Happy Halloween faces: Adapting the environment for successful traditions

For individuals with Prader-Willi syndrome, the fall holiday season can be difficult.  Halloween usually focuses on dressing up and receiving candy from friends. Thanksgiving usually involves family sitting around a dinner table filled with more food than most can eat. This season is filled with anxiety and stress for most individuals diagnosed with PWS. At Latham Centers, we strive to make the holidays fun for our residents while being mindful of their anxieties and stressors.

For Halloween, Latham Centers has created a campus holiday tradition in which all students are encouraged to dress up and enjoy special activities throughout the day. They even have a Halloween store on campus, where they shop with staff and choose THEIR favorite outfit. This year, the “Halloween Store” featured fun capes, large wearable Clorox Wipes containers, hats, boas, and animal onesies.

Rather than Trick-or-Treating around the neighborhood on October 31st, we create a self-contained Halloween parade the Friday prior (October 29th). The student suites take turns visiting stations around campus. “Goodies” include items like low-calorie fruit snacks, Rice Crispy Treats, fun-size chocolate bars, and one-pack Swedish fish. Students receive just as many toys as treats – such as stretchy Halloween-themed figurines and witches that grow when you put them in water.

The day is filled with fun from the get-go, and in addition to the Halloween parade, students participate in suite decorations and voting for the best staff costumes. Patrice Carroll, Director of PWS Services, said that one of her favorite things about Latham is that kids living with PWS still have the opportunity to celebrate and have traditions like every other child. “Halloween is a favorite holiday because the students get to dress up and pretend to be their favorite character, have a parade, and show off their costumes while trick or treating for toys and a little bit of candy. Having PWS doesn’t have to mean that you miss out, it just means that the environment has to adapt to allow you to have some fun and be safe at the same time.”

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