For many children, the celebration of Halloween It is expected, and they usually enjoy and have fun dressing up and trick-or-treating with their friends and family. Instead, For children who suffer from sensory processing disorder, these activities are perceived in a different way; Flashy costumes, bright lights, and certain sounds can be stressful and difficult to handle due to the sensory load it implies.
Sensory processing disorder is characterized by inability of the brain to organize, interpret, and respond to sensory stimuli such as sight, hearing, smell, taste, touch, and the perception of movement and body position.
There are ways to integrate children into these social activities so that they can enjoy them and manage the sensory load they receive during the activity.
He College of Occupational Therapy Professionals of Puerto Rico (CPTOPR) presents the following recommendations so that children with sensory challenges can enjoy the Halloween holiday:
Before the Halloween celebration
Discuss with the child about this holiday, its origins and traditions and the activities related to the topic. You can use a storybook or story when explaining. This will help your child understand and prepare for the experience.
- Make sure the child wants to participate in the activitiess typical of the festivity such as dressing up or going to a party. Never force the child to participate or wear a costume.
- If the child is non-verbal, provide visual material related to the topic to guide you about the celebration.
- If you plan to take your child from house to house trick-or-treating, practice ahead of time with family or trusted neighbors. Walk the route you will walk that day.
- ANDexplain some basic rules like not eating the sweets until they are verified.
- In schools it should be considered avoid excess decorations and that they are free of sounds because the sense of sight and hearing can be overloaded.
For costume selection
- Let your child choose the costume.
- Make sure that the costume material is not too rough, tight or rigid. The child should feel comfortable and free to sit, walk and reach. Avoid costumes that are too long, thick and hot.
- Practice wearing the costume several weeks before the event. In the case of children with tactile sensitivity, you must be careful when choosing the costume. They should be simple costumes, in this case less is more. Avoid horror costumes.
- Avoid masks or painting your child’s face if you are sensitive to odors and textures.
- It is recommended that the child wear comfortable clothing under the costume. This can help you feel more comfortable or remove your costume if you feel uncomfortable.
During the Halloween celebration
- Consider leave early in the afternoon while there is light.
- Always watch the child, anticipate any discomfort. Limit participation for as long as the child can tolerate.
- Let your child open the candy after having reviewed them. This provides opportunities to practice fine motor skills.
If you visit a shopping center
- It is recommended, if possible, that attend at a time when there is less crowd. This will reduce the excess visual and auditory stimulation that the child receives so that they can enjoy the activity.
- Identify scheduled activities for children during this time so that you can choose the best alternative for your child.
- Avoid closed, dark and noisy places.
- If the child does not tolerate noise, you can consider hearing aids to reduce noise.
- Leave before the child can no longer tolerate the activity and may have a crisis.
Families with children who have a sensory processing disorder face great challenges in daily activities. It is important to maximize the child’s participation in social activities throughout the different times of the year.
To clarify doubts or need additional information, it is recommended to consult with an occupational therapy professional. This health professional is trained to evaluate and offer treatment to people who have difficulties in Sensory Processing.
The author is an occupational therapist and president of the CPTOPR. For information you can contact us through the Facebook page @ColegiodeProfesionalesdeTerapiaOcupacionaldePuertoRico or write to firstname.lastname@example.org.