Halloween can be a very difficult time for kids with special needs.
The sounds, crowds, parties, excitement, change in school routine, costumes, candy and theme of Halloween itself can put many kids into sensory overload.
I remember the days when my daughter was younger and just could not tolerate the holiday. Picking out a costume was always exciting for her. She and her sister loved planning for weeks and choosing what they were going to be. Decorating the house and the yard can be a great way to let your kids show off their creativity and have fun. Unfortunately, every year when the day came the excitement turned to anxiety. The Halloween Howl as they called the school party/dance was just too much for her. The flashing lights and the blaring DJ was physically painful for her. The social aspect of being in a room with sugared up and hyper classmates caused her to withdraw. I remember seeing other kids there struggling as well with headphones to block out the noise or sitting, like mine, on their mothers laps.
Trick or Treating was another issue, for a child with an anxiety disorder, OCD and tics, going from house to house getting candy was more of a job than a treat for her. Seasonal allergy exacerbations were always an issue for her in the Fall as were exacerbations to her PANDAS from exposure to virus and infections. For my daughter, like some others, just getting through the day was completely exhausting both physically and emotionally so to then begin trick or treating was just overwhelming.
As with almost everything with our special needs children, we need to always ask ourselves “Who is this for”?
Often parents get upset that their children cannot participate or enjoy holidays like many other kids. For us, we knew what she could and could not handle and we always made accommodations for her to be comfortable and to ensure our other children would not be affected by limitations they did not share. We knew she had a five or six house limit so off my husband and I would go both girls in tow and after a few houses, when she said she had enough one of us would bring her back home to give out the candy. That is something she loved! It became a tradition to make a big pot of chili, bake cupcakes and cookies and sit with grandma in her traditional pumpkin costume. She had more fun dressing the dogs and showing them to the trick or treaters than anything else. The way I look at it is pretty basic, do I want this day to be a trick or a treat? I prefer the treat.
It became HER halloween and that is what it was all about.