Halloween is right around the corner and while it is a highly anticipated event for many children, it can be a challenging time for those with sensory processing differences. With the wide array of sounds, sights and textures, Halloween is a sensory-rich holiday that can be overwhelming. But, with a bit of planning and consideration of each child’s unique strengths and needs, families can enjoy the festivities while navigating the many sensory experiences that Halloween brings!
Consider the following tips to make Halloween a fun event for the whole family!
Children with tactile sensitivities may not feel comfortable dressing up in a costume. It may be too itchy, tight, or scratchy to tolerate. Building a costume from everyday clothes that your child finds comfortable may be just the trick you need to help your child feel at ease in a costume.
- Your child could also try wearing some of their most comfortable clothes under a costume, or, a compression shirt for increased proprioceptive input and decreased tactile sensitivity.
- Do a costume dress-rehearsal! Before Halloween night, have your child try on their costume and test their comfort when walking, reaching, and sitting.
- Bring along a soft Halloween-themed outfit or other favorite outfit for your child to wear if he or she can no longer tolerate the costume.
- For children who like deep-pressure input, wearing a weighted-costume, such as those sold by ‘Dress up to Calm Down’ may be a great option!
Trick or Treating:
- Choose a route and practice walking the route with your child before Halloween night to help them prepare
- Have your child complete their sensory diet activities (provided by your OT) before trick-or-treating to help them feel more regulated.
- Consider establishing a codeword or hand signal your child can use if they want to leave or take a break.
- Provide the opportunity for ‘breaks’ in which your child can go back to the house or into your car can help reduce sensory overload
- Bring a comfort item, familiar fidget, or sensory tool should your child need calming input
- If your child is sensitive to loud noises, bring noise reduction headphones
- Consider only going to homes of family and friends to keep your child’s comfort level high
- If you are hosting the party: take advantage of this by setting up a sensory corner away from the main area of entertainment so your child has a safe and comfortable place to go if needing a break.
- If the party is not at your house: help your child identify a “safe space” should he or she need to retreat to avoid a sensory overload.
- Bring a comfort item or a familiar fidget should your child needing calming input
- Prepare your child for what to expect by explaining the trick-or-treating process, noises they may hear, lights and decorations they may see, etc. Practicing going through the day/night’s events ahead of time may help your child feel more comfortable day-of. You could practice by:
- Reading a social story
- Role playing with dolls or toys
- Visiting a friend’s house and doing a mock trick-or-treating event
- Having your child wear their costume and knocking on the door then answering and handing out candy for a roleplaying scenario in preparation of Halloween night
- Watch your child’s cues and know when to call it a night before your child is overwhelmed
If your child doesn’t want to go trick-or-treating for Halloween, that’s okay too! Choose activities that best fit your child’s sensory needs. Other festive activities your child may enjoy, can include:
- Painting/decorating pumpkins
- Halloween-themed movie night
- Halloween candy scavenger or treasure hunt
- Create a halloween craft
- Helping to roast pumpkin seeds or picking apples
- Kids might love to be the one who hands out treats at the door
Questions or concerns?
If you have questions or concerns about your child’s responses to noise, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 773-332-9439.
Rachel Sitzmann, MS, OTR/L
American Occupational Therapy Association. “Enjoying Halloween with Sensory Challenges.”.
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