The fall brings with it some cooler weather that allows us more, much needed time outdoors and ways to be active. However, it also brings with it the often overwhelming, scary, unusual, and illogical holiday of Halloween. Don’t get my words wrong, I enjoy Halloween but for some of our kiddos it can be a difficult, overstimulating, and confusing day. Here are some sensory strategies from your Occupational Therapist to help make Halloween less scary and more enjoyable for our kiddos.
1. Practice your Halloween routine: If you are going trick or treating, handing out candy, or even just wearing a costume, have your child practice it! Set up with some friends or neighbors for your child to knock/ring their doorbell has to say/sign/use a communication device/or you the parent say “trick or treat” and let them go through the experience during the day with less stress and unfamiliarity. Additionally, there are many books, stories, and ways to play/talk about the fall and Halloween traditions too. The actions and rituals of the holiday (even with a party) can be bizarre and confusing for many of our kiddos, so talking/experiencing it before can be very helpful.
2. Plan your day: if possible allow the day that leads up to the evening events (party, trick or treating, handing out candy, etc…) to be less aversive or demanding. Additionally go over the schedule in a manner (written, picture, or story) that they will understand to allow them to have an idea of what to expect. Warn them of the parts of the day that may include aversive or overstimulating times, such as large crowds, loud noises, animatronic objects, or unexpected movements or sounds.
3. Let your costume work in your favor: Think about your child’s sensory preferences, sensitivities, and avoidances. Does he/she respond well to compression or weighted garments? If so, weight their costume or choose a costume that is snug fitting or allows for the use of their spio vest. If you child is sensitive to certain fabrics or coverings, find a costume that could appropriately allow for wearing of little clothes or his/her own clothing. Consider their preferences and help make them even more comfortable. Also, make sure to allow them time to wear it around the house to become more comfortable and used to the costume. Many places now sell sensory sensitive costume options as well, keep an eye out.
4. Plan scope, or map a route: If possible choose an area that is familiar to your child. Possibly even a place with people he or she knows. If your child is overwhelmed with crowds, pick a quieter neighborhood or just a few houses.
5. Take time to prepare their bodies: If you have a sensory diet or use heavy work activities, make sure to use some strategies before and during your fun filled evening. Activities or action that have your child do heavy work with his/her body can help regulate their sensory systems (often times jumping, chewing crunchy foods, carrying weight, pushing, pulling, sucking through a straw, chewing gum, etc. help children).
6. Pack other snacks: Often times lots of sugar can set a child up for a rough evening, not to mention possible allergies. If you have snacks that you know your child will eat on hand you can encourage those snacks to help avoid the sugar high, tummy ache, craziness.
7. Safety first: As always make sure to set your child up for success and safety. If you know your child has a tendency to run, dart, or hide (especially in overwhelming or stressful situations) have ID on your child (a number you can be contacted) and make sure everyone you are with is aware so they can keep an eye out as well.
These are just a few tips for a more successful, enjoyable, and positive Halloween experience. For many more suggestions and personalized ideas talk with your Occupational Therapist (OT) and see what sensory strategies and tips will fit your child best.
- Allison, Occupational Therapy Team