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.
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.