Halloween With Sensory Sensitive Kids: The (Sensory) Tricks of the Holiday

Sensory sensitive kids aren’t always able to handle the excitement of Halloween without a little support.  Here are some strategies to help parents create as much fun as possible, and what to do when there are more bumps in the night (or day) than expected:

  • Costumes, especially masks and hats, aren’t always willingly worn.  Your child may put one on, and it is off in less than a minute because of how it feels.  Pick your battles.  If mask-like make-up is tolerated, go with that.  If neither is tolerated, let it go.  The real fun isn’t what you look like anyway.
  • unfamiliar clothing in unusual styles/shapes/textures are often a major stressor for kids.  Well, that is the definition of most costumes!  You have 3 choices:  pick a costume that fits and looks more like his regular clothes, slowly get your child used to the costume, or decide that accessories make the costume (sabers/wands/princess bags, etc).
  • Walking around in the dark is a real challenge for sensory kids with postural or motor planning challenges.  Consider an early schedule for trick-or-treat, or well-lit spaces.  Choose footwear that is the most stable choice he has in the closet.
  • Early schedules work well for kids who get too excited with big crowds of kids or bunches of kids at any one doorstep.
  • A nap or rest time before going out, and a full belly of her comfort food can help keep things calmer.  That being said, if your child is too excited to eat, you may want to use some of your OT sensory calmer tricks so that you don’t have an over-excited and hungry child out there ringing doorbells and being handed candy!
  • Your level of excitement can help or hinder your child’s ability to handle the situation.  If your child is a poor sensory modulator and goes from 0-60 too fast, be warm and positive, but lower your tone and volume, shorten your sentences and avoid lots of excited gestures that he absorbs and cannot handle.  It is still fun, but think “Grace Kelly at a party”, not “Katy Perry at a concert”!

By Cathy Collyer

I am a licensed occupational therapist, licensed massage therapist, and certified CBT-i sleep coach in private practice in the NYC area. I have over 25 years of professional experience in adult and pediatric treatment. It has been a joy to help people of all ages improve their ability to grow and thrive! Occupational therapists are focused on enhancing a client's functioning in everyday life. We are practical healthcare providers, interested in teaching, adapting actions and environments, and building a client's useful skills for living their best life, regardless of their challenges. I am the author of five books, including "Staying In The Room: Managing Medical And Dental Care When You Have DID" and "The Practical Guide To Toilet Training the Autistic Child". I lecture on many subjects, including sleep, trauma, and development. Contact me to learn more about how I can help you achieve YOUR goals!

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