Tips for Trick or Treating with Your ADHD Child

Merely Me Health Guide
  • I have a bit of a love hate relationship with Halloween.  I love seeing all the kids in costumes, and all the lighted pumpkins glowing from porches and stoops and the feel of the cool autumn air.  But the one thing I don't love about Halloween is that it usually a trigger for my son's hyperactivity.  He loves this holiday with a passion and this passion quickly translates into frenetic energy. We had one year where my son was so excited about this holiday that he put his costume on the day before Halloween and refused to take it off.  He slept in it because he didn't want to miss anything.  So there is all the excitement of the event itself and then of course there is all the sugary candy.

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    The issue of whether sugar can trigger hyperactivity in ADHD kids is still a controversial one.  There are doctors and researchers who say that sugar does not cause hyperactivity in children yet there are many others who say there is a definite link.  In 1986 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) came out with a report which found no conclusive experimental evidence that sugar consumption causes significant behavioral changes in children and adults.  In another study (Milich, R., Wolraich, M., & Lindgren, S. (1986). Sugar and hyperactivity: A critical review of empirical findings. Clinical Psychology Review, 6, 493-513) researchers found that the hyperactivity seen in children at parties and holiday events is more due to the excitement of the event than due to any particular food the child has consumed.


    But if you ask most parents whether or not they see a difference in their child's behavior after they eat a lot of sugar laden goodies they will probably say yes.  In fact ADDitude Magazine reports that:  "Most parents of children with ADHD - 84 percent of 302 parents in one 2003 study - believe that sugar has a negative effect on their kids' behavior. And many adults with ADHD are convinced that sugar worsens their symptoms as well."   In my son's case, I am not sure if sugar causes him to be more hyperactive but I am not going to give him a ton of sugar laden foods to find out! 


    Trick or treating has always been a bit scary for us because my son has multiple food allergies including a potentially fatal one to peanuts.  So we have to be super vigilant when it comes to monitoring his treats.  Whether you are worried about food allergies or your child consuming too much sugar I will give you my tips for having a safe and sane Halloween.

    • Bring an extra bag of treats along with you when your child goes trick or treating of snacks you know are safe for your child to eat while they go from house to house.

    • Monitor your child's selections. Some houses might give out non-edible prizes such as tattoos, stickers, or small toys. Encourage your child to select the non-food items whenever possible.

    • One idea I especially like is one created by our local autism society. They host something called "Trunk or Treat" where parents decorate the trunks of their cars for Halloween and give out treats from their car. The snacks are agreed upon by the parents ahead of time and usually include more healthy choices.

    • You can always host a Halloween party where you will have more control over what your child has to eat. We make things like gluten free pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin faces made out of assorted fruits and vegetables, sugar free jello in a brain shaped mold, and my favorite, roasted pumpkin seeds (dry the seeds the day before and place them in a single layer on a cookie sheet.  Sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 325 degrees for about 25 minutes.  Don't roast at any higher of a temp or for too much longer or you will have pumpkin seeds bursting and popping like popcorn all over your oven like I did one year). 

    • If your child does go trick or treating make sure that you go through all the candy to sort through which items are safe for your child to eat. The candy which you feel your child cannot eat can be taken to work or given to friends and family.

    • Designate how many pieces of candy you child can have that evening and for each day afterward. Otherwise if your child is anything like mine he or she will try to eat the entire bag of treats in one night!

    Do you have any Halloween tips or suggestions?  We want to hear them!  Please share your ideas here.

Published On: October 28, 2009