With Halloween on our doorsteps, it is important to think about the sensory needs of children with FASD on this fun-filled holiday.

Children with FASD tend to have more sensory processing issues that typically developing children (1,2). This means that they have difficulty interpreting and reacting accordingly to sensory input from their environment (3). For example, sounds might seem too loud or too quiet, lights may seem too bright or too dim, and touch may feel too strong or too soft. These difficulties in processing sensory information can make it difficult for kids with FASD to respond in an adaptive way to their environments, and are associated with higher than average behaviour problems, such as acting out, social and attention problems, rule breaking, and thought problems (3,4).

Enter Halloween: A holiday with bright colours, yelling and screaming children, costumes that can be easy to trip over, hard to see through, and uncomfortable to wear, and ghosts and goblins waiting in nooks and crannies to jump out and spook you at any given time. All of these things can make what is supposed to be a fun-filled holiday a very difficult time for a child with FASD, potentially resulting in dysregulation and negative behaviour.

Research on FASD and sensory processing  recommends that children’s sensory processing difficulties be taken into account when considering a child with FASD’s needs (3,4). The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) has listened! The AOTA has put out some great tips for “Enjoying Halloween with Sensory Issues.” They have some great ideas to prepare children with sensory processing difficulties to have a fun and happy Halloween.

References:

1-Mattson, S. N., Goodman, A. M., Caine, C. D., Delis, D. C., & Riley, E. P. (1999). Executive functioning in children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 23, 1808–1815.

2-Mattson, S. N., & Riley, E. P. (1998). A review of the neurobehavioral deficits in children with fetal alcohol syndrome or prenatal exposure to alcohol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 22, 279–294.

3-Franklin, L., Deitz, J., Jirikowic, T., & Astley, S. (2008). Children with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders: Problem behaviors and sensory processingAmerican Journal of Occupational Therapy, 62, 265–273.

4-Jirikowic, T. L., Olson, H. C., & Kartin, D. (2008). Sensory processing, school performance, and adaptive behavior of young school-aged children with fetal alcohol spectrum disordersPhysical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, 2, 117-136.

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