Halloween is a time of year that many people look forward to. Children excitedly plan their costumes, and families prepare for the annual tradition of trick-or-treating. However, for children with sensory processing disorders, Halloween can be a difficult and overwhelming experience.
Loud noises, bright lights, and crowds can cause anxiety and sensory overload. Happily, there are many steps you can take to make trick-or-treating a more inclusive experience for your family and even your community.
Here are some things you can do at your home:
- Swap traditional candy for non-food treats like stickers, bubbles, or small toys. Use visual cues, such as a teal pumpkin or a sign, to indicate non-food treats are available.
- Make treat giving simpler. Put out some picnic blankets on your front lawn and invite kids to skip the doorbell and walk in the grass to meet you. Then, let them choose their treat!
- Don’t expect kids to say, “trick or treat.” Some may be non-speaking while others may find social interactions to be particularly hard.
- Create a designated sensory-friendly area for children who need a break from the noise and excitement. Pop-up tents are an excellent way to block out visual input.
And, if you want to take it further, here are some ways to partner with your neighbors:
- Reach out to other parents ahead of time to discuss potential sensory triggers in the neighborhood.
- Encourage neighbors to provide non-food treats to accommodate children with dietary restrictions.
- Provide a map of participating houses with sensory-friendly options to help families plan their route.
- Consider having a specified quiet hour for trick-or-treating to help children who may be overwhelmed by crowds.
Bottom line? The more people that feel safe and comfortable trick or treating, the more fun EVERYONE can have. Be a sensory-friendly neighbor – even if your household doesn’t have sensory issues! Sensory-friendly neighbors are those who have made a conscious effort to create an environment that is comfortable for ALL children, regardless of their sensory needs.
When you lead by example and encourage empathy and understanding among neighbors to support children with different needs during the Halloween season, everyone wins!