Halloween is one of the most universally celebrated holidays in the United States today. Each year, children pour over costume ideas, dream about the treats they'll collect and enjoy fun, fall-themed activities at school and at businesses and organizations throughout the area. But Halloween isn't easy for every child. Children with food allergies and feeding issues struggle with treats they cannot enjoy. Children with anxiety battle fears and worries connected with sometimes too-spooky events. Children with social skills or communication issues may not have the ability to say "trick-or-treat!" or "thank you." Still others may struggle with finding a costume that fits with a wheelchair or mobility device.
This resource guide offers tips and additional information to help our families and the surrounding communities create a more inclusive Halloween.
Sensory-Friendly Halloween Tips
Sensory issues affect, on average, 1 in 20 children in the United States today. Children who struggle with sensory issues have trouble processing information received through the senses. For example, a child with a sensory aversion to loud sounds may cover his ears and hide in a noisy gymnasium.
As we become more aware of sensory issues, many businesses and organizations are offering sensory-friendly events. You can also help make Halloween more sensory friendly in your community with the following tips:
Allergy/Food Issue-Friendly Halloween Tips
With 1 in 13 children diagnosed with food allergies and many more experiencing issues with food, including diabetes, swallowing issues and oral motor challenges, traditional candy treats can cause some unintended Halloween struggles. There's an easy fix for this problem: consider offering non-food treats as an alternative to traditional Halloween candy. Whether you choose to participate in FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project or just keep a few non-food treats on the side for a child who needs them, you can make a difference in a struggling child's Halloween night.
For more information on The Teal Pumpkin Project, including non-food treat ideas, click here.
Anxiety-Friendly Halloween Tips
Research shows that anxiety disorders, resulting in frequent and persistent symptoms that impact all areas of life, affect as many as 1 in 8 U.S. children. While many of us look forward to the spooky fun traditionally involved in celebrating Halloween, children with anxiety disorders may be so overcome by fears that they are unable to participate. To help include all children in Halloween activities, focus on an evening that is fun - not fearful:
Other Disability-Friendly Halloween Tips
This guide has touched on how to make Halloween more inclusive for several specific issues. The final section includes some additional tips to help make Halloween a holiday that all children can enjoy:
image credit: David Castillo Dominici, freedigitalphotos.net
Sensory-Friendly Halloween: Alternative Activities
Looking for a sensory-friendly alternative to trick-or-treat? Here are a few ideas:
Accommodating Candy Treats
Despite growing awareness for providing non-food treats, many children will still receive candy they can't eat. Here are some fun ideas that will help children give up candy without feeling like they're missing out:
Prepare Your Child for Halloween
One of the best ways families can help fight Halloween anxiety is by preparing in advance: