years. I started dressing up and trick or treating (finding a child to bring with me each year as I got older, though I was always more excited than the child I was with).
I start planning my Halloween costumes during the summer, and I’ve had some pretty spectacular costumes. Starting in September, we begin decorating for Halloween and getting in the spirit. Suffice it to say, Halloween is a huge deal for me.
Halloween is also a time of great difficulty for me for a multitude of reasons. As I’ve explored in some of my recent posts, five years ago, during Halloween weekend, I was raped for the last time by a stranger in my own bed. As such, my PTSD tends to act up around Halloween causing random bouts of depression and hysterical sobbing. Much of this past weekend was a whirlwind of emotions that I thought I had moved past.
Aside from the PTSD issues that arise around Halloween, I also face some added difficulties as an autistic person. I like to plan fabulous costumes that look great. However, I usually forget to factor in my sensory processing issues. As such, I am currently sitting at my desk at work in sensory hell from a costume that I thought would be great (and does look pretty awesome) but is apparently incredibly uncomfortable. It feels like small knives are stabbing me all over my body. The urges to indulge in self-injurious stims is nearly overwhelming.
In addition to the difficulties that can arise from costumes, many other aspects of Halloween can be sensory hell. Halloween parties and gatherings are often loud and overwhelming which can be very challenging for autistic people to deal with.
So what can you do to have a more autistic accessible Halloween? Here are some tips I’ve learned by not following them and suffering the consequences. Hopefully these may be of use to others:
- Choose a costume based on sensory needs. No matter how fabulous a costume may look, if it causes you sensory duress, it will be very hard to enjoy yourself. Find a costume that meets your individual needs whether that means loose fitting or tight, super soft fabric or very specific fabric, etc. While it may not be your ideal costume, you’ll be able to enjoy yourself a lot more which is totally worth it.
- If you plan on attending any Halloween celebrations, find out as much as you can about the event ahead of time. Try to find out if there will be music playing in the background, how many people will be in attendance, what kinds of activities will there be, etc. The more information you have, the better you can prepare yourself to have fun. If you have auditory processing difficulties and there will be background music, you can wear or bring headphones or ear plugs to help cut down on the overload. If there will be a lot of people, particularly people you don’t know, plan an escape route. Have somewhere you can retreat to if it becomes too much. Having this planned in advance will make it easier in the moment to get yourself out of a bad situation.
- Plan time for self-care. If, like me, you tend to be fairly busy around Halloween, be sure to plan time to take care of yourself. That may mean taking time to engage with your special interest or just time alone. Taking care of yourself will allow you to better enjoy any festivities you are participating in.
- If you have any food sensitivities, be cautious with Halloween candies. A lot of common allergens sneak their way into perfectly good candy that had no need of these ingredients. Double check labels for everything and, when in doubt, google the candy to be sure.
I’m sure there are more tips out there for having a safe and enjoyable Halloween as an autistic, but these are my tips so far from experience.
I hope all the autistics out there have a safe and happy Halloween!
If you have any of your own advice to share, please comment below.