Emily Gammon MS CCC-SLP is a pediatric speech therapist at Child and Family Development. She is offering 5 TIPS on a monthly basis to expand communication opportunities for all!
Many children with sensory processing, speech- language and/or motor difficulties can experience unique challenges when it comes to the holidays, Halloween included. Costumes can be itchy and uncomfortable, other children can be loud and unpredictable in their behaviors during trick-or-treating and related activities, daily routines can be altered with celebrations and talking with strangers can be rather uncomfortable. Here are some tips and tricks for a ghoul-tastic Halloween:
1. Prepare your children for Halloween and related activities by watching kid-friendly movies. Some suggestions include: It’s a Big Pumpkin Charlie Brown, Casper and Hocus Pocus for the older kids! These movies might help them to better understand how this holiday pastime really works.
2. Practice trick-or-treating at home! You could incorporate different family members while practicing the sequence of events from knocking on the door/ringing the doorbell to receiving goodies into their buckets! (Our therapy offices also have practice "go-arounds" from 10/25-10/31)
3. Create a visual schedule to depict what will happen while trick-or-treating. This is really good for those kids who need an extra picture cue for what to expect around an unfamiliar event. It is really helpful to use language such as: first, then, next and last when building visual schedules.
4. Carefully select a costume that is conducive to your child’s speech, motor and sensory challenges. Remember that masks and other pieces that cover the face might make it difficult to navigate the streets while trick-or-treating at night, scratchy and itchy fabrics might exacerbate underlying sensory challenges and long or heavy fabrics might make mobility more difficult. Try on costumes in advance to address any issues with fit or comfort!
5. For those children who are non-verbal, consider carrying a card or pre-programming their AAC device to help them become an active participant in trick-or-treating! The message could read somewhat like this: “Hello, my name is ___________. I am not yet able to say “trick-or-treat” or “Happy Halloween” but I am learning. Thanks for understanding and Happy Halloween!” If your child can manipulate their device with consistency, consider adding a few short messages on the home page that say “trick-or-treat”, “Happy Halloween” and “thank you”!