While the spooks, sights and sounds of Halloween can be a treat
for many children, those affected by a sensory disorder may be too
overwhelmed to join in the holiday fun.
But there are ways to include kids with sensory issues in the
festivities. By preparing ahead of time and tailoring the day to
your kid's needs, Halloween can still be part of your family's
traditions. The American
Occupational Therapy Association offers these tips to make
Halloween less of a scare for families with sensory issues:
Prepare for the day. Halloween traditions often
clash with family rules, like taking candy from strangers. To help
kids prepare for these unusual holiday practices, try talking with
them beforehand about what to expect and why it's okay. Events like
an unexpected "boo" shouted their way or changes in their food
routine can be challenging for some children. Reviewing and
rehearsing the activities through stories, songs, and pictures will
help your child anticipate activities and enjoy them.
Make costumes safe, comfortable, and imaginative.
Before heading to the store, review costume guidelines with kids to
prevent in-store tantrums. Children should wear costumes a few days
before Halloween to test their comfort level when walking,
reaching, and sitting. Try to avoid costumes with masks or exposed
tags and elastic parks. And remember the weather: will your child
be willing to wear a coat over his costume? Make-up may also feel
slimy, and its smell may be off putting. Will your child think the
fabric is too scratchy, tight, slippery, or stiff?
Our own tip is to try a simple DIY project. You and your child can
choose a costume to create together. By choosing your own fabrics
and materials, you can make sure your child is comfortable all
night. (Be sure to visit our Halloween
pinboard for a few ideas)
Trick-or-Treating can be pleasant, up to a point.
Practice trick-or-treating ahead of time. Walk to your own front
door and practice recieving candy. Many neighborhoods now ask
families to go around to houses before dark and trick-or-treating
before dusk could help your child feel more comfortable. Consider
trick-or-treating on quiet streets or only at homes of family and
friends and skip homes with flashing lights, loud noises, and
especially scary decorations.
Cater to your child's strengths throughout the
day. Some children will seek opportunities to touch spooky
"eyeballs" and pumpkin innards because they enjoy touching squishy
textures while other children will prefer to keep their hands dry
by decorating jack-o-lanterns with stickers and markers rather than
carving. Plan ahead of time by figuring out what activities the
party you're attending will have. There's usually a way to include
every child. For example, someone who may not like bobbing for
apples could participate by putting the apples in the bucket.
There's no place like home. Know when to head
back and count the candy. Pay attention to your child's behavior
and body language for signs of sensory overload. And don't forget
that often, children like handing out the candy just as much as
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