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Sensory Sensitivities and Halloween: Helping all kids have fun

October 13, 2023

Halloween can be a challenging time for children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD). SPD is a condition where the brain has difficulty processing and responding to sensory information from the environment. For children that have sensory sensitivities, this means they have a bigger-than-expected reaction to sensory input.  Halloween costumes, decorations, and activities can be overwhelming for children with SPD due to the sensory input they involve. In addition, noisy crowds, flashing lights from decorations, and bumping into people can all cause overstimulation and meltdowns. 

Here are some ways to make Halloween more enjoyable for kids with SPD:

Choose comfortable costumes: Opt for costumes made from soft, breathable materials that don’t have itchy seams or tags. Consider adapting costumes to fit comfortably over your child’s regular clothing. Avoid costumes with masks or tight-fitting accessories that might cause discomfort.  If your child insists on wearing certain costume elements like masks or hats, try to make them more sensory-friendly. Line masks with soft fabric, remove tags, and make sure they fit loosely and comfortably.

Practice wearing the costume: Have your child wear their costume for short periods leading up to Halloween to help them get used to the sensory input. Gradually increase the time they spend in their costume.

Offer sensory breaks: Plan breaks during Halloween activities where your child can retreat to a quiet, calm space to decompress and regulate their sensory system.  If needed, have a code word or signal your child can give you to alert you to the fact that they are feeling overwhelmed.

Sensory-friendly decorations: Keep decorations simple and considerate of your child’s sensory needs. Avoid strobe lights, loud noises, or overly stimulating decorations that can be overwhelming.

Trick-or-treating strategy: If trick-or-treating is too overwhelming, consider alternatives like a “trunk or treat” event, where children go car to car in a well-lit parking lot. This can provide a more controlled environment.  You could also map out and walk a route ahead of time to provide comfort through familiarity.  Remember, quality is more important than quantity and it’s perfectly acceptable to only visit a few houses.

Social stories: Create social stories or visual schedules to prepare your child for Halloween activities. This can help reduce anxiety and give them a sense of predictability.

Sensory tools: Consider using sensory tools like fidget toys or noise-canceling headphones to help your child cope with sensory challenges during Halloween events. You could also bring a flashlight if it starts to get dark so that your child has some control over what they can see.

Communicate with teachers and peers: If your child is in school, discuss their sensory needs with teachers and classmates. Encourage understanding and support from the school community.

Focus on sensory-friendly activities: Instead of traditional Halloween activities, engage in sensory-friendly alternatives such as pumpkin decorating at home, a Halloween-themed sensory bin, or a quiet Halloween movie night.

Remember that every child has unique sensory needs, and it’s important to tailor your approach to their specific needs and sensitivities. By being proactive and accommodating, you can help make Halloween a more enjoyable and less overwhelming experience for your child with Sensory Processing Disorder.  Remember, we’re always here to help if you find that your child has sensory sensitivities that are interfering with their or your family’s daily life.  Call Connect Pediatric Therapy at 402-413-1356 to set up a free consultation call and learn how we can help.


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