Tips for an autism-friendly Halloween

Halloween, with its candy and costumes and traditions, is an exciting time of year for most children. But for folks on the autism spectrum, it can be downright overwhelming. So, we've pulled together a couple of great resources on how to make it all a little more autism-friendly:

First Up:

Blogger Bec Oakley of fame shares her tried-and-true tips for a more inclusive holiday for individuals with autism in a guest post here: 

(And for reminders of why we love Oakley's site, check out this previous Principal's Desk post.)

Last but not least:

The Indiana Resource Center for Autism (part of Indiana University Bloomington) has a fantastic amount of useful research and information - wander around their site for a bit, and you'll see what I mean. This month, they've posted a useful list of tips for Sensory-Friendly Fall Activities and Celebrations.

Whatever you do, have a safe and happy Halloween season!

Have another great resource to add to the collection? Share it with us in the comments!

OT Corner: Sensory Processing Difficulties

"It's like a traffic jam in your head, with conflicting signals quickly coming from all directions, so that you don't know how to make sense of it all."

-- Author and parent Nancy Peske, describing her son's sensory processing issues

This description is in the first of a three-part series on sensory processing disorders, presented by Child Mind Institute. (You can read the entire article HERE.)

It's rare to find one of our students who doesn't have some kind of unique sensory need. As we know, there's no one solution for everyone, and we know that sometimes we need to try lots of things before we find one that works. Luckily, we also have an Occupational Therapist with all sorts of creative solutions! 

Have a sensory-related question? Tap into Lill's 13 years of experience at PACTT. Email questions or ideas to, comment directly on this blog post, or use our Contact form.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Halloween Tips and Tricks

'Tis the season for crunchy leaves, trick-or-treating, darker evenings and colder weather. For some of us, fall is a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of summer. For others, the change in seasons throws our natural rhythms temporarily out-of-whack.

For individuals with autism, changes in seasons can be confusing. They can disrupt schedules, limit favorite activities (What do you MEAN I can't swim outside in October??), and mean a wadrobe swap that we neuro-typicals even have trouble adjusting to.

The Autism Society of America has shared a useful list of tips for helping to create a successful Halloween for kids on the autism spectrum. Check it out here: Halloween Tips.

Did they miss anything important? Tell us in the comments below!


Introducing ... The OT Corner

This week, we welcome a new voice to the Principal’s Desk blog. Lill Tarnow, PACTT’s Occupational Therapist, brings us “The OT Corner.” In what we hope to become a regular feature, Lill will tap into her 13 years of experience at PACTT, share ideas, and answer questions. You can email Lill your questions or ideas at, comment directly on this blog post, or use the site’s Contact form. We want to hear from you!

With that, I’ll turn the keyboard over to Lill!

Hi PACTT Families and Friends, 

I have spent the past week talking with co-workers and wracking my brain to come up with something really stupendous to share with you all for my first post to the OT Corner. Alas, stupendous seems to be beyond my grasp right now, but Paula gave me a great idea. Put together a list of ideas and activities that could help parents enjoy the upcoming 3-week summer break.

Well ... I can certainly tell you how important structure and routine are, but you probably already know that. And, honestly, I don’t have any “expert” ideas about, or experience in, dealing with young people during school breaks.

However, after 13 years at PACTT, I do know who the REAL EXPERTS on school breaks are! I am referring, of course, to all of you wonderful people who love and live with individuals with autism. So, please - take just a few moments and send me one (or more if you like) of the ideas that have helped to make your summer break more enjoyable (and less stressful). With your help over the next week, I will be able post a list of activities and ideas that have been tested and proven effective.

So, welcome to the OT Corner. Please let me know what you would like to see here. I hope this can be a place where we can share information related to occupational therapy that is meaningful and relevant to you. I will be happy to address any areas of interest or concern that you might have. If you have questions, I will do my best to find answers. If you hear about a new product or treatment idea, please share, so I can be sure to stay as up to date as possible.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to all of your great ideas for summer break.

OTishly yours,


Sensory overload, or "When Life Stinks"

So many of our students experience sensory moments in ways completely different from the rest of us. It's easy to pick out the folks who are hypersensitive to sounds or light -- but how easy is it to realize that they might be bothered by something we can't even smell? 

From the Autism/Asperger's Digest May 2011 edition:

About one-third of people on the autism spectrum are hypersensitive to smell. Imagine what your world would be like if you were constantly bothered - even sickened - by scents that we neurotypicals filter out! The headaches, the nausea, the inability to attend or focus on what you're doing. What daily irritations the world would bring!

Author Lindsey Biel, a regular columnist in the AADigest, offers a plethora of sensory-smart smell strategies that can help you, your child or your student enjoy life more.

Download a .pdf version of the article, or check out their website. The Autism / Asperger's Digest has a wealth of fantastic information, and several free downloadable articles available here