It’s almost time for Halloween! Zachary and I are so excited. If you’re an autism parent like me you know that Halloween might be a little different for us than it is for neurotypical families. Our kids may not have the socialization skills to do traditional trick-or-treating, they might have sensory aversions or anxieties that pop up during the holiday.
Now this is one of my favorite holidays, and I want to make sure you can enjoy it with your child just as much as I do with mine. So today I’m sharing how we can all be more inclusive to help create a more comfortable, inclusive Halloween environment!
Tip #1: Cut back on the noises
From creepy sounds to smoke machines, there’s a lot of noises coming from all over to contribute to the holiday’s magic. This is welcomed by many, but for those who are sensory sensitive this can cause a lot of disruption and irritation. To be more inclusive to those who are sensory sensitive try this:
- Limit sensory triggers such as fog machines, strobe lights and loud sound effects.
- Keep in mind that a child may have sensory issues with wearing a costume. Be accepting of their choices.
- Be sensitive to children experiencing sensory overload. Halloween can be overwhelming for a typical child, but a child with sensory issues may not know she’s reached her limit until it’s too late.
- Create multi-sensory games for children who are blind or visually impaired. If you are designing a haunted house, make sure to add objects to touch, like bubble wrap, slime, etc. For someone with little or no vision, this creates a fun and surprising experience.
For parents, it may be a good idea to bring along some ear plugs to help eliminate some of the unexpected noises. If your child doesn’t like the dark, bring along some flashlights or glow sticks to help or trick or treat a bit earlier.
Don’t be afraid to take a sensory break, either. It might be a good idea to drive to trick or treat so you can take a little car break from all the activities around you.
Tip #2: Make your food allergy/food issue free
It may be easy to buy a large bag of mixed candies at the store and overlook the ingredients but did you know: 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies and many more experience issues with food, including diabetes, swallowing issues and oral motor challenges. That means 1 in 13 children on your doorstep trick or treating! Instead, consider offering non-food treats as an alternative to traditional Halloween candy.
Bonus for parents:The Food Allergy Research & Education organization launched the Teal Pumpkin Project to promote inclusion of all trick-or-treaters throughout the Halloween season. A teal pumpkin typically indicates non-food items are being offered. Look out for the Teal Pumpkin!
Tip #3: Make sure your home is accessible for children with disabilities
Is it easy to get to your doorstep? Is your driveway long and narrow? If the place you are passing out candy isn’t in an accessible area consider moving locations around your home or to a family member’s home to pass out candy. This makes it easier for children who need to use a wheelchair or other devices to access the door. Also, be sure that it’s in a well-lit area so that it’s not difficult to navigate to.
If you are handing out candy to trick or treaters who are visually impaired or blind, make sure you describe what you are putting in their bag and try to go for candy and toys that are easily identifiable. Think: slime, rings, plastic animals, scented stickers etc!
Tip #4: Have FUN!
The most important thing to remember is to have fun! If you’re a parent, prepare your child ahead of time to set expectations and alleviate their concerns. If you are passing out candy, consider having fun tactical non-food offerings in well-lit accessible areas to include everyone.
Happy Trick or Treating- And be sure to take photos!