Saturday, October 23, 2010

Halloween tips for children on the spectrum

Reposting (with some updates / edits) an earlier post.


Halloween can be challenging for children with sensory issues, such as sensitivity to different fabrics or difficulty with large crowds, or who have trouble with changes in routine, so I thought I'd share a few tips we have learned over the years with our kids.

Costumes can be uncomfortable for anyone, but for a child with sensory issues, they can be downright unbearable due to stiff or unfamiliar fabric, extra pieces / attachments, masks or face paint, etc. One thing that I have found helpful is to make costumes using regular clothes as the basis of the costume wherever possible. Sweatsuits are especially versatile and useful for costumes. Find one in the color you need (depending on what the costume is) and then you can attach decorations or whatever you want. From the child's perspective, it's no different than wearing sweats - so as long as they are comfortable in sweats it should be tolerable for them to wear.

A couple of examples using sweatsuits:

Thing 1 and Thing 2 from 'Cat in the Hat'
with red sweats minus the blue hair

Costumes made from blue sweats,
Thomas fabric, and felt numbers

A couple of examples using "regular" clothes:

Bob the Builder outfits using overalls & flannel shirts
The hats didn't last long but they liked the toolbelts

They already had buzz-cuts, so one year we just
got camo shirts for "mini-Marine" costumes

As for the crowds and excitement, we have found it best to be flexible in terms of expectations, watch for signs of overstimulation and be prepared to bail if needed. Consider doing something a little more low-key. Many years, we have just taken the boys out for ice cream on Halloween. It's usually not crowded (because everyone else is out trick-or-treating or going to Halloween parties), it's a fun treat for them, and they can still show off their costumes :).

A couple of times we tried going to a Halloween party at church. The first time we went, the boys were 3 1/2 and it was way too much for them. The candy part didn't start until later, and by that time they were beyond overstimulated so we left and went for ice cream instead. The following year, we tried going late and got there just in time for the candy part, we missed the other activities but it worked out better for the boys. One year, we tried taking them to the mall for some trick-or-treating and that didn't go well. It was fine at first because we got there early, but as more people arrived it got really crowded and loud, and so we left that early too.

Now that the boys are a little older, we can just ask them what they want to do for Halloween. Sometimes they want to dress up, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they want to go trick-or-treating, and sometimes they opt for our semi-traditional Halloween ice-cream instead. Up until this year Bitty hasn't cared about Halloween, last year he refused to put on a costume (no big deal) and had no interest in trick-or-treating so he just stayed home with dh, who was handing out candy.

This year Bitty wants to dress up as Pilchard, the cat from Bob the Builder. I have no idea if he'll want to go trick-or-treating or not, we'll just see how it goes. I couldn't find any light blue sweats this year to make a Pilchard costume, so I got the next best thing - light blue fleece (on sale!) and I'll sew him a costume with that.

At first Bearhug and Cuddlebug didn't want to dress up (or as I would put it they wanted to go as 4th graders, lol). I joked and said if anyone asked they could say they are dressed up as each other ;). Identical twins can get away with that, right? Anyway, since then they've asked me to make them black capes so they can dress up as their own made-up characters from their "stick battles" drawings. They also want swords, and I know we have at least one but we might need to pick up another one.

Today we're headed to visit a pumpkin patch, and tonight I'll be working on costumes!

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K- floortime lite mama on October 23, 2010 at 11:33 AM said...

you are sooooo clever I take my hat off to you
This is like Martha Stewart for auties
Fantastic !!!
And the boys look divine

Anonymous said...

You know, I might as well just post a link to this for my Halloween post! Great job on the annual costuming! Barbara

Anonymous said...

i love the thing 1 and thing 2 costumes! daniel is sooo into dr. seuss right now!

Patty O. on October 29, 2010 at 9:40 AM said...

Great ideas! Along with sweat suits, we have often used pajamas as costumes. My kids loved it!


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I'm a mom of three boys on the autism spectrum, 11-yr-old identical twins and a 7-yr-old. My husband is a SAHD.


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