How to have a Horror free Halloween!! by Vanessa Southgate of Jigsaw OT

So it’s coming to that time of year again, Halloween! For many it’s a sensory delight. However, for children with sensory needs this can be an incredibly challenging time of year from scratchy costumes, loud unexpected sounds, flickering lights, crowds of people, unfamiliar smells…….

Below are a few ideas to assist with some of those Halloween challenges.

If you do decide to take the plunge and go to a Halloween party or go trick or treating remember to lean on the tools that help your child manage their sensory processing needs.  So if soothed by fidget toys or chewing gum, bring those tools along with you. If you’re looking for Halloween inspiration the spider balls are a sensory treat both as fidgets and interactive sensory toys. They are designed to assist children to improve their ball playing skills. The monster hand fidgets also compliment the Halloween theme.

  • If your child struggles with  noise take along  sound cancelling ear muffs. You could incorporate them into the costume, get creative- i.e.  a zombie pilot,   evil engineer, etc.
  • Visit a shop prior to a Halloween party and let your child explore the   themed decorations, lights, costumes etc.
  • If possible try on costumes before you buy. Consider tags, scratchy material and how tight/loose the fit is.
  • Avoid masks or face paint if the  child is  sensitive to smells and textures. If they are sensitive to noise, the sound of their own breathing inside a mask may be an issue. If they wants to wear a mask get them to test it out in the shop first before you buy it.
  • Wash the costume  a few times before Halloween and  perhaps encourage them to practice wearing  their costume for increased lengths of time in the days leading up to a  party or trick or treating.
  • Wear comfortable clothes or pyjamas under their costume.
  • Weighted products are an excellent way to provide proprioceptive input and help with calming. They may benefit from wearing a weighted yoke, a weighted hat or a weighted animal wrap. The animal wraps can provide   both proprioceptive and tactile input. They can be warmed and can be scented or unscented. Wearing a bear hug may provide a feeling of a warm hug when feeling anxious. The bear hugs can be worn comfortably under clothes. For older kids the flannel weighted body shawl which can be warmed in the microwave may be a preferred option.
  • Wear a back pack with some added weight (and a handy place to stash sweets)! Try the weight and resistance kit which is full of sensory goodies or the sensory backpack kit.
  • Trick or treating may be easier if the child knows what to expect and that they can go home whenever they need to. Providing details of the route (visually and verbally) prior to going out may assist the transition   into the unpredictable.
  • Have a code word or signal to use if   the child feels overwhelmed.
  • If possible have   a quiet space to access with a weighted blanket so that they can have some time out if needed.

If Trick or treating or a party is felt to be too much consider other options such as;

  • Going at dusk just before it gets really busy.
  • Invite friends over, have a family games night, watch a (not too scary!) film, cook a themed meal……

For some kids enjoying Halloween may mean creating new family traditions whether its cooking Halloween biscuits, having a Halloween disco with your favourite tunes, devising a Halloween obstacle course or simply spending some quality time together…… Whatever you choose to do this Halloween,   try to  have FUN and don’t eat too many sweets!!!!

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