For children with sensory issues, especially those with ADHD, Halloween can be one of the most challenging holidays. However, by taking potential difficulties into account, you can make sure that your child has an enjoyable and positive Halloween experience. Here are some tips on how to help your special needs child deal prepare for the festivities and enjoy taking part in them.
1. Special planning
If your child has special needs, you will know that some events require special planning. Holidays are especially stressful for special needs children because their routines are disrupted, and also because of the new and potentially tense social situations involved. Your child’s special needs mean that they will need more time to prepare for novel and stressful situations, especially when compared to a neurotypical child. However, this planning gives your child an opportunity to take on new responsibilities and gauge their own special needs.
2. Halloween costume
Make sure that you help your child plan their costume well in advance. Children with ADHD have frequent difficulties with preparing for and carrying out projects. If you are planning on a homemade costume, make sure that your child starts constructing it well in advance so that you do not have to rush at the end. If you are buying a costume, make sure you remind your child to pick it out well in advance. This cuts down on stress and gives your child practice with task initiation and time management.
Make sure that you set rules with your child in advance. If certain foods exacerbate your child’s ADHD symptoms, you should agree that your child will not eat those, even if she does not understand the reason for the diet. If staying up late affects your child’s emotions and behaviour, make sure that you plan for an early bedtime and remind her that there is a reason she may not be able to stay up late. Many children with ADHD will have symptoms that will persist into adolescence and adulthood. Learning to manage her own symptoms and plan ahead will help your child immensely.
ADHD symptoms often worsen in high-stimulation situations, and there is nothing more stimulating than the bright lights and noises of a crowded street during Halloween. You should take this potential overstimulation into account: consider discussing the feeling of overstimulation with your child, or even plan to avoid the most crowded areas and times when trick-or-treating. If your child does not enjoy trick-or-treating or Halloween parties, then you should even consider an alternative activity, such as watching a movie at home or baking Halloween treats.
Special needs children, especially those with ADHD, learn and function best when they are involved in situations and allowed to make age-appropriate decisions. Encourage your child to pick out the candy that he likes, and guide him in deciding how much candy to eat and how much to eat on the night.
Involve your child in costume decisions, even if you are purchasing the costume. If your child is older, he may enjoy ordering his own costume online, by picking out the website and entering shipping details. Due to the fact that children with ADHD are frequently disorganized, you may be tempted to simply go ahead and make a quick decision for your child. However, he will enjoy himself more if he makes his own decisions, and you will also eliminate potential conflicts if you do not micromanage your child.
Since children with ADHD have a lot of difficulties with time management, it can be helpful if you involve your child in planning for Halloween. Allow him or her to set their own schedule within reason; he will cherish the independence. If your child is old enough to go trick-or-treating alone, you and your child should carefully set out a beginning and end time. If you are trick-or-treating together, plan together what time you will leave, what streets you will walk down, and how long you plan to be gone.
6. Fun time
For a child who craves stimulation, Halloween can be one of the most enjoyable nights of the year. Even if your child’s ADHD symptoms lead more readily to overstimulation, it can be a pleasurable and exciting holiday. With a little planning, you can make sure that this holiday goes off without a hitch.
Children with ADHD often come in to conflict with authority figures because they chafe at rules and restrictions. Halloween is one of the only times of the year that children can explore their own boundaries and behaviour in a permissive and safe way, within reason. Don’t be afraid to let your child cut loose a little. Fun is the key. If you have some other tips for an ADHD-friendly Halloween, share them with us, please.