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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Plan for allergies, food sensitivities and other feeding challenges
- Consider offering non-food treats or having additional non-food options off to the side for those who might request them.
- Lean more about the Teal Pumpkin Project!
- Plan for or participate in an alterative event
- Hold a sensory friendly movie night, dinner or party.
- Go pumpkin picking at a local farm!
- Find a family-friendly trunk-or-treat event.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!