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Tricks for Making Halloween a Treat for Kids with Sensory Disorders
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For most of us, Halloween means chilly weather, leaves crunching under our feet and a good excuse to dress up and celebrate. We might stress a little over getting the costumes our kids are dying to have, getting to the school party on time or who is passing out candy and who is braving the cold for trick-or-treating. It’s all manageable stress though when we get a taste of our kids’ excitement. But for the children who have any kind of sensory disorder, Halloween can mean distress, anxiety and meltdowns.
Many of the little details that make Halloween what it is can be a major stressor for kids with sensory disorders. Flashing strobe lights, itchy costumes, unfamiliar homes and people, fog machines or even loud spooky music and sounds. The list of culprits is as unique as the variety of children affected by sensory disorders. And some of these can be nerve-wracking for other children too.
Tricks and Treats
But Halloween doesn’t have to be all stress and no fun. After all, the walking around is a great way to tame the stress brought on by the sensory overload. So whether you have a Sensory Sensitive child or not, here are some tricks to keeping the treats a part of Halloween.
Costumes are a huge thing to consider when it comes to keeping Sensory Kids comfortable and calm on Halloween. Most pre-made costumes are made with itchy fabrics and aren’t always sewn straight, creating uncomfortable seams and all around discomfort. For some kids, it’s enough to add some soft (and preferably warm) clothing underneath. For others, it may help to devise costumes out of clothes or fabrics you know they’re already comfortable with. And as strange as it may seem, costumes with a little weight behind them can also help ground your sensory child and help them feel secure (think in terms of a weighted blanket). It’s also wise to avoid things like make up, face paint and masks. They can be irritating to the skin and eyes.
This tip is simple enough. Keep to routes and houses your child is familiar with. It wouldn’t hurt to even walk or drive the route you plan to take ahead of time so they know what to expect. Also familiarize them with their costume ahead of time. If they’ve had a chance to wear it for a while, they can point out any adjustments that need to be made ahead of time and you don’t have to worry about cutting the night short because of wardrobe issues.
Just like setting the route, it’s good to plan with your child when they want to start and stop celebrating and to determine behavior expectations. Knowing what to expect is huge for helping these sweet kids avoid meltdowns. With setting time guidelines, it’s good to give them a way to keep track of the time or give them substantial warnings before its time to wrap things up.
Follow their cues
Even with setting guidelines, it’s a good plan to follow their cues. Sometimes they’re going to let you know they’ve had enough, but many times these kids aren’t going to realize they’ve exceeded their limits until you’re facing a tantrum or meltdown. So set up a system, whether you use code words or just have an understanding that either of you can let the other know that it’s time to wrap things up ahead of schedule.
Make new traditions
If your child is still too overwhelmed by the idea of Halloween parties or trick-or-treating, or the sugar overload is too much, you can keep the holiday fun by starting your own traditions. Halloween movie or book marathons with Halloween themed healthy snacks are activities your child can look forward to. Sensory bags or bottles would be only too easy to turn Halloween themed. Carving pumpkins and getting a feel for their guts and seeds just like you see here in our Halloween sensory activities series can be stimulating as well as good for a few funny faces and giggles. You can also try our Where’s Waldo Pumpkin Spice play dough, have a monster hunt, or create a sensory bag with your pumpkin guts. And it never hurts to get creative and turn their favorite sensory activities into a monster mash.
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