Halloween can be a difficult time of year for children with disabilities. Costumes may be uncomfortable for kids with sensory issues, and keeping your child in a coat for an outdoor event may be a struggle. Parents must carefully monitor kids who have allergies or food intolerance. And, television may show frightening commercials or over-the-top Halloween specials. Many parents opt to keep their kids home on Halloween night, but I wanted to share some ideas that have allowed my children to enjoy Halloween and stay safe while doing so!
Every year, costumes are a challenge for our family, because my daughter is extremely fussy about clothing and has been known to pull off her jacket and shirt while trick-or-treating, even on cold days. When considering a costume for your child:
Follow your child’s lead. What character or activity does he or she love? The last few years, Zoe has been putting on certain dress-up items: pirate outfits and a silky dress. This year, we purchased a costume for her that combined both.
Build a costume out of clothes. If it’s something he or she is already comfortable wearing, work it into a costume. Last year, my daughter Zoe adored Tinkerbell. So, we let her wear her own light-colored clothing, a soft, green tutu we bought for $5 and fairy light-up wings that she loved.
Build a costume that fits his or her sensory issues. Silky dresses, like the witch costume my daughter wore and loved in 2010, work wonderfully for Zoe.
Dress in layers. Use shirts and leggings in neutral or matching colors that you can layer under the costume to keep your child warm. Then, depending on the weather, you may be able to forgo a jacket.
Practice with the costume. Start by getting your child to touch it and then briefly have him or her try it on. Next, work up to wearing it a few minutes at a time. On the big day, let him or her wear it until tired. Then, she or he can change into a preferred outfit.
This year, “Toy Story of Terror” debuted. One of my children loved it, while the other ran screaming from the room, because there were too many dark, high-stress scenes. Record the Halloween program and watch it yourself to prescreen it before exposing your child to it to help avoid a stressful situation. Also, keep in mind that certain channels will be running Halloween horror promos all day long. So, my best advice is to turn the TV off when the kids are around. Alternatively, PBS shows may be a nice Halloween option to explore for your family.
3. Food, candy and parties
Rather than opting out of all these events, take steps to ensure your child’s safety, while having fun. Let your child trick-or-treat briefly, if he or she wants to go. Have replacement candy, such as gluten-free or nut-free items, ready at home. Or, let your child trade the candy for a toy or book.
You can also throw your own party! You can manage all the decorations, lighting and food choices or work with a friend to make sure you have the best choices available for your child. Enlist your friends to help you keep an eye on food selections. If your child has a life-threatening allergy, ask your friend not to offer food with those ingredients. Remember to give your child a big, healthy, filling meal before attending the party and bring your own treats. Do your best to make the snacks fun and visually appealing. For all outside events, remember to keep any emergency health items you may need on hand, such as EpiPens, activated charcoal or enzymes, in case there is an accident.
Halloween can be a scary time for kids, but these precautions go a long way to creating a fun holiday for children of all abilities!