Halloween is a day that many children look forward to all year long, but it can offer challenges for children with Fragile X syndrome. While it is typically “all about” the candy for many children, there are actually a variety of activities during this season that you can choose from, so it need not be all about one night. Here are activity ideas for you to consider, but the important point is to find what works for your family—maybe it will lead to a new tradition.

Going to the pumpkin patch

  • When choosing where to go, keep in mind the size and number of activities at the location. You might consider making a visual story for your child. Find the pumpkin patch on the website and print out pictures to show your child where you will be going.
  • The pumpkin patch is probably the least busy when it first opens or early in the day.
  • Decide ahead of time how many pumpkins and what size (and anything else) you will buy.
  • Allow for time to move at your child’s pace.
  • Have a back-up in case the weather changes. Or bring gear for any weather.
  • You may decide to buy your pumpkin at the local grocery store—that is O.K. too!

Decorating your house – inside and out

  • Look online for ideas on decorations you can make yourself.
  • Set expectations for how much you are willing and able to do.
  • Let your child take the lead on the decorating.
  • Allow plenty of time so you are not rushed doing an activity.

Choosing and trying on costumes

  • Decide ahead of time if you are going to make or buy the costume.
  • Have expectations about where you will go and how much you will spend.
  • Know that your child may pick a costume that has a mask, but may choose not to wear the mask when trick-or-treating.
  • Your child may change his/her mind at the last minute and wear an old or different costume.
  • Keep in mind that it might be cold or raining or snowing during the actual trick-or-treating part. This means your child might have to wear a coat under/over the costume.

Choosing candy (or other items) to give out

  • Decide ahead of time how many bags of candy or other items you will hand out.
  • Depending on the number of children you have, let each child pick out one bag of candy.

Carving the pumpkin

  • Decide ahead of time how you will decide on what to carve.
  • Is there a pumpkin for each child or will the carving have to be a group decision?
  • Draw a picture of what to carve on a piece of paper first. If doing a face, you could ask, “What should the eyes look like? The nose? The mouth?”
  • You could also look on the internet for ideas. Let your child pick the picture of what is to be carved. (Make sure it is doable!)
  • Does your child want to help clean the pumpkin out? Maybe use latex gloves.
  • Only you can decide if your child can be involved in any of the actual carvings, but maybe he/she can help poke pieces of the pumpkin out while you do the heavy carving.
  • Allow plenty of time for the whole process, including cleanup.

Going trick-or-treating

  • Create a visual book/story of the afternoon and evening.
  • Plan which neighbors or area to visit.
  • Talk about and model what your child does when he/she goes to the door. Knock on the door or ring the doorbell. Then practice what to say when he/she goes to the door. If your child is non-verbal, consider handing out a card.
  • Ask a couple of your neighbors if your child can practice going up to their house.

That evening:

  • Set expectations about when your child will start and how late he/she can stay out.
  • If your child won’t knock on the door, it is OK if you do and then step back. You can also model saying, “Trick or treat!” If someone asks your child what he is, give him a few seconds to respond and if he doesn’t, it is all right for you to say, “I’m a ______.”
  • You might ask a friendly neighbor child to go with your child. The friend can also model what to do and say.
  • Your child may want to go to all the people in the area you set out for, or she may want to quit after a few houses.
  • Your child may want to dress up and hand out candy instead of going trick-or-treating. You can model handing out one piece of candy to each child and then let your child do it. This is also an activity you can practice earlier in the day.
  • Your child may just decide to watch television instead.

Deciding what to do with all the candy

  • Set expectations about how much your child can eat at one time or during the day.
  • Offer to trade the candy for a present.
  • Sometimes you can sell it to your dentist.

Other ideas

  • Read Halloween books to your children. There are books for all ages.
  • Watch movies, but be sure they are not too scary for your child.
  • Make cookies or other “spooky” treats.
  • You might opt to go to a community Halloween event—perhaps at a recreation center or shopping mall. They are usually during the day and a little lower in intensity.

Have fun with this. There is not a right or wrong way to do anything. Be creative!

Other websites of interest

Costume ideas from parents

  • Our 5-year-old son won’t tolerate a costume so he wears his pajamas and goes as “a boy ready for bed.”
  • We always went with the soft easy in/easy out costumes.
  • Our sons hated masks, so they always went with minimal costumes like cowboy or detective clothes (a trench coat).
  • My son never liked costumes on himself or others. When he was young we made costumes out of boxes, a car, a robot. I think it made him feel more secure.
  • When our son was in pre-school, he was Tigger. He put on a costume in a store and would not take it off! I had to rip the ticket off of it and pay for it as he bounced out the door! That lasted a few years.
  • Our son loved Darth Vader. He would not wear the mask but LOVED the cape and lightsaber.
  • I get costumes without a lot of fanfare that doesn’t require masks or makeup or hats. One year he was Superman, one year a pirate, last year he was an army member and this year he will be Ironman, sans mask.
  • Our son has been a firefighter—just wearing a firefighter jacket, which has gone well as it just goes over his clothes like a jacket.
  • Superman worked well for us. No mask needed, and the cape is fun.
  • A costume that our son has tolerated was black sweat pants, black sweatshirt; I bought crinkled brown paper and glued it on the shirt. Then I used black makeup pencil for his nose and he was the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz.
  • Years ago our son’s favorite movie was The Mask. We went to a Goodwill and found an outrageous green and yellow jacket, tie, shirt, pants and the big rubber pull on-mask. He wore that all the time, not just for Halloween, for years until he couldn’t squeeze into the clothes anymore.
  • My son went as a baseball player: sweatpants, team jersey, cap, and he wore my daughter’s softball cleats.
  • My son wore a football uniform, and I thought he’d carry the helmet to put candy in, but he wore that tight helmet on his head for quite a while.
  • We do sensory-friendly costumes that are basically like normal clothes. We have done lumberjack (plaid overalls), a doctor (scrubs), train conductor (striped overalls), and this year he’ll be a gorilla (the costume is basically a black velour sweatsuit where the hoodie has a gorilla face on it). He goes trick-or-treating and loves it!
  • I always let each child pick out their costume; it seems to help with wearing them.
  • My son lays all his costumes out a couple of days before Halloween because that night he changes costumes a few times. He does not go trick-or-treating, but he wears his costumes around our front yard and helps pass out candy.

Other ideas from parents:

  • We have a movie night at home.
  • My kids love Halloween and all the stuff that goes with it—parades, parties, candies, dressing up, masks, etc. In fact, they love it so much it has caused sleep problems and behavioral issues, starting with when the calendar moves to October! All because they are so excited for it.
  • We go trick-or-treating with my son’s typical siblings and friends as models, although he was confused about it the first year.
  • Both of my boys love Halloween but do not like to wear masks or hats. They enjoy decorating, but they really enjoy kids coming to our house.
  • Our son is on a special diet, so can’t eat candy. Instead of eating it, he trades it in to us at the end of the night for a present!