Creating a sensory-friendly Halloween: my own experience and tips

I’ve been reading comments from parents of children with sensory processing disorder and realizing that Halloween might be a challenging time for kids with SPD:  there’s the comfort of the costume, the high activity level of parties and trick or treating, dietary concerns, and so on.

I personally have never been into scary movies, ghost stories, or haunted houses.  My vivid imagination and tendency to startle easily make those kinds of activities less than enjoyable.  Also, I find bloody and gory costumes and scenery downright disgusting, and the more realistic those are, the more visceral my reaction tends to be.  I’ve always enjoyed the dressing up part of Halloween.  I have always been a huge fan of comfort and preferred homemade costumes – I didn’t the texture of many of the store-bought ones.

I had written most of the previous paragraph in the past tense before I realized that most things that were true for me as a child still apply.  I think Halloween might be challenging for many people – regardless of age – with SPD (although it might be different for sensory seekers).  Personally, I would much rather have a quiet evening than go to a crowded event or throw myself into an activity where something or someone might jump out at me.  This year, my Halloween plans are to dress up for my morning Nia class, and later in the morning, I’m going to a coffee shop where they’re offering free drinks for anyone in costume.

Trying on handmade parts of my bird costume!

Trying on handmade parts of my bird costume!

I’ve found several articles with tips geared towards parents of children with SPD, including this one from The Sensory Spectrum.  I thought I’d create a short list of Halloween tips for adults with sensory processing disorder.

1.  Costume:  Create a costume that is sensory-friendly, with fabrics you know you like.  Simply:  if it feels uncomfortable, don’t wear it!

2.  Don’t carve a pumpkin if the texture bothers you. Don’t get close to anything with textures meant to simulate brains or eyeballs.

3.  If you’re going to a party or event, make sure you know approximately how many people are going to be there and what the environment is going to be like.  Go with a buddy if possible.  In any case, give yourself permission to leave or step away if you feel overstimulated.  Bring ear plugs in case there’s loud music and any sensory fidgets that might help soothe you.

4.  Avoid – or minimize going to – places (like haunted houses) that involve people jumping out at you or sudden loud noises.

5.  Give yourself permission to go or stay home if that’s what you need.

Happy Halloween!


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by La Sabrosona on October 30, 2015 at 8:18 am

    My oldest son complains of hating all the noise at school and looks forward to being at home where it’s quieter and more “peaceful”. He has many signs and symptoms of SPD but because it hasn’t shown to be problematic, for example he hasn’t refused to leave the apartment, I haven’t taken him to see about getting a diagnosis.
    What would your advice be? He’s 8 years old.


    • I personally wish I had at least gotten an assessment when I was younger – it would have explained a lot and perhaps helped me integrate stimuli more effectively. It might help to get him evaluated and decide how to proceed from there.

      My symptoms have seemed more problematic as an adult than when I was younger – I behaved and did well in school (although I was often exhausted after being in overstimulating situations). I’ve always preferred quieter environments, too.


  2. Reblogged this on We Called Him Lucky and commented:
    Our kiddos go to bed early every day. They have to because they have so much to deal with everyday, they just crash really early. And if they don’t get 12 hrs sleep they are a mess the next day.

    We celebrate Halloween very differently. Much like Christmas and birthdays. The week before is a huge build-up with lots of arts and crafts and learning fun, creating our own decorations, carving pumpkins and making pumpkin pie and pumpkin soup…

    And yes, on Halloween the six of us have a fun pumpkin dinner together with no additional friends or family in our pumpkin lit room and we laugh, read and tickle. And then they go to bed early. Just like every other day. Because they will be completely overstimulated by the fun and lights and excitement.

    And we leave a kind note by the door with a big bowl of chockies and a lit pumpkin asking to please help yourself and don’t knock or ring the doorbell because my babies are fast asleep….. That’s how we celebrate Halloween.


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