Halloween and Sensory Processing Challenges
With Halloween just around the corner and fall in full effect, it’s essential to recognize how we can help our kiddos with sensory processing challenges to navigate this season. For many of us, Halloween is fun and exciting; we look forward to spooky treats and fun costumes. For children with sensory processing challenges, Halloween can be an overwhelming experience; uncomfortable costumes, unfamiliar sights and sounds, changes in routine, and interacting with strangers in exchange for candy. Below are some tips for helping you plan for your child’s unique needs and preferences, so they can enjoy Halloween and stay regulated:
- Comfort is key! When helping your child choose a costume, offer them fabrics they are familiar with and comfortable wearing.
- Allow your child opportunities to wear their costume in the days and weeks leading up to Halloween so they know exactly what to expect. This is also a great time to help them work through any challenges that might come with wearing a new outfit.
- Don’t force your child to wear something they aren’t comfortable in.
If you need ideas for sensory-friendly costumes, here are a few favorites:
Onesies: these are usually cozy, soft, and come in a variety of different characters and animals.
Halloween or character t-shirts: T-shirts are a great way for your child to participate in dressing up without having to wear an uncomfortable head-to-toe costume.
Going house to house and talking to strangers is intimidating! Know your child’s needs and consider an alternative if they aren’t ready to go trick-or-treating yet. Instead, maybe they can help pass out candy at home. Again, don’t force them to do something they’re uncomfortable with. If your child does want to try trick-or-treating, here are a few tips for supporting them:
- Practice beforehand. Roleplay with family members or friends in an environment your child is comfortable in.
- Start small. Try one or two local homes first, ideally homes of neighbors that your child knows. If they’re uncomfortable with the face-to-face interaction at the door, try having a sibling or friend help them collect their treat.
- Start early. You may find that your child is more comfortable with trick-or-treating before it gets dark, as things are much less spooky in the daylight.
No matter where or how you spend your Halloween, remember to plan ahead. Bring a change of clothes in case your kiddo gets uncomfortable in their costume. Look for a quiet place for your child to retreat to if they become dysregulated. Most importantly, always meet your child where they’re at! If you have questions or need more specific suggestions, reach out to your child’s occupational therapist for support. Happy Halloween!