Halloween can be a fun and festive holiday with lots of great opportunities for sensory development. However, for those with sensory sensitivities, it also has the potential to be a little overwhelming with the risk of sensory overload. Occupational therapists like to recommend the following strategies to decrease stress and facilitate a positive sensory experience:
- Use a visual schedule, social story, or imaginative play to prepare your child for the sequence of events that occur when Trick or Treating or handing out candy at home and any potential opportunities for loud noises, crowds, doorbells, or other events that could be surprising.
- Noise-reducing headphones can be helpful in tolerating noise from crowds or from the doorbell.
- Provide lots of opportunities for heavy work throughout the day to help prepare your child’s nervous system for new experiences. Great examples of heavy work would include jumping on a trampoline, climbing monkey bars or ladders, animal walks, squeezing or flattening playdoh, pushing or pulling something heavy (a laundry basket, a box of pots and pans, etc.), crashing into pillows, and climbing through an obstacle course of chairs, pillows, and toys.
- Pumpkin carving can be fun messy play activity for some, but for others, touching pumpkin seeds can be aversive and meltdown inducing. Try using a spoon or simply allow your child to watch you touch pumpkin seeds. Modeling how it’s okay to be messy is a powerful tool in tolerating messy play. Alternatively, pumpkins can be decorated with paint, markers, or stickers instead of carving.
- Ensure that your child has the opportunity to try out their costume in advance, especially if they have difficulty tolerating certain clothing textures or accessories (e.g., hats, masks, headbands). If they cannot tolerate wearing a store-bought costume, it might be better to create a homemade costume out of clothes that your child already wears without a problem.
- Have a sensory safe space available if your child becomes overwhelmed—ideally, this space will be quiet or filled with music your child finds calming, with
Happy Halloween from the occupational therapists at TEAM 4 Kids!
If you have any questions or concerns about your child’s development please call us at our Peoria or Surprise location!