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October 28, 2018|HOLIDAY, SENSORY
Halloween and Sensory Processing Disorder

Halloween is right around the corner! Most kids can’t wait to put on their costumes and make their way through the neighborhood, but for children with sensory sensitivities (often associated with ADHD, Autism, Anxiety, and Sensory Processing Disorder), Halloween can be stressful.  With some careful planning and preparation, children with sensory issues and other special needs can enjoy this exciting time of year as well!

For children with exceptional needs consider the following tips to make Halloween a fun event for the whole family:

1. Give your child(ren) a schedule (written or visual) of events for special activities, particularly on days with lots of transitions, each day their typical schedule is interrupted. Before you leave for Halloween parties, parades, or other fun events discuss the schedule regularly and provide information for each event. Let your sensory child know which events will take place outside and which events will be loud or crowded. Once you arrive at the event, have a quick family meeting so the whole family knows how long you plan to stay, and how you expect them to behave. This will benefit neurotypical children as well, since any child can get overwhelmed with the excitement of Halloween. Sometimes just knowing what’s next can help children feel less anxiety.

2. Have a code word your child can use if he or she feels overwhelmed and needs a break. Honor the code word by removing your child from the stressful situation for a few moments, and discuss coping skills. Again, giving children some control during activities that may be overstimulating will reduce anxiety and enhance the fun.  Here are some additional tips:

  • Make the route more familiar by mapping it out and practicing ahead of time
  • Go out 30 minutes to an hour before dusk so it is not as dark and crowded
  • Bring a wagon to pull your child in, in case it is more crowded than expected, to avoid other children crowding or bumping in to your child
All the children have sensory issues but the costomes were tried on days before so tags could be removed and other things modified to make them comfortable for the children's photo shoot.
All the children have sensory issues but the costumes were tried on days beforehand so the tags could be removed, and other things modified, to make them comfortable for the photo shoot.

4. Children with significant sensory sensitives should practice wearing their costumes BEFORE an event. Here are some tips for choosing a costume:

  • Allow your child to pick out their costume, within reason. Suggest that they feel the fabric in the store to see if it too stiff, scratchy, or just right.
  • Check to see if the material is machine washable and try washing the costume a few times to soften the fabric before the big day.
  • Consider the use of face paint and masks carefully. Your child may be sensitive to the smell and texture of these items. Have them try the paint or mask out a few times, days prior to wearing it, to see if they can tolerate it.
  • Have your child wear clothing that they like under their costume to make it more comfortable. Remember to stay supportive and positive. Remind them that is okay to take off the costume whenever they become uncomfortable.
  • Have a simple back-up costume just in case. This can be a soft towel as a cape or decorating a sweatshirt and sweatpants as their favorite animal.

Class Parties

Class parties are really exciting…for the children at least. Who doesn’t want a break from regular classroom activities to play games and eat delicious treats? However, for a child with SPD, this change in routine can spark an outburst. Make sure to talk to your child’s teacher to find out the plan and then discuss the plan with your child starting a few days prior to the event. If the children get to dress up at school, this poses another potential issue-mom or dad may not be there to help out. If you are not there for the party, make sure that your child’s teacher is aware of your child’s challenges. Sometimes teachers ask that each child brings in a favorite snack for the party. One thing that you can do it to pack a Halloween themed snack that you know your child will enjoy! Make it together and have them taste test it before the party.

Halloween doesn’t have to be a stressful time for a child with sensory issues! We hope these tips help your whole family enjoy this fun time of year.

Parent Alliance for Students with Exceptional Students (PASEN) is meant purely for educational or medical discussion. It contains information about legal or medical matters; however, it is not professional legal or medical advice and should not be treated as such.

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