Halloween fully engages the senses of any child, and especially one with sensory integration differences. In fact, the confluence of Halloween and a sensory processing disorder creates a particularly difficult set of challenges for sensory sensitive kids. The contrast of bright jack-o-lanterns in the dark, the feel of cool night air and the presence of sudden sounds all represent a departure from your child's normal environment. Add the need to navigate varied terrain in low light, and Halloween can become overwhelming.
Sensory integration refers to the way the brain interacts with the senses, which include tactile (touch), proprioceptive (body position awareness), vestibular (movement and balance), auditory (hearing), visual (seeing), interoceptive (internal organs), gustatory (taste) and olfactory (smell). Atypical sensory responses are common for children with a variety of learning differences. Each child has a unique sensory profile, and becoming familiar with your child's responsiveness to stimuli allows you to anticipate and ameliorate possible behavioral challenges that may arise.
Consider how your child is impacted by sensory issues and plan his costume accordingly. For example, if your child struggles with proprioceptive issues and is clumsier than his peers, make sure that the pant legs of his costume aren't too long and that his shoes fit properly; this will help him avoid falls. Ensure that he won't be carrying accessories, like swords, that might accidentally hit objects or people.
Tactile-aversive kids need soft, comfortable fabrics and are generally happier when tags are removed. Fleece-lined sweatpants or other soothing fabrics are a good choice to serve as the base layer of costumes for children with sensory sensitivities. Make sure that the costume keeps your child warm without overheating. Avoid masks, wigs or make up, as these can cause discomfort that is amplified to the sensory atypical child.
If your child is sensitive to touch or sound, consider a soft animal onesie with a hood with earmuffs that can be hidden or incorporated as costume ears. A small, handheld mask of your child's favorite character is another good sensory sensitive option, since it allows him to be festive without having to wear an uncomfortable or cumbersome accessory on his face.
There are many sensory sensitive costume ideas that will allow your child to participate in the holiday comfortably. Test fabrics and props beforehand to see how comfortable your child is with them, and have your child practice wearing his costume. Giving your child a chance to become familiar with how his costume feels and moves will reduce the challenge of managing new stressors on Halloween night. Spending a little time preparing and practicing will ultimately lead to a better time trick or treating.
If your child struggles with processing sensory input or is already considered to have a processing disorder, contact us online or find a center near you to learn more about how the Brain Balance Program can help.