Be mindful this Halloween of children with sensory or social challenges

Agnesian HealthCare Marketing & Public Relations
Halloween pumpkin in autumn forest

Halloween pumpkin in autumn forest

Written by: Emma Coffman, MS OTR/L, Pediatric Occupational Therapist, Treffert Center & Clinic

Consider these tips for celebrating Halloween with children that have sensory or social challenges:

For community members

  • Be mindful of overwhelming décor, including your yard. Consider not using flashing lights or loud, surprising sounds. While these may be fun for some, they can be very distressing if a child has sensitivity to lights or sounds.
  • If you notice a child without a costume that comes to your door for trick or treating, don’t jump to conclusions about why that may be. Consider that they may have tactile (touch) sensitivity, and wearing a costume is very uncomfortable or even intolerable for them.
  • If a child does not engage socially or make eye contact with you when they come to your door for a treat, know that it may not yet be in their wheelhouse of tools. The act of coming to your door may have been a huge step for them - acknowledge that. If a parent comes to get the treat for their child, know that social skills may be a struggle for them.
For parents
  • If your child has difficulties with new activities or changes in routine, consider practicing “trick or treating” with them prior to the actual date. This may help them prepare with less people or noise around. Consider giving them a set number of houses you will go to when trick or treating.
  • If your child has tactile sensitivities, costume options (i.e. material of costume) may be limited or not an option at all. Although we generally expect kids to get excited about dressing up, it may cause some children significant anxiety or distress. Offer options without masks or loose fitting costumes. Respect your child’s wishes and tolerance for costumes.
  • Challenge your child to go to the door themselves and use social skills they may have been practicing. This can be an excellent opportunity for growth and learning!

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