With Halloween just days away, many of you know too well the challenges that the season produces for children with sensory processing concerns. The avoidance to costume wearing, the dislike of sounds and decorations, and the challenges to the variation in foods and tastes makes this time of year difficult for these children to adapt to what is happening around them. Halloween is not the same for these children as it was for us growing up, and it now it tends to be a whole month long, rather than just one day.
Trick-or-Treating is such a big part of the Halloween season and this usually involves wearing a costume. However, for many children with sensory concerns this typically is not an activity of choice. As parents and adults, we tend to find it difficult to understand "how could a child not love going to get candy?" But for many of these children, they cannot get past how it feels to wear a costume; something that is 'foreign' to them. And some children do not understand the significance of dressing up. These days children are given many opportunities to get dressed up by attending events at their schools, visiting the local zoo or shopping mall, or being invited friend's party. As parents it is hard to watch your child not participate in what is so common for their peers. So, how can you ease your child into participation without taking them out of their comfort zone? There are a variety of ways that you can easily put together costumes that don't require the entire store bought ensemble. An easy suggestion for both you and your child is to take a look at the things already hanging in their closet that are tolerated by them. Many pajamas appear to be costume-like, from their favorite Toy Story character to the seasonal skeleton bones. Put on a baseball jersey and hat to be a baseball player, pull out the winter gear, donning the boots, hat and scarf, or dig through the toy room to find the makings of a pirate or cowboy. It just takes a little creativity to allow them to participate in these various activities. And familiarize yourself to the alternatives to the traditional nighttime trick-or-treating by participating in organized events for candy gathering at your local shopping mall or church.
Another difficult activity for these children is the simple task of getting through the stores and public places due to the elaborate decorations that can range from a cute pumpkin to a scary skeleton skull. Help by preparing your child with something to divert their attention, such as having them read through the list, carry a toy or object of comfort, or learning to watch the ground while walking by the seasonal sections.
Taking the family trip to the local pumpkin patch may not be that difficult, but the activity of pumpkin carving can really throw off your tactile defensive child. Allow your child to paint the pumpkin, use foam sticker pieces or to glue sequence, feathers, and beads on as a different way to decorate.
Although the Halloween season poses some challenges for children with sensory issues, it also provides a ton benefits. From using pumpkins for lifting, hauling, and rolling as a way to get great proprioceptive input, to digging into the guts of a pumpkin for tactile input, and enjoying new tastes and textures with such as apple cider or pumpkin pie for the oral child.
So, in the coming days pull together the members of your team to help make this holiday as easy as possible for your child to be a part of. Happy Haunting!