Costumes, Halloween parties with sugary treats, trick-or-treating and spooky decorations are fun and exciting for most kids. For a child with sensory processing issues, Halloween celebrations can be overwhelming. Music may seem loud and distracting, costumes may feel too itchy, make-up too sticky, or masks too restricting.

As a mom of a child with sensory processing issues, I know firsthand how challenging Halloween can be. My daughter wants to be part of the fun, but as the day approaches, the pressure is too much, the costume is uncomfortable, and walking around in the dark knocking on doors is scary. This year, we’re taking a different approach. These tips can help families dealing with sensory processing issues enjoy Halloween too.

Prepare Your Child

Prior to Halloween, talk about how you will celebrate the day. Discuss what situations may be challenging and what will help them feel more comfortable. If trick-or-treating is scary, do a practice run. Ask neighbors, friends or family if your child can practice knocking on their door before Halloween so they know what to expect. Try on the costume and make any adjustments needed so they can feel as comfortable as possible.


Costumes can be a big challenge for kids with sensory processing issues, but luckily there are a lot of options. My daughter prefers to wear her favorite clothes and paint her face. Other kids may like wearing pajamas or other soft clothing under a costume so they can’t feel the itchy fabric. If your child does not want to dress up at all, try letting them ride in a wagon and decorating the wagon so they can be part of the fun without having to dress up. Other simple ideas include using a prop, wearing a silly T-shirt or incorporating tools, such as noise cancelling headphones, into your child’s costume. Never make your child feel that they are odd because they don’t like to dress up or go trick-or-treating.

Plan Ahead

Be flexible and prepare a backup plan in case things don’t go as planned. My daughter was very excited about Halloween and even wore her costume to school, but when the time came to go trick-or-treating with her siblings, she was overwhelmed. It is ok if your child decides to stay home and hand out candy, needs to take a break during trick-or-treating, or wants to head home early. Parents may also look for alternative activities that are just as much fun. Many communities or churches offer fall parties that are not scary, are offered during the day, and costumes are optional.

Halloween can be fun for everyone if families work together to find ways for everyone to celebrate. Consider coming up with your own Halloween traditions such as painting pumpkins, baking treats, or going to dinner or a movie. With a little extra effort, planning, practice and flexibility, Halloween can be something your whole family enjoys.

– Sarah Lyons

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