Creating an inclusive Halloween experience for children with disabilities

Each year children across the country celebrate Halloween. Costumes and candy are what usually come to mind, but what about anxiety… sensory concerns… and feeding challenges. A child with a disability could potentially face all these obstacles on their way to having an enjoyable Halloween experience.

There are a number of ways to create an inclusive Halloween experience for children and young adults with disabilities:

  1. Create a sensory friendly environment
    • Limit potential triggers, such as strobe lights and fog machines.
    • Sometimes costumes aren’t sensory friendly so accept that not all children will be dressed up and support those choices.
    • You may experience a child who has sensory overload. Be patient and understanding.
    • Do some research and learn more about sensory friendly environments, sensory concerns and triggers.
  2. Consider anxiety
    • Save the creepy decorations and special effects for another time.
    • Make sure you have a well-lit area for trick-or-treaters.
    • Keep pets in another area.
    • Avoid scary costumes and their masks.
    • Don’t try to intentionally or unexpectedly scare trick-or-treaters.
    • Be sensitive. Some children will still venture out despite their fears. Let them know it’s okay to be afraid and comfort them.
  3. Plan for allergies, food sensitivities and other feeding challenges
    1. Consider offering non-food treats or having additional non-food options off to the side for those who might request them.
    2. Lean more about the Teal Pumpkin Project!
  4. Plan for or participate in an alterative event
    1. Hold a sensory friendly movie night, dinner or party.
    2. Go pumpkin picking at a local farm!
    3. Find a family-friendly trunk-or-treat event.
    4. If the child is interested in Halloween, but not going out trick-or-treating themselves, suggest they help hand out treats at home as an alternative.

There are also ways you can help your child prepare for a more successful Halloween night:

  1. Prepare your child
    • Use social stories to show your child what they might see during Halloween as decorations and costumes begin to appear.
    • Use catalogs and store displays to show that costumes are clothing that people use to cress up.
    • Show children costumes masks and how they work. You can even do this with a game of peek-a-boo or by making your own mask at home as an arts & crafts project.
  2. Choose an accessible costume
    • Find a business that has accessible costume options.
    • Select a costume that your child feels confident in.
    • Try out the costume at home before Halloween.
  3. Map out a plan
    • Use a role play activity to illustrate how trick-or-treating works.
    • Talk to your child about things that are specific to Halloween, like saying “trick-or-treat!” when knocking on someone’s door.
    • Choose where you are going to go ahead of time and make sure everyone knows the plan.
    • Talk to your neighbors if you think they may need suggestions on interacting with your child or they have decorations that may trigger and upset your child.

Halloween can be a fun night for EVERYONE! Be kind, sensitive and considerate. You never know who has a disability!