Make Halloween Spooktacular

Halloween can be an exciting time of year with spooky cobwebs, glowing pumpkins, haunting ghosts and treats galore.  Many children and adults enjoy taking part in the fun, and “sensational” activities that come along with such a spirited holiday.  For others, especially children who have a harder time with sensory processing, it can become quite an overwhelming experience.

With a little extra preparation, Halloween can be an enjoyable experience for the whole family.  The following are a few tips* to make this Halloween a great one.

Prepare your child for the holiday by helping them to understand the tradition

  • Tell stories about Halloween or read Halloween themed books
  • Discuss the rules and boundaries of the holiday and your expectations
  • Role play and pretend so they know how to handle situations that may arise while at a party, having visitors or visiting others during Halloween activities
  • Let them know exactly what to expect and avoid any surprises (the good, bad and scary of it all)

Get the costume right

  • Try out some inexpensive “practice costumes” to help them to get used to wearing one.  Make your own and do some pretend play.  You could make a cape out of an old T-shirt, or cut a paper plate into a crown/mask (just add some elastic or string)
  • Make sure that the costume that you purchase for Halloween events is right for your child.  Have them try it on to be sure that it fits and feels right. It won’t be too “scratchy” or uncomfortable, and will be cool or warm enough depending on what activities you plan on participating in.  Also consider whether face paint or a mask is right for your child.

Prevent the dreaded meltdown

  • Try to limit the duration of events, and to know what to expect if you will be attending a gathering.  This way you can have a plan, allow your child to know the structure of events and give them a chance to make choices and feel in control of the situation and thus themselves.
  • Allow your child to explore the fun that Halloween has to offer, but keep a close eye on them and stay tuned in to how they may be feeling.  If they begin crying, looking fatigued, too hyperactive or combative it may be time for a break.  Find somewhere less stimulating and take them for a break from the sensory overload they may be experiencing.

Plan ahead and consider which activities would best suit your child

  • Try trick-or-treating in a controlled environment.  Some local organizations arrange trick-or-treat experiences that may be more your child’s speed.  Also, many nursing homes and hospitals set up special times for children to visit with the patients or residents.  It is a great opportunity to participate in a Halloween event while brightening someone’s day!
  • If trick-or-treating isn’t for you, that is OK!!  There are many other ways you can enjoy the season and get in the spirit of Halloween.  Make some Halloween crafts, decorate pumpkins with paint or stickers, experiment with Halloween food recipes, roast pumpkin seeds or try out some structured sensory play.


Blog by: Ashley Yankanich, MS, OTR/L, IMC

For further information please contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit us at

Please follow my NEW Pinterest board for some fun ideas for Halloween and every other day!! Search for Miss Ashley the OT


*Halloween tips were adapted from:

American Occupational Therapy Association (2011). American Occupational Therapy Association tip sheet.

The complete document can be found at:

Decrease your Child’s Fear of the Dentist

Is going to the dentist a traumatic experience for your child?  Children with sensory defensiveness frequently experience difficulties with dental visits, resulting in decreased oral health and an increased risk for future medical complications.  This experience is not only stressful for the child, but for the parent as well.  Sensory sensitivity, characterized by increased detection of sensory input, may be a contributing factor to this dental avoidance.  In an environment filled with drills, vibration, lights, and touch it is no wonder that children with sensory sensitivities find going to the dentist a highly stressful experience. 

Current Strategies Used by Dentists

  • Pharmacological methods
  • “Tell, show, do” method
    • Dentist tells the child what they will do, shows the child, and then completes the procedure
  •  Positive reinforcement
  • Distraction techniques

Although current strategies are successful for many children, they may not work for everybody.  Therefore, occupational therapists, in collaboration with caregivers, children and dentists, have produced additional strategies for children with sensory sensitivities to implement at the dentist.

Strategies for the Next Visit to the Dentist

  • Environmental modifications
    • Dimming the lights in the waiting room/treatment room
    • Allowing the child to listen to music during the procedure
  • Placing a weighted x-ray vest over the child during treatment to provide deep proprioceptive input
  • Bring a familiar toy/object to the clinic
  • Invite your occupational therapist to the procedure
    • The therapist can utilize sensory calming strategies prior to and during the procedure and educate the dentist throughout the process
  • Use a Social Story to explain to your child what will happen at the dentist
    • *A list of social stories for dental experiences are listed below
  • Make the dentist a familiar place
    • Visit the office numerous times prior to his/her appointment in order establish a routine and decrease stress Dental Social Stories

The Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist  By: Stan and Jon Berenstain 

 Going To The Dentist  By: Cindy Bailey

Show Me Your Smile!: A Visit to the Dentist  By: Christine Ricci and Robert Roper

Freddy Visits the Dentist  By: Nicola Smee

Going to the Dentist  By: Anne Civardi


      Peterson, E.J., Stein, L. I., & Cermak, S. A. (2013, September).  Helping children with autism spectrum disorders participate in oral care. Sensory Integration Special Interest Section Quarterly, 36(3), 1-4. 

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit


How to Make Goopy Gak

First gather all of your ingredients.

~2 cups of warm water (not too hot or the gak wont set up correctly)

~1 tbsp. of Borax powder (found in the grocery store w/ laundry or cleaning supplies)

~1 cup Elmer’s Glue All liquid glue (the school glue formula doesn’t work as nicely)

~1 qt. size Ziploc bag

~1 gallon size Ziploc bag

~Optional – tempera paint for color or glitter to add sparkle.

Now that you have gathered your supplies we are ready to get start making our goopy gak.  Have fun!

How to make the perfect gak come to life.

  1. Measure out 1 cup of warm water, and pour into the quart size Ziploc.
  2. Add to this bag the 1 tbsp. of Borax powder.
  3. Zip closed and mix up until the Borax had dissolved. Set aside. *Nothing else goes in this bag.


     4. Measure out 1 cup of water and pour into gallon sized Ziploc.

     5. Measure out 1 cup of Elmer’s Glue and pour into the gallon sized Ziploc with the water.

     6. Optional- add in your squirt of tempera paint or glitter to the gallon bag now.   *It will       not mix in properly if you change your mind and try to add some later on.          

     7.Close bag and mix thoroughly.

    8.Pour the Borax mixture into the gallon sized bag with the glue mixture.

     9.Seal bag and MIX…. MIX…. Mix this bag. You should see and feel it begin to come together almost immediately. 

     10. If the gak doesn’t seem to be soaking up all the liquid, pour in into a container (I used the  blue bin pictured above). This helps it to get some air and continue to come together. 

TADA!!! You made gak. 

Place your finished product into the gallon sized baggie or get a new one. Store it in this bag. Should keep for up to a month depending on how many hands have played in it and whether there have been any accidental sneezes into it. J

*Do NOT play with gak on a wooden surface as it will remove the finish. If gak becomes stuck to clothes it will wash out, however, not from carpet or couches easily. I have kiddos play with it on a plastic tablecloth or a tray.

******Disclaimer****** Please do not have children play unsupervised with this product. It can be a choking risk or if ingested may make them sick due to the glue and soap. Thank you!

Special thanks to Ms. Joy for sharing her perfect goopy gak recipe with us, and to Ashlyn for demonstrating for our pictures.

Blog by: Laney London, COTA/L, IMC

For further information contact us at 941-360-0200 or visit