When your child isn’t into thrills and chills, Halloween can be a rough holiday. Kids with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) often struggle with the sights and sounds of Halloween. This year, have a sensory smart Halloween by planning ahead.
Set off on your trick-or-treating adventure before the sun goes down. When it’s daylight, kids can see more easily, and visual disturbances like flashing lights, open flames and black lights won’t be a factor. Some communities offer indoor trick-or-treating in places such as malls and recreation centers. If your child with SPD loves blinking lights and visual stimulation, go at night but be sure to bring a good flashlight.
No matter how much your child wants to be a Stormtrooper this year, it doesn't mean he’ll tolerate wearing the plastic mask for more than a minute. What looks like a cute mask may feel like torture to a child with SPD. When you’re choosing your child’s costume this year, avoid costumes with heavy masks, hard edges and elaborate props. Stay away from clothing that squeezes your child. If your child is soothed by soft textures, see if he’s drawn to an animal costume with fuzzy fur.
Most store-bought costumes feel itchy against bare skin. For kids who are extra sensitive to textures, these kinds of fabrics are intolerable. Help your child enjoy her costume by dressing her in soft clothing. A favorite long-sleeved shirt and leggings or sweatpants can guard against scratchy tags, seams and cheap fabric. Wear regular socks and shoes under any costume footwear.
Whether you’re attending a fall festival, you’re trick-or-treating or you’re throwing a Halloween party, it’s crucial to give your child space to cope with the sensations of the holiday. Leave room in your schedule for slowing down and engaging in behaviors that typically calm your child, such as having some space to run around or quiet time with headphones on. If your child is overwhelmed, scared or engaging in problem behaviors, try to be understanding. Halloween is full of routine disruptions and new sensory experiences.
Children with Sensory Processing Disorder react in different ways to different sensory experiences. What one child finds intolerable, another child might find pleasing. During the Halloween season, focus on what you know about your child’s SPD. Triggers are especially important to be aware of. If your child hates loud noises, you’ll need to avoid houses that have scary sound effects outside. If your child struggles with eating certain textures or tastes, carefully sort through the candy haul. Structure your Halloween around your child’s triggers.
Remember to lean on the tools that help your child manage his Sensory Processing Disorder. If he’s soothed by fidget toys or chewing gum, bring those tools along with you when you trick-or-treat or attend Halloween parties. If your child responds well to noise-canceling ear muffs, incorporate them into a pilot or engineer costume.
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