Halloween for Sensory-Sensitive Kids

The Stir Bloggers
Toddlers & Preschoolers

On Saturday -- no more than three days after I wrote last week's column -- I suddenly noticed that I could see Noah's ankles. Sticking out from the hem of his pants. Pants that had fit him -- swear to GOD -- perfectly just days earlier, but were now totally too short.

File one away for evidence of those pre-spurt regressions, I guess.

I was grateful for everybody's feedback, though, and NO, we didn't suddenly see an immediate parting of the clouds and disappearance of the extra tantrums and anxiety and whatnot. It's evened out a bit, for sure, but I've been working harder to keep a mental grip on the household's collective stress level, or at least my own stress re: new pregnancy and terminally ill father from seeping out all over the place and affecting my extremely sensitive little child.

One of the emails I received about last week's post brought up the Halloween factor, too. Halloween is a very tough time for some kids -- mine included. He doesn't like when kids play dress-up, he doesn't like people in costumes, he doesn't like things just generally being "different." Combine this with the usual fears of all the "scary" stuff that bothers little kids and yeah. It makes total sense that the weeks leading up to Halloween would be pretty overwhelming to Noah.

(In bonehead parenting confessions, I'm BRILLIANT because I took my children to a party store last week in search of vampire fangs for my own costume [for a separate grown-up party the night before Halloween], not realizing that I'd have to escort my toddler and preschooler through a veritable haunted house of spooky, gruesome displays before being able to grab some fake teeth and stage blood from a rack in the back corner. I was all, LOOK OVER THERE AT THE NON-SEASONAL ELMO PINATA! YAAAAAY!!!)

The Stir has another great article about Halloween and Autism -- the anecdotes about trick-or-treating REALLY are true for us. Noah likes trick-or-treating, actually, and will usually do an about-face on his costume resistance at the 11th hour when he realizes there's CANDY CANDY CANDY out there. But still, here are our pointers:

Halloween Tips Autism

1. Plan the first houses you visit to be ones where the owners know your child, and maybe even know that your child might find the endeavor challenging. We go to houses that won't mind when Noah barges right in and asks to see what's in their refrigerator, for example, or won't repeatedly pressure him for the "trick or treat" prompt. Noah is very good with his "thank yous," but other than that, it takes him a bit before he picks up on the "script," so to speak.

2. The synthetic, shiny fabric in most store-bought costumes -- ugh -- don't even bother.

3. Costumes that look/feel like clothes are the BEST. We did Steve from Blue's Clues for years, and this year Noah will be a Jedi -- wearing his own tan shirt and brown pants, with a brown hooded robe on top that we simply call his Star Wars bathrobe. As long as he gets a lightsaber, he seems pretty game. (Backup plan was this tee from SoftClothing.net and a paintbrush. ARTIST!) Masks and hats can be problematic, so don't stress if the most you're able to do is safety pin a blanket to a Superman shirt and call it a costume. It still looks ADORABLE.

4. Certain homes in our neighborhood go ALL OUT with the haunted house extravaganza decorations every year. They are hugely popular and get a ton of foot traffic. So I don't feel guilty that we skip them.

5. Yes, I go through my son's candy stash and remove quite a bit. Surviving Halloween is tough enough -- I don't need to be dealing with Red 40 and Yellow 5 aftershocks for weeks afterward, you know?

So I feel like we have trick-or-treating mostly under control this year, and I've pledged to keep the whole holiday low-key and make of it only what Noah seems okay with. You want candy? Awesome. You wanna take off your Jedi robe after 10 minutes or go home after 15? Whatever. We'll go home and watch The Great Pumpkin and we absolutely will not carve a jack-o'-lantern out of the pumpkin you've gotten kind of attached to. And it will be great.

(Though if anyone has any advice on how to maaaaybe convince my kid to wear his costume to the Halloween parade at school, that would be great, too. Because that's a battle we've won precisely zero times.)


Photo by Amy Storch

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