October is here, PUMPKIN EVERYTHING and EVERYWHERE!!!! I absolutely love this time of year. I love the change in weather, change in clothes, the gorgeous change of color in nature, and OF COURSE I absolutely love Halloween!!!! I love figuring out which costume to pick out (for me & my dogs lol). I get so excited when Starbucks starts selling Pumpkin Cold Brew and the local Grocery Store starts selling candy. The nights light up with Halloween decorations that can bring you a laugh or scare.
However, my joy and excitement are not shared by everyone. Parents of children with SPD (Sensory Processing Disorder) or children diagnosed on the spectrum are far from enthusiastic. In fact, they are stressed out. The noises and sights are too overstimulating and can cause a meltdown. Here are some tips to help your family have a successful Halloween!
Have your child prepare by practicing wearing their costumes or masks. This allows your child to feel what is off and allows you to come up with solutions such as cutting off tags, replacing fabric, or finding a comfortable undershirt to wear under their costume. This way your child will feel used to the costume and have one less thing to worry about on the big day.
Stick to your routine as much as you can. Children with SPD have a very difficult time when their schedule changes. If you could have a visual schedule, allowing your child to be able to see that there is going to be something different, it will help them adjust. This is also important because you need to make sure they understand that they will not have to participate for a long time. They should give you a signal that they have had enough. This way they can communicate with you when they are feeling stressed and as a result, are more willing and trusting to partake.
Know Your Limites
If you have a child with SPD, know their limits and be prepared. This means having fidget or security toys that will help your child adjust to the noise. If you are at someone’s house find a quiet space prior to the start of the party so your child knows where they need to go to relax. If you are trick or treating, map out the walk and take your child on the walk a few times prior to Halloween. This will allow your child to get acclimated to the sights and sounds without the crowd.
Many children have allergies to nuts, seeds, dairy, and/or peanut butter not to mention gluten allergies and of course GERMS!!!! For Halloween, I purchase candy that my children like, then I bake appropriate foods that are themed fun but also healthier. This allows my child to not feel left out from their peers. If my child wants to go trick or treating, I keep them local in my neighborhood.
SO many craft ideas from fingerpainting to collages and so much more that allow your child to get into the holiday mood without leaving their house. You can plan a menu, decorate a pumpkin, have a Halloween scavenger hunt. As your child gets used to the images, sights, and sounds they will be able to feel more confident celebrating outside your home.
Whatever you choose, I hope you have an amazing time!
Sarah Appleman MS, OTR/L is the author of “Play With Your Food” and is a specialist in her field.