By: Lindsey Murphy, OTR/L
While Halloween can be a very exciting and enjoyable holiday, it may also present a few sensory challenges. Here are some tips that we have to help make the experience fun for everyone!
- Costume selection/ trial: Since textures can be tricky, we want to make sure that kids with tactile sensitivities are wearing comfortable clothing. Encouraging kids to try on and wear any new outfits before Halloween is recommended. Since holidays can be a sensory overload, turning familiar and preferred clothing into cute costumes would be preferable rather than incorporating new and uncomfortable fabrics.
- Taking rest breaks: While many kids choose to maximize their time trick or treating by going to as many houses as possible, it is helpful to have rest breaks. Taking a short, quiet 5-minute break in the car every 15 to 20 minutes can help to prevent over-stimulation later.
- Decreasing sound sensitivity: Noise canceling headphones, earbuds with music, or chewing gum can decrease sensitivity to loud background sounds during Halloween parties and/or trick-or-treating.
- Preventing meltdowns for picky eaters: While many people have started doling out non-food items as Halloween treats, there are still many candy items that are being provided to trick-or-treaters. For kids with food sensitivities, staring at their buckets full of non-preferred food can be overwhelming. As the parent, it may be helpful if you carry a “throwaway bag” that the child can toss their non-preferred treats into. If your child would prefer non-food items over candy, search for houses displaying teal blue pumpkins on the porch.
- Desensitize to non-preferred smells: Provide scented Chapstick, lotion, or essential oils before and during trick-or-treating. This can be both calming and regulating as they encounter non-preferred smells or become overstimulated while out and about.
- Heavy work activities prior to Halloween festivities: While the recommended sensory diet is generally to perform heavy work activities every 2 hours, increasing the frequency to every hour and a half can decrease the over-stimulation that may be experienced. Additionally, walking between houses while trick or treating or carrying heavy items can improve emotional self-regulation.
- Make a Halloween game plan: Sensory overloads can cause feelings of being out of control, especially when kids are unsure of what to expect or how it will affect them. Providing kids with some options of how to spend Halloween evening as well as determining how long to be out, modes of transportation, and limitations will help them to feel more in control. For example, if provided the options, a child may choose to walk to 15 houses and then return home to hand out candy to visitors until 8 pm but will stop trick-or-treating sooner if his/her bucket if full of candy. Making a game plan ahead of time helps every family member understand the expectations and assists with transitioning and self-regulation. Providing checkpoints can be very useful as well (i.e. “We have visited 4 houses; 11 more to go!” “This is our last house before we go home and empty our candy buckets to see all of the fun surprises that we got!”)
We’re happy to answer any questions that you have. Let us know if there is anything we can do to assist your child with having a wonderful Halloween! Our phone number is 785-594-2909 or e-mail us at info@pktherapyOT.com.
Happy Halloween from PK Therapy to your family!