Lauren Casper »

Halloween with special needs kiddos

Halloween is a fun little tradition that I grew up enjoying. My mom made most of our costumes and I still remember some of my favorites: princess, angel, clown, hobo, rapunzel, pumkpin. I couldn’t wait to have my own little ones to dress up and walk through the neighborhood with … and later sneak their candy.

Halloween doesn’t come without it’s challenges, though. Choosing a costume for Mareto is hard. For his first Halloween he went as the courageous lion from the Wizard of Oz. It was a simple lion jumpsuit with the hood being a mane. I tied the red ribbon around his tail and made his “medal” out of felt and pinned it to his chest. It was warm and cute. He didn’t love the hood and kept ripping it off but that was fine. We had no idea he had autism and sensory processing disorders at the time.

Last year we had two little loves to dress up. I wanted them to coordinate and I knew Mareto had to wear something that wouldn’t feel like a costume. He had recently been diagnosed with autism and SPD and was having a rough time. I decided Thing 1 and Thing 2 was the way to go. He wore red sweats and I made the “Thing 1” circle out of felt and sewed it to his sweatshirt. I sprayed blue hair dye all over his curls and he was fine because nothing really seemed like anything other than normal clothes. And of course he couldn’t see his hair so he has no idea it was blue! (Arsema was only 5 months old so she wore a Thing 2 sleeper bought on amazon and I put a blue headband on her while she rode around in the ergo).

This year Mareto is older and has made progress in therapy. He’s more aware, but still struggles with sensory issues quite a bit. I have to cut the tags out of most of his clothing so I knew the costume would need to be low key again. Thankfully I found something at the thrift store that works out perfectly… a strap on airplane. Mareto will wear jeans and a thermal shirt tonight (a completely normal outfit for him) and then we’ll strap the airplane on for as long as he’ll tolerate. If it gets to be too much we’ll just take it off no problem.

Mareto also won’t say “trick-or-treat” (though he’ll probably thank you if he comes to your door). Last year we told him to say “bye-bye” and he did… after we’d gotten back down to the street. He wasn’t being disobedient or rude. It literally took him that long to process the command and get his mouth to say the words. We’re doing better this year but “trick-or-treat” is still out of reach.

Mareto, like many young children, gets frightened easily by strange noises and sights. So we’re careful to avoid the scary homes and make sure he’s having fun … because that’s what it’s all about, after all. I want my children to have a bank full of happy and joyful memories, not get nervous and frightened when Halloween rolls around. So we’re careful to read Mareto’s cues and follow his lead.

Holidays can be hard with special needs children as the energy, excitement, environment, and normal routine amps up and gets turned on it’s head. We prepare as best we can and then go with the flow and hope for the best!

I’d like to close with this little reminder for those of you who may be handing out candy tonight…

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