How do you approach the holiday of Halloween? What would you wish for your special needs child?
Back in the day of young Elizabeth, I would have ensured that "Trick or Treat" time was:
- during daylight hours
- on a weekend or a Friday
Trick or Treating during the day would help her handle strange costumes and sounds, because she could see them.
Trick or Treating on a weekend or Friday was because fatigue would be reduced: either due to the fact that she did not have school that day and she could prepare, or that if she got very tired and overwhelmed, the next day would be a day off and she could decompress.
These requests help our daughter, Elizabeth, have the best holiday possible.
I fully understand that I cannot always get these things to happen.
Especially when Elizabeth was very young and pretty deeply in the throes of her Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), these would have been ideal.
On Halloween, there are parties, crowds, loud noises, changes in schedules and demands everywhere that are uncertain; all of these things can lead up to increased anxiety for Elizabeth.
This anxiety can lead to a meltdown. The meltdown will most certainly end any and all holiday fun for her and those with her.
Elizabeth is now 21 years old and her Trick or Treat days are well behind her, but I can distinctly remember the anxiety I used to feel at the prospect of making this holiday fun for her and her big sister Emily.
My anxiety would be there from the time the Halloween party at Emily’s school started, one that Elizabeth would come to as well, to the parade of costumes, to the pre-Trick or Treat time at home and finally to the actual Trick or Treat time. I know it stemmed from my wanting the day and night to be fun for “my girls” and also knowing or better... But, not knowing then, just how to help Elizabeth navigate these challenging times.
When I did not really understand that much about her disorders and how they truly affected her, figuring out how to best help her was a challenge. But once I learned more about them, how they truly affected her and how she “works”, I was able to do so much better for her all around.
Learning how Elizabeth "works" helped my anxiety start to decrease because I had a grip or handle on the things I needed to do or not to do to help her.
I asked earlier in this post, what you would wish for your child. I asked this because we all have different things that will come to mind when we think of our special needs child.
Sometimes thinking about this “wish list” shows you how much you really know about your child. Maybe we cannot have exactly what is on this “wish list” but we can put other things into place. Things that can really make a difference for our special needs children, ourselves and our families.
And it is these things, these changes, these adjustments and our understanding of our children that can help them have as much success and fun as their typically developing peers.
I may never have gotten my exact wish list, but I know she has some pretty nice Halloweens under her belt!
I hope your child, your family and you have a fun safe time!
I wish everyone a peaceful Halloween.
Michele Gianetti is a mom of three, registered nurse, and published author ("I Believe in You: A Mother and Daughter's Special Journey," "Emily's Sister"). She writes for TalkTools Blog every month about her experience caring for Elizabeth, her daughter with Sensory Processing Disorder and Dyspraxia. Follow her story since the beginning here.