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Sensory friendly halloween

Halloween costumes that will bring smiles instead of tears

Halloween is less than 2 weeks away.  Many times this holiday is met with excitement and fun.  For children with sensory processing challenges Halloween is stressful and frustrating.  Children with sensory processing challenges experience the world very differently.  Their bodies often over-respond to sensory input.  Noises and certain fabrics can send them into a panicked fight or flight state.
Imagine having to walk around in the dark in a wet swimsuit with the sound of fingernails running down a chalkboard, and ants crawling all over your bod…sensory overload.  This is how a child with sensory processing difficulties may feel if forced to wear a costume and trick or treat.

Many well-intentioned parents may think “you’ll have fun if you just try” and force their child to put on a costume and go out with siblings.  Unfortunately, this child will only become more overwhelmed until eventually, a meltdown will happen.  It is not that the child doesn’t want to go, it’s that they can’t handle all the confusing messages coming into their nervous system.  Additionally, they see friends and siblings having fun, and struggle to understand why Halloween isn’t fun for them.

Below are some ways to make Halloween costumes more sensory friends so that all children may enjoy the fun.

  • Let the child decide-let your child decide if they will trick or treat, answer the door, or simply watch from afar.  Halloween is full of unpredictableness- so letting the child be in control of what they participate in will help them feel at ease.
  • Pay attention to the material- many store-bought Halloween costumes are made from polyester.  This material is not breathable and ends up feeling like Saran Wrap on some kids.  Instead chose softer materials like fleece or cotton (t-shirts, sweatpants, etc are a great base for building a costume).  If your child has an outfit they wear all day—you can also avoid the difficult transition involved in changing clothes.
  • Non-traditional costumes-the costume can be as simple as a sticker on their shirt that says “I am Elmo”, a hat, a headband.  Pajamas make an excellent costume.  There are lots of character sleepers.  There are no rules that say costumes have to be big and elaborate!  Most importantly LET YOUR CHILD DECIDE THE COSTUME! You will have a much happier night overall.

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