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Sensitive trick-or-treat held at Harlan Yoga Studio

While Halloween can provide a terrifyingly good time for many families, this time of year can present a challenge to those who juggle the day-to-day life of special needs. Harlan Yoga Studio owner Amanda Wolfe, along with members of Harlan Tourism and Taco Holler, came together on Thursday to ensure that children with special needs aren’t left out.

Beginning at 5:30 p.m., children were welcomed into the studio with tables full of candy and toys leading to the back where plastic pools of rice and beans set on the ground them to dig in. Parents were also included in the fun and were invited to enjoy each other’s company over slices of pizza.

“Some stellar children walked through those doors and most passed up the candy, going straight to the back to play,” Wolfe said. “Some dug around in rice or beans for nearly an hour. Some squished Play-Doh and sensory bags.”

The children were also able to sit where the lights were dimmed down to project a movie on the back wall and use individual Bluetooth headphones.

“It was sweet. It was a night of safety for these kids, and I am so glad that it happened,” Wolfe said.

According to Understood, a website helping those with differences thrive, certain Halloween activities and sensations that other children enjoy can be challenging for children with sensory processing issues, noting costumes, crowds and unfamiliar sights and smells can all be triggers if not handled appropriately.

“It’s important to try to find ways to help your child with sensory processing issues enjoy Halloween, rather than just avoiding it,” said Understood author Amanda Morin. “Trick-or-treating may be easier for you child if he/she knows what to expect and that they can go home whenever they need to. For some kids, enjoying Halloween may mean creating new family traditions.”

Morin added it is important for parents of children with special needs to understand and adapt to certain triggers, mentioning anything from costumes to trick-or-treating can determine how the child reacts.

“When it comes to costumes, there’s more to consider than what your child wants to dress up as,” Morin said. “It’s important to think about how a costume feels, fits and smells. If a costume is tight, scratchy or slippery, or if it has a strong odor, it could bother a child with sensory issues.”

Morin suggests letting a child touch costumes while shopping around to help them find something they would be comfortable wearing, as well as avoiding certain products. For example, if a child is sensitive to smells and textures, face paint could be avoided to reduce the chance anxiety. Morin added wearing the costume and getting used to it before Halloween can also help.

Morin said trick-or-treating, especially with noisy crowds and flashing decorations, could cause a sensory meltdown.

“You may want to have a code word or signal to use if your child feels overwhelmed,” Morin said.

Morin listed a few ways to help manage trick-or-treating problem areas, including:

• Map out and practice the route with your child ahead of time so it seems familiar;

• Go out at dusk or before the streets get very dark and crowded;

• Bring a flashlight;

• Pull your younger child in a wagon or let your older child rise his/her bike to avoid having other kids crowd or bump into him/her.

For more information on hosting an inclusive Halloween for children with special needs, visit the Connecting for Kids website.