Celebrating holidays with children who have sensory issues and difficulty with changes in routine can be a challenge for many families. Halloween can become a challenge with the various schedules changes, the use of unfamiliar costumes, flashing lights, new sounds, and other overwhelming stimuli. In order to have a happy Halloween, you may need to think through parts of the celebration in a different manner to help your child have a good experience. The following are some helpful tips to make this Halloween easier for both you and your child.
Make your costumes
-Make costumes out of familiar clothing to help limit any sensitives your child may have. By using clothing that your child already wears, you avoid fabrics that may bother your child. Many Halloween costumes are made from fabric that can be scratchy, tight, or uncomfortable. Remember that masks and face paint can cause a change in sensory stimulation and could be an issue for your child. If your child wants to wear a mask or new costume, have them try it on for a few minutes in the store or wear comfortable pajamas underneath the costume.
Trick-or-Treat in a familiar place
-Schedule changes and change in routine can cause meltdowns. While trick or treating is not part of a normal routine, staying in your familiar neighborhood or visiting houses that your child is familiar with can help to ease this change in routine. You can also begin to talk to your child about the upcoming holiday and have them help your make a trick or treating map to follow on Halloween. This way they will be familiar with where they are going and have set plan in mind.
-An important thing to keep in mind around or on Halloween are bedtimes and bedtime routines. Keeping this the same can make both bedtime and the day after Halloween as successful as every other day. If your community trick or treating time comes close to your child’s bedtime, only go for half of the time or finish up early. You can also look for community trick or treating that is on a weekend earlier in the day, or find a Halloween party for kids in your local community. These parties are usually around lunch time or in the afternoon and can help you to avoid any bedtime or nightly routine changes.
Keep things calm
-While this holiday may only cause a disruption for a few hours in your child schedule, it is important to keep things as routine and calm as possible to limit sensory overload or meltdowns. If your child does have a meltdown, you as a parent should also remain calm and remove the child from the situation as quickly as possible. Make sure to watch your child for any signs of an upcoming meltdown or any triggers that may cause a meltdown.
Talk with your child’s teachers
-School parties can be overwhelming to children that need a steady routine or have trouble with transitions and schedule changes. Make sure your child’s teacher is aware of any triggers that may cause sensory overload so they can help to limit these triggers. You can also ask your child’s teacher or Speech Language Pathologist to create a social story and special Halloween schedule so that your child is prepared for the holiday activities during school.
Find what works for your family
-Every child is different and every child has different triggers to sensory overload. It is important to figure out what works for both your child and your family on holidays. Maybe trick-or-treating is too overwhelming or your child has difficulty with changes in routine. You must remember that you can choose how you celebrate Halloween in the best way for your family. This could be trick-or-treating at relatives’ homes only or watching a Halloween movie at home. Remember the needs of your child and tailor the holiday around what works for them!
Have a safe and happy Halloween!
Stephanie Moore, Speech-Language Pathology Intern