With Halloween fast approaching, residents and parents need to keep in mind that different children celebrate the holiday in different ways. Leaha Jones, supervisor with Memorial Behavioral Health and a parent of a sensory-sensitive child talks about things parents with special needs children need to keep in mind. “It primarily depends upon which issues they are struggling with. We have loud noises, crowds, spooky music, spiderwebs, and all types of stimuli. Parents should come up with a technique for the stimulus that causes the issue. For instance, if it’s loud noises, the child could wear headphones. If they have issues with texture, children can wear tagless shirts, as far as their costume goes, or the soft-blended cotton shirts. Anything that will help them to have a better experience for Halloween.”
Jones says that for children who have a hard time picking up on social cues that practice at home is important. “Role playing the experience in advance is very helpful. The parents can practice with the children on what the night might look like so we can set up different stations. You can have the child go from station to station and practice saying ‘Trick or Treat’ if they are able to say that. If they are non verbal, they can hold out their basket and the parent can say it for them. I think people are able to understand nowadays if a child is coming to your door on Halloween, they want candy. The child can practice that experience at home where it is safe. They can practice while wearing their costume and when they actually experience it, it will hopefully go better for them.”
Jones says that picking out the right costume can also help make trick or treating an enjoyable experience for kids who have touch and sight sensory-sensitive issues. “Costumes come in a variety of different textures and fabrics. Parents want to avoid those itchy tags and tight collars or any kind of restrictive clothing. Allowing your child to go to the store with you in advance to check out all of the costumes is helpful. They can touch them. They can try them on. When they do choose one, take it home and wash it several times to make sure that it is nice and soft. They can even wear pajamas underneath their costume to possibly help them feel more comfortable. Some kids who have visual sensory issues may not like wearing masks is another thing people should be aware of, as well.”
Jones says that it’s important for community to be open to all experiences for children. “Community members need to be willing to allow those children to experience Halloween differently. There is no one right way to go trick or treating, and having that mindset is going to make the experience for everyone.”
For kids with heightened sensory awareness, walking door to door, talking to strangers and waiting in line on doorsteps can cause increased stress. Jones reminds community members and parents to be patient and just have an expectation of fun and candy for everyone. Jones also said that everyone should remember that each child has different skill sets and comfort levels and we all should do our best so everyone can celebrate together.