Costumes, Halloween parties, trick-or-treating and spooky decorations are fun for most kids, but for a child with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), Halloween celebrations can be overwhelming. A child with SPD processes input from the five senses differently. What is background music to others may be loud and distracting to a kid with SPD, costumes may feel itchy, make-up may feel sticky, and masks may have a strong scent or be too restricting for kids with Sensory Processing Disorder.

As a mom of a child with SPD, I know how challenging Halloween can be. My daughter struggles daily to find clothes that are comfortable. If we find a pair of pants she likes, I buy as many as we can find. Loud noises and new situations are often stressful for her. She wants to participate in Halloween fun, but as the day approaches the pressure is too much, the costume is uncomfortable and knocking on the doors of strangers at night is scary. I get frustrated and she ends up disappointed. This year we are taking a different approach; here are tips to help families with SPD enjoy Halloween.

Prepare your Child
Prior to Halloween, talk about how you will celebrate. Discuss what situations may be challenging and what seems comfortable. If door-to-door 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 he knows what to expect. Try on the costume and make necessary adjustments so the child is comfortable.

Choose Costumes Wisely
Costumes are usually a challenge for a child with SPD but there are many options. My daughter prefers to wear her favorite clothes and paint her face. Other kids may like wearing their favorite pajamas or other soft clothing under a costume so they can’t feel itchy fabric. If your child does not want to dress up, let him ride in a decorated wagon. Other simple ideas: Use a prop, wear a silly t-shirt, or incorporate tools (such as noise cancelling headphones) into your child’s costume.

Plan Ahead
Have 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 it was time to trick-or-treat with her siblings, she was overwhelmed. It’s 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. Be flexible. Attend daytime Halloween activities or fall events that are less scary and where costumes are optional. Check San Diego Family’s round-up of Halloween Happenings and Fall Activities.

Halloween can be fun for children with SPD when family members work together to create traditions that are comfortable for everyone. Consider painting pumpkins, baking treats, or going to dinner or a movie. With a little planning, practice and flexibility, Halloween can be enjoyable for the whole family.


Sarah Lyons is a freelance writer and mom of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder.