News and Notes from The Johnson Center

It’s October – Time to Prepare for Halloween!

JCCHD | Mon, October 06, 2014 | [Community][Events][Sibling Spotlight]

Halloween can be a very exciting, very stressful time of year for all families, including those with children who have special needs. Depending on the child’s age, challenges, and temperament, it can be difficult to predict if a child will enjoy, tolerate, or even be interested in Halloween. Here are a few tips for preparing your child.


Start talking about Halloween traditions and activities early on.
The easiest way to do this is by reading Halloween books or watching Halloween movies together. Use the stories to explain costumes, trick-or-treating, and common party games. You can even create your own social stories with pictures of your child, your family, and your neighborhood. If you decorate your home for Halloween, ask for your child’s advice and help. Be mindful of décor that may be too scary or not age-appropriate.

Get creative with costumes.
Some children with sensory issues may be reluctant to wear a costume. In that case, try one of these comfortable, familiar alternatives to a flashy costume:
Pajamas, robes, and/or slippers
A sports uniform, martial arts uniform, or dance-class attire
If your child does want a special costume, let them try on the costume at the store to make sure they are comfortable with it before buying it or try getting them involved in making a costume at home.

Again, reading books, watching movies, and creating social stories are great ways to prep for Trick-or-Treating. You can practice trick-or-treating around the house, and take a walk around the neighborhood to familiarize your child with the area. You can plan your route and scope out different houses’ decorations and skip anything too scary or over-stimulating.
If door-to-door isn’t a good option for your child, check your community listings for trick-or-treating events in shopping centers, apartment complexes, or dormitories. Check if any local churches or community centers are hosting a trunk-or-treat event in their parking lot, or work with a group of parents and organize your own. 

Keeping the sweets under control.
If your child has food allergies or intolerances, or you are concerned about sugar overload, check with local family dental offices to see if they are hosting a candy exchange. At these events, children turn in their Halloween haul for other prizes or raffle tickets. The collected candy is typically donated to a local food pantry, domestic violence shelter, or sent overseas to soldiers in care packages. If you can’t find a candy exchange near you, come up with your own candy trade-in system based on your child’s interests. For example, 25 pieces of candy can equal a trip to the movies, or 10 pieces of candy for a new book. Some parents get creative and set up their own little store!

Preparing your child for Halloween traditions and having a plan in place for events are the keys to minimizing the stress and making the most of the holiday. At The Johnson Center for Child Health and Development, we host an annual Halloween party to provide a fun, safe way for families to enjoy Halloween traditions. The party is held before Halloween, so the kids can practice wearing their costumes and trick-or-treating. As with all of our events, we provide allergen-friendly snacks, crafts, a photo booth, and other special surprises. This year, the party will be held on Thursday, October 30 from 3:30pm-5:30pm. The party is free and open to the public, but we do ask that you RSVP so we have enough treats for all (email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to RSVP). Kids of all ages are welcome and costumes for everyone are encouraged, but not required. We will all certainly be in costume and hope to see you there!