Halloween is celebrated by millions of families and children each year who’ve spent hours crafting the spookiest costumes, planning the best trick-or-treating routes and scheming the scariest pranks. However, the holiday can be even scarier for some children and young adults with disabilities. Unexpected noises, lights and lots of people can disrupt their senses and make them feel out of place.
Here are the dos and don’ts to follow when creating an inclusive Halloween.
Sensory-Friendly and Inclusive Halloween Tips
Sensory issues, or trouble processing information through the five senses, affect 1 in 6 children in the United States. It’s normal to see a child cover their ears or eyes when they experience loud sounds or lots of lights. These normal reactions can make it difficult to see when a child is struggling with sensory issues instead of acting child-like.
You can make your community or your child’s Halloween celebration sensory friendly with these steps:
- Keep a watchful eye for children who may be experiencing sensory overload. Signs can be difficulty focusing, extreme irritability, restlessness, unusual stress or fear of surroundings.
- Be respectful of the child’s choice of costume. Some fabrics, masks or face-coverings, or even the weight of a costume can make a disabled child with sensory issues feel uncomfortable.
- Attend less stressful events like “trunk-or-treats”, or trick-or-treat at the mall or local downtown shops. These events are typically held in open spaces with lots of natural light during the day or early evening, are sparingly decorated and are usually quiet.
- Describe treats you are handing out to visually impaired children and let them accept them at their own pace.
- Force children to say “trick-or-treat” or “thank you”. Children with disabilities often struggle interacting with strangers. Be open-minded and accepting when they don’t give expected social feedback.
- Place candy bowls in dark or hidden areas with lots of creepy decorations. Inviting spaces will help calm children and show them they are safe at all times. Try the driveway or front lawn instead of the entryway.
- Surprise children with disabilities without preparing them first. Make a plan and let them know there is a surprise waiting without spoiling the secret.
Halloween is an incredible holiday because there are endless possibilities and ways to celebrate. It’s a day when kids can be magical, empowered and rewarded for their adventures. For children with disabilities and sensory aversion issues, it takes courage to participate in celebrations; being open-minded and offering inclusive spaces and activities can make the holiday that much better for every child.