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Seven Tips for Dressing Up on Halloween - Making Halloween Fun for Kids with Special Needs

Updated: Oct 20, 2018

Part 1 of a Four-Part SPARK Spooktacular Series

Dressing up in costumes is one of traditions of Halloween that playfully distinguishes it from any other holiday. While, for some families, the biggest costume debate is Bumblebee vs. Optimus Prime, or LOL Doll vs. Elsa (for the 5th year in a row), others are simply worried about getting their child in a costume - any costume - that won't lead to a complete, epic meltdown. Whether the unfamiliar fabrics don't feel right, or the factual inaccuracies of the costume are too much to bear (“But that's NOT what Darth Vader's lightsaber looks like!”), dressing up is just simply a tougher sell for some kids. Check out these tips that might make costume time a little less stressful in your home!

Girl with tongue sticking out, wearing a wide-brimmed black hat and red cape, and holding black paper jack-o'-lanterns over her eyes.

1. Let THEM Decide

Who doesn’t like to make decisions for themselves? By letting your child decide what to be for Halloween, he or she may be more motivated to tolerate unfamiliar feelings associated with pieces of the costume. Get ideas by browsing photos online or taking a trip to the costume store together.

2. Try Before You Buy

Don't commit to a costume without trying it on first! The options and selection online for Halloween costumes are great, and may be helpful for finding that unusual costume your child is begging for. But while ordering on Amazon has its benefits, don’t try it too close to Halloween. You’ll need lots of times for returns and finding something else if it just doesn't make the cut upon arrival!

3. Keep It Simple

Many children are sensitive to unfamiliar items being on their heads or hands. If this is your child, consider costumes that don't require masks, gloves, or other uncomfortable pieces. It’s a bonus if the costume can be made up of articles of clothing the child already owns and is comfortable with. For example, your kid could wear a jersey and put a couple strokes of black face paint across the cheeks - you've got yourself an athlete. Or he or she could wear a lab coat over their regular clothes and a stethoscope around their neck, for a perfect little doctor.

4. Practice Makes Perfect

Without having exposure to the items they find challenging, they won’t be able to grow more tolerant of them. If your child is really set on a costume that doesn't feel good, have them try it on for short periods leading up to the big day!

5. Include Comforting Items

Does your child have a special stuffed rabbit, they just can’t go without? How about dressing up as a vet with Hoppy, their fuzzy little patient, as the perfect accessory? Or if Halloween’s creepy sounds and yelling children overwhelm your child, incorporate their noise-cancelling headphones as part of the costume - a DJ or pilot would look great. A little creativity goes a long way!

6. Have a Plan B

If your child is set on a costume, but gets cold feet on Halloween night, don’t fret. Have a simple backup costume, just in case! What about a cape for your little superhero? Or, if they’ll wear a hat, a simple witch hat can give them a simple, but spooky, vibe.

7. Go Without!

Ultimately, Halloween should be FUN and if wearing a costume takes that away, then simply go trick-or-treating without. If you’re nervous about judgmental strangers, or you simply want to raise some awareness, consider printing off a copy of this card. It can be attached to their jacket or candy bag, or copies made and handed out at each house. While by no means should anyone feel obligated to explain their child’s unique needs to strangers, by sharing a specific need, others may gain understanding about specific differences, and it may help ward of snarky comments or uninvited questions.

Download a free printable version by clicking here.


Part 2

Five Tips for Going Door-to-Door on Halloween

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