For parents of children who struggle with sensory issues, Halloween presents particularly challenging questions: What fabrics will my child tolerate? How will my child react to noises during trick-or-treat? Will my child panic due to the crowds?
Christina Treece, President of Friends of Blanchard Valley School, notes that costumes are especially difficult for children with sensory issues. Parents should consider the feel and fit of the fabric along with tags or awkward, uncomfortable shapes. A DIY costume similar to everyday clothes will help ensure that the child will wear and enjoy it. Consider layering a tight athletic shirt underneath, as the continual pressure, offering calming sensory input, can help your child cope with sensory overload. For those children sensitive to sounds, incorporate noise-canceling headphones, or a hat, into the costume.
Preparation is crucial for a successful sensory sensitive Halloween. Treece recommends showing videos of trick-or-treating and role playing, especially for children lacking verbal or social skills. Before heading out, allow your child to engage in a therapeutic activity prescribed by an occupational therapist. Be aware that crowds may overwhelm your child. Use a wagon as a safe, calming space for the child. Decorate it to add to the fun!
Preparing yourself for the experience is as helpful as preparing your child. “Public situations can become more stressful for the parent than the child,” Treece noted. “It can be overwhelming to go into a situation where you are not sure how your child will react or how the public will react to your child’s behavior.”
Stay calm and redirect your child’s behavior before the situation escalates. If your child knows sign language, use it! That can clue others in that something other than “bad behavior” is going on. Lastly, remember that what you think is fun may not be fun for your child. Treece wisely notes, “It’s good to expose our kids to things but it’s also okay to go home early if things just aren’t working. You can always try again next year.”