Halloween is quickly approaching. For children with sensory processing difficulties SPD, autism, and attention deficit disorder (ADHD) this can be a difficult time. Here are my top Halloween tips as an occupational therapist.
The extra excitement from Halloween and fall activities, costumes, noise, crowds, and extra snacks and sweets.
I understand how overstimulating Halloween can be for our sensory kids. I'll never forget Halloween one year when my son was so excited he ran right across the street without looking!
What can we do to make Halloween less overwhelming for our kids?
Here are my top tips to try before Halloween to make it fun for your whole family.
Pick out a costume together a few weeks before Halloween
Consider different types of costumes. Some kids like tight costumes for the compression which can be calming. While other kids like costumes that look (or are!) more like regular clothing.
Make a Halloween countdown calendar
It helps when kids are prepared for days that are different than regular days. Making a calendar and marking off the days, or a paperchain can help.
Practice wearing the costume in the house (or even outside the house!)
Leaving the costume out where it can be seen can help children get used to the costume and playing dress-up before the day can help too.
Practice trick or treating in the house
Practicing trick or treating in the house such as going room to room can help with the social skills required for the big day. Knocking on doors, saying trick or treat and thank you
Watch YouTube videos of trick or treating or videos that explain anything you think your child may find scary
Social stories and Youtube videos can be great for kids who get anxious. But make sure you preview the videos first.
Does your child have a hard time staying calm?
Is it a meltdown or a tantrum?
Learn the differences so you can respond with confidence!
Collect alternative candy, foods, or small toys to swap out if your child has food sensitivities
Having a stash on hand to swap out quickly can make this easier for kids who can't have candy for a variety of reasons.
Halloween Sensory Bin
Make fun Halloween sensory bins by filling them with Halloween candy or plastic spiders. See more Sensory Bin ideas.
Day of Halloween Tips
On the day of Halloween, there is a lot of extra excitement.
Here are my top tips to try on the day of Halloween to make it fun for your whole family.
Encourage but don't insist on saying trick or treat
If you have practiced trick or treating in the house you should have a pretty good idea if your child will say trick or treat. If not you can either remind them or just say it for them.
Earlier usually means fewer crowds. Darkness can also be hard for some kids.
Eat a good meal prior
Meltdowns are more likely when kids are hungry.
Have a regular clothing costume backup ready
Or skip a costume altogether if it causes an issue
Hand out candy instead
When my kids were young they enjoyed trick or treating for a few houses then they were happy at home handing out candy. Or even some years they chose not to go at all. I always enjoyed the help handing out the candy!
Think trick or treating will be too overwhelming?
Look for other Halloween events that are less crowded and overstimulating such as the mall trick or treating or other Halloween events.
Don't want your child eating the candy?
Have other food or small toys to swap out when you get home. Look for a place that takes donated candy such as Treats for Troops.
Does your child get overstimulated with loud sounds?
Try noise cancellation headphones or earbuds.
Keep bedtime the same
Kids do best with consistent routines.
Try tight costumes
The sensation of compression can be calming. You can also try a compression shirt underneath a costume. Such as a compression tight athletic shirt, or a weighted compression vest.
Hopefully taking into consideration your child's unique sensory needs and using some of these tips will make it a great, fun Halloween.