It's October and autumn's display of natural color changing beauty is in full swing!

The leaves on the maples and oaks have been changing from multiple shades of cool greens into lovely, warm shades of reds and pinks, and bright hues of oranges, and yellows.  The temperatures outside seem to be growing colder by the minute and the days are growing shorter, too. It's that time of year again...Time for hot cocoa, S'mores, and telling scary stories around the bonfire!!  

It's time for Halloween!! Kids all over the world love Halloween! 

It's that fun holiday when they can dress up like their favorite characters and run around the neighborhood begging strangers for as much candy as they can hold onto!! For those who aren't necessarily keen on letting their kids go out collecting candy from strangers, many areas offer alternatives to trick or treating by holding community pumpkin festivals complete with haunted houses, hay rides, and pumpkin carving contests!  

Some schools put on festive parties for the kids complete with apple bobbing best costume contests, and plenty of Halloween treats. Everyone loves Halloween, right?  Unfortunately, no! Not all kids do love Halloween. 

Many children with special needs have sensory issues, dietary restrictions, and physical challenges that make celebrating Halloween with a smile difficult, if not down right impossible. 

The anxiety that many children with special needs experience anticipating holidays, including Halloween is often palpable.  

As the parent of a daughter with special needs who battles both anxiety and sensory processing issues, and also has great difficulty coping with changes to her routine, I'll bet I experience more anxiety about upcoming holidays as she does!! I do so want my daughter, Bethany to enjoy participating in all the fun activities and rich traditions that the holidays have to offer her. I don't want her to miss out on any opportunity to enjoy life, yet I also need to understand and respect that her idea of enjoyment and having fun may be and usually are different than my own!

Parents of children with sensory processing disorders may think that dressing up in costumes or putting on makeup and trick or treating in the dark are fun Halloween traditions, but our children's delicate nerve endings may not be able to tolerate the feeling of greasy face paint on their skin or the stiff and scratchy textures of store bought costumes.

For kids who have vision difficulties, just the thought of trying to navigate the neighborhood in the dark, maybe even while wearing a mask, is so overwhelming to them that they'd rather do anything else at all!  Even hiding under their bed is more appealing to them, then going trick or treating!

Some of our special kids may experience anxiety when in crowds of people or maybe their delicate olfactory systems just can't endure the many strange smells of Halloween. Perhaps the shrill shrieks and giggles that the gaggle of kids having fun at a Halloween party are just way too much stimulation for our children's super sensitive ears!

Some of our children simply cannot ingest the chemicals and dyes of traditional Halloween treats and candy.  It's like eating poison to them!  For children experiencing any or all of the above issues,  Halloween parties and trick or treating are not fun activities.

So, since we still want our special kids to enjoy life including this very special holiday, how can we establish new Halloween traditions that are fun and respectful of their very special needs?

• If your child can tolerate dressing up or wearing makeup, but not hanging around in large crowds of noisy, rambunctious kids at parties, then dressing up, staying at home and handing out candy to the neighborhood trick or treaters may be all the fun and excitement your child wants and needs!

• If your child cannot tolerate store bought costumes but wants to dress up, why not try what we did one year and “embellish” their regular clothes to make them look like costumes. We created a cute sensory acceptable donkey costume one year by simply sewing ears and a tale onto our sensory sensitive son's gray sweat suit!

• If your child is looking forward to trick or treating with all his friends in the neighborhood but can't eat the common treats of Halloween, try planning ahead with a few neighbors and supply them with acceptable candies and treats that they can  hand out to your child.

• If your special little someone wants to party for Halloween, but can't handle being around large crowds of unfamiliar people at neighborhood or school gatherings, try throwing your own little shindig right at home with a few carefully chosen special friends for him or her to celebrate with.

And lastly, if your child is like my daughter Bethany, who battles with sensory issues, anxiety, fatigue, and can't eat the normal treats of Halloween, then perhaps your child, like Bethany, might also be just as happy to simply drive around the neighborhood wearing their regular, ordinary, everyday clothes, enjoying all the holiday decorations and jack-o-lanterns, while also eating specially chosen, acceptable holiday goodies!!


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