The nights are drawing in, which means Halloween and Bonfire night are almost upon us. For some disabled children, it can be quite a stressful time of year, so we’ve put together some top tips from our online community.
Have a calendar, and count down the days to Halloween with your child. If they like knowing as much as possible about everything, it can be really helpful for them to learn lots of facts about Halloween such as where it originated from, and why it is still celebrated today.
Any day can be Halloween!
My daughter gets scared of the costumes at Halloween, so I encourage her to dress up at any time of the year to help her understand about costumes and that dressing up doesn’t change the person underneath the outfit.
Gauge your child’s reactions
Always keep an eye on how your child is handling the situation, whether it’s Halloween or fireworks. Even if you have prepared for every possible scenario, they may still have a difficult time engaging in activities. Pay attention to their cues and if it’s all too much, it may be best to remove them from the situation and go home.
Distract with snacks and games
Familiar toys, games and snacks can provide comfort and distraction from over-stimulating sights, sounds and smells. These favourites can also come in handy if your child gets anxious while waiting for the fireworks to start.
Wheelchair friendly pumpkin
Daisy can’t go out but she loves to answer the door in costume and hand out sweets. Last year we carved a wheelchair symbol into her pumpkin.
Knowing what to expect
Whatever you’re planning this bonfire night, make sure your child knows what to expect. If your child responds to visual cues, try showing them a video of fireworks (with the volume turned down at first). Although it’s important they know what to expect, try not to go overboard. Sometimes too much anticipation can be just as overwhelming.
Lead by example
If you’re calm, your child is more likely to stay calm. If you start getting anxious, they are more likely to pick up on your cues.
Keep your clothes on
Some children with sensory issues may not like the feel of costumes – a lot of them can be quite synthetic and scratchy. Try letting them leave their own clothes on – or pyjamas – underneath.
Wheels of pumpkins
I have seen some great designs on Google. Sadly, I am somewhat lacking in the artistic skills department so I will be keeping it simple by turning the wheels on my daughter’s chair into giant pumpkins!
Keep your distance
View firework displays from a distance. There’s no reason you have to be right up close. Most displays are better viewed from a distance. Stand away from the crowds. If you are having fireworks at home, let your child watch from indoors where it is warm and they can enjoy the display without the loud noises.
A set of headphones can help block out loud noise and reduce the anxiety that people with sensory issues experience around fireworks. You could even play soothing music through them.
Let your child take the lead
Don’t force your child into participating in Halloween. Let them engage with it however they want to and at their own pace. They may never want to take part, and planning a different activity to do on that day and evening could be a much happier and calmer experience for all involved
If your child doesn’t want to wear a masks try giving them one on a stick that they can hold in front of their face as and when they want to.
Adapt your child’s own clothes
If your child doesn’t like wearing an unfamiliar costume, make one using their own clothes, so they feel more comfortable. For example, take old leggings and a T-shirt and tear them to make a zombie costume.
These tips were all contributed by parents of disabled children. Find more great tips like these, and share your own on Scope’s online community.