By Lindsey Blechle, MOT, OTR
The excitement and anticipation of Halloween is building at TLC Learning Center, but for some children who are easily overwhelmed or with sensory processing disorder, this is a very stressful time of year. Halloween is a night that is full of novel and potentially over-stimulating sensory input, but it can be fun and successful for all children provided it is met with patience, planning and some creative thinking.
Below are some ideas to help you plan a fun Halloween, no matter what your child's threshold for sensory input, activity, and stimulation:
- Plan your child’s costume in advance and practice wearing it often. Choose a costume that will not irritate your child (for example, costumes with itchy or hot fabrics, scratchy tags, heavy or full-face masks, etc.), and a costume that can be easily removed if needed at some point in the night. Have your child be an active part of this process so he or she feels comfortable and confident that their costume will work for them. Remember that less is more, and that it is okay if your child would just prefer to wear a Halloween shirt, a simple cape, or attach a tail to a pair of sweats.
- Consider building sensory strategies into your child’s costume. If your child will have a hard time with auditory input, try building headphones or ear muffs into their costume. If your child is going to need deep pressure throughout the night to remain calm, try having them wear Under Armour beneath their costume for consistent proprioceptive input.
- Create a schedule of the day’s activities with your child so they know what to expect. See previous TLC blog posts for great ideas on creating and using visual schedules.
- Set expectations with your family to help your child prepare for the night's activities. Decide if you’ll be using walking feet (this is a term we use at TLC to positively discourage running in the hallways), if the family will go trick-or-treating together or if the parents will wait on the sidewalk, if candy can be eaten when received or if it has to be sorted first, how to ask for a break, etc. Setting up these expectations in advance will help avoid any meltdowns or power struggles in the moment.
- Limit the number of houses you will visit, or stick to familiar houses if trick-or-treating. End the night successfully and when your child is ready. Honor any requests to go home and be observant of when your child has had enough.
- Decide as a family if you’ll be out while it is dark or if you will be coming home at that time. The lights, noise, and a dark environment may be too much for your child to handle all at once. Know when to call it a night before things get overwhelming.
- In advance, create a safe spot for a break with your child. A wagon, stroller or bike may provide your child with some quiet time and help them refocus for more activities.
- Think creatively when decorating pumpkins. Your child may not be open to touching the inside of a pumpkin but may enjoy decorating with stickers, painting or attaching accessories.
- End the night with some quiet time in a safe spot that your child loves. A snuggle at home with calming music and hot chocolate will help reset, calm, and end the night on a positive and peaceful note.
I hope these suggestions help make your night a Halloween success! Do you have other tips for a successful and happy Halloween? Please share them with us in the comments!
Are you looking for a childcare center, preschool, or therapy services that are familiar with children who experience a sensory processing disorder? TLC integrates pediatric therapy for children with sensory processing disorder and other needs into our inclusive classrooms. TLC therapists see older children and non-TLC students in their homes and on our campus. Learn more about TLC's programs for kindergarten-readiness in all students by emailing Cindy Wickham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about TLC's pediatric therapy program for children with sensory processing disorder and other developmental delays or disabilities by emailing Shari Karmen at email@example.com