Halloween is that fun time of the year when we decorate our homes with cute…but scary Halloween decorations in an attempt to scare anyone who dare walk up to your door. Decorations may include flashing lights, fake spider webs, ghosts in the dirt, along with lots of loud scary music in hopes that we terrify all the giggly children dressed up for Hallows Eve. However, to children who possess sensory challenges, this holiday can be something to dread. All those sounds, sights and textures can be completely overwhelming and make for a very unhappy child. Here are some recommended activities and environmental modifications that can alter this holiday from a day to dread – to a day of fun!
- Prepare for the day: Read Halloween stories to get them through the month of October, to better understand the value of the holiday. Reviewing and rehearsing the activities through stories, songs and pictures will help your child anticipate activities more favorably! Reenact the “trick-or-treat” routine so your child is not surprised when a stranger at the door is handing them candy.
- Make costumes safe, comfortable and imaginative: Give them the option of deciding their costume of the night by going through their favorite books, TV shows and movies. After getting them excited, experiment the costume in advance to test their comfort. Watch the fabric and watch for tags. Children with sensory processing challenges may appreciate the “less is more approach”. For a simple costume, a short cap may suffice!
- Trick or treating can be pleasant…up to a point: To make for a fun experience, avoid going to houses that have loud noises and flashing light decorations if you feel this may make your child uncomfortable. It may be beneficial to head to family and friends homes; somewhere your child may be more familiar. Try trick or treating before it gets too dark, as well!
- During the day activities: Cater to your child’s preference throughout the day. If your child prefers to keep their hands dry, try decorating pumpkins with stickers. If your child is open to different textures, pumpkin carving and/or bobbing for apples is a great activity to try!
- There’s no place like home: Look for signs of sensory overload if your child appears fatigued – fatigue may result in excessively hyper, emotional or unruly activity. There’s nothing wrong with heading home early, and handing out the candy instead of receiving it!
By: Melanie Carlin, B.A. Sociology, Toronto Children’s Therapy Center Volunteer