Halloween Costumes and Sensory Processing Differences

October is here and it is officially the start of Halloween celebrations! Whether it is dressing up in costume for trick or treating, or for celebrating at a neighborhood party, dressing up in costume is central to celebrating the holiday for many of us. Why then, for most children is the holiday about putting on their favorite costume and over-eating candy, while for others it is scary and anxiety producing?

Sometimes children with sensory processing differences can become overwhelmed by the stimuli at Halloween. If you think about it, there is a lot going on! Lights, masks, spooky noises, all on top of the feel of a costume (which are not always made for comfort). So how can you still celebrate the season, while ensuring your child is comfortable in their costume?

Start slow and start early. The more you expose your child to the costume and the feel of the new clothing item, the better the chance they will want to wear it on Halloween night.

Align the costume with their interests. Make sure your child has an opportunity to choose their costume (assuming it’s appropriate for their age). Go together to the costume store and look for different options. If your child has difficulty with deciding between a wide variety of options, narrow the field of two to three options and have them select from those.

Plan ahead to accommodate. Many costumes have multiple parts. Its possible for your child to fo trick or treating while only tolerating the head-piece or the shirt of the costume. Setting your goals to “I want my child to wear some part”  of their costume, might be more attainable than planning on your child wearing the full outfit, and then being disappointed on Halloween night.

Find tolerable material. Let’s face it, nobody wants to wear a scratchy wool or pleather costume while trick or treating. Try and find a costume made out of material your little one will tolerate. Whether that is 100% cotton, or a soft flannel, finding something comfortable and breathable will likely be more tolerable for your child.

And if all else fails…your child’s favorite set of pajamas can always double as a costume too!

If your child is having a difficult time tolerating sensory input from their environment, contact our office for a consult or occupational therapy screening!

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Kaelyn Green, MA, OTR/L

Kaelyn Green is a licensed occupational therapist at Valued Voices. She is certified by the University of Southern California in Sensory Integration and is an advocate for addressing underlying sensory functioning in order to improve occupational performance.  She is passionate about meeting children and families where they are at and seeks to tailor interventions to the unique needs of her clients. When she is not working, you will find Kaelyn taking care of her two goldendoodles, working in her garden, or taking trips to the Central Coast.