Halloween, in addition to other holidays, can look different for children with disabilities. Whether it’s mobility issues, sensory disorders, dietary restrictions, or other special needs it’s important to be accommodating in order to be adaptive and still have fun! Counting down the days until Halloween on a prominently displayed calendar can help prepare your child for the big night to come. Keeping your child prepared and filling them in on the history of Halloween, why people wear costumes and discussing trick-or-treating helps to anticipate the holiday well in advance.
6 Ideas for a Happy Halloween
Introduce Costumes Early
For some children, the idea of putting on a mask or seeing others dressed up may be scary, but if you explain that a person stays the same underneath and play dress up at home, this can ease the stress of seeing many costumed people out and about that night.
Earlier this year Target introduced its inclusive, new line of adaptive costumes for kids with disabilities. It includes sensory-friendly and adaptive outfits and covers designed for wheelchairs. Some of the costumes include a princess carriage and pirate ship wheelchair covers. As well as sensory-friendly clothing with “an allover plush construction for a soft and cozy feel,” “flat seams with no tags,” and detachable hoods. Buzzfeed’s impressive list of wheelchair-friendly costume provides many wonderful ideas, as well!
Think of All the Senses
For children with sensory disorders, they may find costumes scratchy or intolerable. You can either put plain clothes underneath or get them used to the feeling leading up to Halloween by wearing the costume around the house. When planning a costume think through your child’s different senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell, and movement to try to figure out any area that may cause stress to your child and modify it if applicable. For example, avoid masks that limit your child’s vision and balance and check to see if they smell funny. Try to use items that already belong to your child and that they find most comfortable like a sweatshirt or pajama costume.
Walk the Trick-or-Treat Route
Take your child along the route you’ll be trick-or-treating a few weeks or days before Halloween to get them familiar with the houses (especially if they’re decorated). Stay close to home and walk in an area your child is familiar with. Don’t try to go to a new area or expand beyond a few familiar neighbors that your child knows and feels comfortable being around. You can even hand out helpful flyers to your neighbors encouraging them to be a little more patient and mindful of all children who will be visiting that night.
Maintain the Same Routine
For many children, especially those that do better following a routine, such as a child with autism, it’s important not to let celebration throw off your routine. If trick-or-treating will disrupt your child’s usual schedule, try to begin earlier or don’t go at all. Interrupting routines can lead to meltdowns and stress. To prepare for Halloween night, you can read social stories with your child leading up to Halloween night. Social stories are a great way to guide an anxious child through an unfamiliar event.
Hand Out Treats
Some kids might not want or be able to go trick-or-treating themselves and that’s ok! It’s just as much fun to stay home and pass out sweets to all the ghoulies and ghosties that come throughout the night. And if Halloween is just too overwhelming, it’s important not to force your child to participate but rather plan a different activity for a calmer experience.
Create New Halloween Traditions (or skip it altogether)
The typical Halloween might not work for your family so find things that work for you and your little ones. Make your own trick-or-treat route throughout the house by standing behind different doors and letting your child knock on those instead. Or if that’s too much, skip it altogether! Stay home, watch a movie, and treat Halloween like any other night. It’s ok to skip out on things that don’t work for you so instead fill the night with something that makes them happy.