Costumes such as these are likely to be a nightmare for our kids with sensory sensitivities. While Halloween is loads of fun for many children, it can be quite daunting for our children with sensitivities to touch, sound and sight. This can lead to behaviors where they may literally fight or flight.
Choosing a costume is the first battle. Most of our sensory kids are not going to tolerate make-up, the itchy fabrics or the hats and masks involved. Consider using clothing they already have and think about accessories they can hold to complete the outfit. Soft sweatpants come in all kinds of colors, add a tail and some ears to red pants and a sweatshirt to make Clifford. If the outfit needs a hat, try attaching it to a belt loop or use it to hold the treats.
Your child may be tolerate his costume, but add sights and sounds and it may be just too much. Avoid the houses that look like they belong to the Adams family. The eerie music and sounds along with children screaming can easily set our children into overload. Blinking strobe lights certainly add a scary feel, and may be too over-stimulating for our sensory kids,too.
Many candy givers expect a "Trick or Treat" from your child. If your child has difficulty with expressive language or has apraxia, practice the steps including ringing the door bell and saying "Trick or Treat". If he suffers from "stage fright", consider accessorizing with a sign. For instance, a railroad conductor could hold a sign that reads "Trick or Treat". For our children who are non-verbal, use a BIG Mack switch with a pre-recorded message that she can hit at each door.
Try these tips to avoid a scary sight on Halloween night:
- Never force a child to dress up or participate in Trick or Treating
- Practice at Grandma's house
- Set out early before it gets too dark and to avoid the crowds
- Choose quiet neighborhood streets
- Go to familiar houses
- Read your child's signs and be prepared to come home early
- Identify a safe spot if you're at a party or if he gets separated from you on the street- consider an identification tag of some sort
- Make sure your child is visible, whether it's through the use of glow sticks or a flashlight
- Allow your child to pass out the candy at your house, rather than go Trick-or-Treating
- If you're hosting or at a Halloween party, have your child lead the Bobbing for Apples or Pumpkin Painting Contest, rather than participating. Or, allow her to be on the judges' panel and hand out the prize for the best costume!
Enjoy the festivities this week and share any tips that you have to make Trick-or-Treating fun for all!
Michelle Yoder, OTR/L