Make Halloween Fun for Children with Sensory Challenges
Halloween doesn't have to be off-limits to children affected by sensory processing disorders. Because they may interpret and react differently to the holiday's sites, smells and textures, here are five tips from The American Occupational Therapy Association (aota.org) for how to make it a positive experience for these children.
1. Prepare for the day. Halloween traditions often clash with established rules, like taking candy from strangers. Reviewing and rehearsing the activities through stories, songs and pictures will help your child anticipate activities more favorably.
2. Make costumes safe, comfortable and imaginative. Share costume guidelines with children to prevent in-store meltdowns, and have them wear their costumes in advance to test their comfort level when walking, reaching and sitting. A child with sensory processing challenges may appreciate the "less is more" approach. For example, a short cape may be best for a superhero costume.
3. Trick-or-treating can be pleasant, up to a point. With your child, practice the sequence of walking to the door, saying "trick or treat," putting a treat in the bag and saying "thank you" at homes of familiar neighbors. Children may benefit from starting early and avoiding the dark. Skip homes with flashing lights, loud noises and scary decorations.
4. Cater to your child's strengths throughout the day. Some children will seek opportunities to touch "eyeballs" and pumpkin innards because they enjoy touching wet or squishy textures. Other children will opt to keep their hands dry. Also, consider planning an event with a few friends instead of a large party, which may be overwhelming.
5. There's no place like home. Know when to stop the festivities. Look for signs of sensory overload in your child: fatigue, hyper-excitability, crying and combativeness. Often, children like handing out the candy just as much as receiving it.