The Halloween Costume
that Was TOO Scratchy

I was reminded of sensory sensitivity this weekend, when a friend asked my adult children about their favorite childhood Halloween costumes.

With a hidden wish to be a professional costumer, I relished the opportunity to make my children’s Halloween outfits. I loved pouring over images and patterns, looking for the best ways to make their wishes come true.
Girl in costume that is uncomfortable
We all knew our middle daughter’s favorite-Snow White. Sewn of satin, she wore the dress for days throughout the years, rubbing the smooth fabric with deep satisfaction. We still have the dress.

The next year, I sought to out-do myself by making the most beautiful Belle (Beauty and the Beast) costume. The result was disastrous. After the first fitting of this beautifully constructed ball gown, my 4 year-old-daughter refused to wear it again. It was made of taffeta-not satin. And, she LOVED satin.

Children’s awareness and reactions to textures are just part of who they are. Often, no amount of cajoling can get children to wear something that doesn’t feel good or scratches. Some children have strong reactions to tags on the backs of shirts or to the seams.

Sensory sensitivities can include taste, smells, pain, sound, sight, as well as, touch. And often, very young children don’t have the language or the awareness to let us know specifically what is uncomfortable and may respond with big and confusing reactions.

If you are wondering if a child has sensory sensitivities, here are a few areas to investigate.

  • Do you notice a child has sensory preferences like favorite fabrics, sounds or types of food?
  • Does a child notice sounds that are barely audible to you?
  • What about bright lights, like a camera flash?
  • Are there particular food textures that he avoids?
  • Are there high-intensity activities a child loves?

By becoming aware of sensitivities, we can gain insights into the meaning and importance of the children’s behaviors. We can help children by labeling their experiences, finding ways to decrease the stimulation, and appreciate their uniqueness without taking their reactions personally.

Research indicates that sensitivities can be related to negative adult outcomes like anxiety, depression and difficulties in identifying feelings. On the other hand, a recently released report indicates that sensitivities are associated with creativity, attention to details and great compassion.

As for the Belle costume, it went in the dress-up box for my children’s friends to enjoy wearing and my daughter went again as Snow White. She is now the artist of the illustrations in PLAYbook.

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