Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Dear Halloween Candy Hander Outer...

Dear Halloween Candy Hander Outer,

I'm a parent of two children with sensory processing disorder. They are DYING to go trick-or-treating. Their Dad has taken the entire day off work to help them get ready. We have been marking the days until Halloween in our family calendar for over a month. But listen please, because as excited as they are, it won't be easy for them. It can be fun if you'll help us, but fun in the way I imagine climbing a rock wall is fun. In an "I overcame this colossal challenge and gained vast amounts of confidence that I CAN DO THIS" kind of fun. (And in the "I'm now exhausted and need a very long nap and break from the world" kind of fun).

This is the first time my daughter has asked for a Halloween costume (a pink bunny rabbit). I don't expect she'll be able to wear it all night. Their father and I have already discussed what the kids will be able to handle and planned for a short evening and small amount of going door to door because too much walking makes my son tired and too many unfamiliar faces make my daughter anxious and upset. Too much noise bothers them both. I know my sensory kids want so badly to participate, but are completely overwhelmed at the same time. Be kind. My daughter won't speak to you. She probably won't say "trick or treat" and she *might* whisper, "thank you." Talking to you is too much for her. Her brain is working harder than yours ever will just to be able to process the sights, sounds, and smells she's bombarded with.

My son will be exuberant for the first half hour, then a switch will flip. He will pull most of his costume off, stomp his feet, and demand to be taken home. He'll do it because it's 'too exciting, too loud, too busy.' He has poor hand-eye coordination for his age and struggles to pick out specific objects in a 'busy' background. If you tell him to choose his own treat, it's going to take a while. My daughter doesn't do peanuts. Don't be offended if she doesn't take a piece if your candy or if we have to put something back. We're not upset you only have Snickers; we're just trying to keep her safe. She will accidentally knock your bowl over or grab too many, not because she's greedy or rude, but because she has a hard time with motor-planning and self-regulation. We will skip your house/business if you have flashing lights or fog machines. They freak my kids out and my daughter doesn't like the fog 'smell.'

If we see you toward the end of the night, we will all look a little harried, a little exhausted. But we'll be happy, ecstatic even, to have made out this far. Because we're making memories too. They'll be a little different from yours. Our experience will be as unique as our trick-or-treaters. Just remember, it's their holiday too. They deserve to wake up the next day like everyone else with a tummy ache that the only remedy for is eating chocolate for breakfast. And with a little understanding from you, they will have memories of a night of fun rather than fear. All I ask is your empathy and acceptance. Lose your preconceived notions and gently give those kids without a costume hiding behind their parent's leg a piece of gum or maybe a sucker. If they don't take it, ask mom or dad what they like and give it to them instead. You'll probably make the whole family's night and I guarantee they'll talk about you as they eat that special treat on the way home. Because it's their Halloween too.

Thanks for listening,
A Mom Whose Kids Can't Wait for Halloween