Sensory Processing Disorder and Halloween
It’s the time of year when there’s a chill in the air, the seasons are changing, and the color of orange is everywhere. It is October, and at the end of the month, many celebrate the holiday of Halloween. It is a time when we pick a costume and dress up, attend parties, and go out at night trick or treating. Many schools have parades during which children line up and excitedly parade around large crowds of delighted parents, who take endless pictures with their phones and cameras. These parades are often followed by classroom parties with games and food. For any child, this can be a very overstimulating day. For a child who has a hard time with daily sensations, this day can be a disaster. The following are some tips to help you and your child prepare for what you may likely experience at Halloween.
Picking a costume is an overwhelming task in itself. Most Halloween stores are overstocked with every imaginable item you might need. The visual content is overwhelming; making a choice is impossible. It is a good idea to look at pictures ahead of time to help your child with an idea. If your child is uncomfortable about the feel of the clothing, use something he or she is already comfortable with and add to it. Shopping online may be much easy than going to a store. Once a costume is decided on, practice wearing it! Make sure it is a costume that can be easily removed by your child if it becomes too irritating. Limit the amount of make-up or masks that may be used. If the costume causes stress, let your child know that it is okay not to wear it. Find a candy bag that can serve as a “costume.”
Trick or treating is an exciting and fun night for many children, though it is also an overload of transitions and unknowns. First of all, it is usually dark when you start out, so your entire nervous system is on high alert. Transitioning from one house to the next can be difficult, because holiday decorations can vary drastically. In some cases, the decorations may seem very scary. Neighbors’ holiday greetings may differ dramatically as well, along with the noise level of people at each house. Explain the activity to your child prior to going out, and practice going out at night in advance so that your child becomes accustomed to differing situations and sensations.
Pumpkin carving is a fun and very sensory-filled activity. Let you child experience the fun by watching, smelling, and touching. Depending on his or her reactions, determine how this activity can be best enjoyed.
With all of this in mind, remember that creating your own new Halloween tradition is a great option. Think about what will work best for your family—and enjoy!