Resource to Share with Parents: Tips for a Sensory Smart Halloween
All material Copyright 2010 Nancy Peske and Sensory Smart Parent.com
Article reprinted with the express permission of the authors as it appears on her website.
By: Nancy Peske
NB: This article was written primarily for parents and caregivers of children with Sensory Processing Disorder. We include it here as an excellent resource that therapists may share with the parents and guardians of the kiddos they treat with SPD.
Parties, costumes, makeup, and treats—you can’t count on any of these being fun for the child with sensory issues (hence, October 25-31 is National Sensory Awareness Week). How can you make Halloween more sensory friendly for a child with SPD?
Costumes and masks often involve new sensations against the skin and body that a child will find distressing. Experiment beforehand with any make-up, masks, wigs, or hats and see if the child can truly tolerate them for a few hours. For a costume, consider working from the basic pieces of a soft, cotton top and bottom, such as a sweatsuit or pieces of clothing purchased at a used clothing store or pulled from his play clothes pile. Add elements and props that he can hold or wear comfortably.
Treats with plenty of sugar and artificial colors and flavors should be limited for all children, but kids with sensory issues are often more sensitive to these substances. Let her gather all her loot after trick or treating and choose the favorites, then have the rest mysteriously disappear overnight (maybe after using them as math counters!). Or hoard it to use a piece at a time as rewards for overcoming challenges, doing extra chores, or use in therapy (speak to your child’s occupational therapist or speech therapist about the possibilities, for example). If your child has food allergies and intolerances, skip the highly processed, sugary treats altogether. Have a party instead of going trick or treating, and provide healthy, fun snacks and nonfood items such as stickers, pencils, and toys.
Plan for the event and offer opportunities to escape from the noise and bustle of a party or trick or treating. A quieter street to walk down or an empty bathroom where she can regroup and help her avoid sensory overload. Let her know what to expect, from kids jostling her in doorways and running past her on the street to scary sounds and lighting changes like strobe lights at a Halloween party. And consider celebrating Halloween at a nature center, zoo, or cultural center with a quieter, more structured program, or having a small party at home.
You may want to use the occasion to talk about fears and how to manage them. Books such as Go Away Big Green Monster by Ed Emberley, featuring a monster the younger child constructs then deconstructs as he turns the pages, can help.
Check it out!
Oriental Trading Co. sells plenty of fun stickers, pencils, temporary tattoos and the like to drop into Halloween trick or treat bags: http://www.orientaltrading.com
Nancy Peske (right) is a freelance writer, editor, co-author of Raising a Sensory Smart Child, and the co-author of the Cinematherapy series which has sold over 270,000 copies and inspired a TV show on Women’s Entertainment. Formerly an editor in the trade division at HarperCollins, she has co-written, ghostwritten, and edited several bestselling books in the areas of spirituality, inspiration, health, and psychology. She lives in Shorewood, Wisconsin with her husband and son, diagnosed with SPD and several developmental delays.
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