Celebrating Halloween (CVI style)

Happy Halloween!

Two of the “10 characteristics of CVI” are color and complexity. This means bright, highly-saturated hues that are solid colors (with little or no patterns) tend to be easier for someone with Cortical Visual Impairment to visually process.

Red is one of the first colors our brains learn to process as infants, so it’s no wonder Elmo is often a favorite of little ones with CVI! He is solid, bright red and easily identifiable with his simple eyes and big, orange nose.

Pictured: little girl dressed in an Elmo costume, surrounded by 4 Elmo dolls.

Another CVI characteristic is noveltywhich means a child with CVI will be drawn to the familiar since new people/places/things are much more challenging to visually process. Someone with CVI cannot simply “look” and learn what something new is; they must learn the distinct, salient features that categorize objects for what they are, which means new things require building a new framework of understanding in the brain…whereas familiar objects are ones the brain has already learned to “see” (process).

When our family was at a Halloween store, I decided to try an Elmo costume on Rosalie (our daughter that has CVI). While I put it on her she was wiggling around, not knowing what it was; then, I put my phone camera on “selfie” mode so she could see herself. She instantly stopped moving and smiled! She immediately recognized Elmo and I knew we had found the right costume.

Pictured: Rosalie smiling at the camera while dressed as Elmo, surrounded by 4 Elmo dolls.

Aside from costumes, there are so many ways we can celebrate this holiday in a “CVI-friendly” way. When I think of how my child with CVI will experience any given holiday, I tend to compile a mental list of the ways I want to celebrate the holiday with our entire family – and then intentionally adapt those things.

For example, leading up to and on Halloween our family traditions include:

  1. decorating the house with some holiday decor
  2. visiting a farm and picking pumpkins
  3. painting our pumpkins
  4. reading relevant holiday picture books
  5. making and/or buying costumes for the kids to wear
  6. letting the kids eat with special “Halloween” plates and cups
  7. trick-or-treating

Looking at this list, here are some things I adapt and/or intentionally choose to do in order to make it enjoyable for Rosalie:

  1. The common black and orange colors typically associated with Halloween are very “CVI-friendly” already, so I stick to those types of decorations (bright orange pumpkins or jack-o-lanterns, black and orange banners, orange candles, strings of orange lights, etc.).
  2. Pumpkin picking is another very “CVI-friendly” activity in the sense that pumpkins are so colorful and easily spotted in a pumpkin patch; to make the experience less overwhelming we intentionally go to farms at non-peak times (i.e. a weekday afternoon).
  3. Rosalie is too little to paint her own pumpkin, but I see no reason why this couldn’t be fun for her as she grows; in the mean time, I tend to decorate her pumpkin with some sort of “CVI awareness” message – like this one from last year.
  4. I have not yet adapted any Halloween or fall-themed stories for Rosalie, but plan to do so in future years. Check out this “CVI Series: Halloween Adapted Books” (Teachers Pay Teachers), this “Pumpkin Experience Book” (Paths to Literacy), or scour Pinterest to get some ideas!
  5. An older child will have input regarding costumes, but Rosalie is barely 2 so I saw no reason to dress her in anything other than something familiar (like Elmo!). Otherwise she would probably just be confused and possibly scared or frustrated if we made her wear something she doesn’t understand….
  6. Again, Rosalie is a bit young (coupled with feeding delays) to worry about special holiday plates or cups, but there’s no reason we couldn’t incorporate bright orange items in the future.
  7. Since trick-or-treating is like any other possibly big/crowded/loud event, typical “CVI strategies” in our family include going early/not at peak time. That way we can avoid the crowds and darkness as best as possible. That being said, we actually have yet to take Rosalie trick-or-treating and have decided to forego it again this year. Her young age coupled with a vision impairment means she currently has no idea what trick-or-treating is; plus, she cannot yet eat candy and has severe food allergies – so this year it just isn’t worth it. She will enjoy a nice, quiet dinner at home with her grandmother while we take her big brothers out for a bit.

What are some other ways you celebrate Halloween? Please comment with your favorite “CVI-friendly” activities, ideas, or events!

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