Most parents with special needs children agree that holidays can pose unique challenges, and Halloween is certainly no exception. There are many parts of the day that can be difficult for children with special needs to enjoy. However, with a little planning and preparation, parents can find unique and creative ways to keep Halloween from getting too scary!
There are a dizzying array of costumes available, but parents of children with special needs should keep a few things in mind when helping their child pick their Halloween apparel. If your child has physical needs or uses assistive devices, make sure they can get around comfortably with their costume on. Capes or long robes may be easy to trip over, or masks might make it too difficult to see. While many Halloween costumes are dark in color, it may be a safer choice to choose a brighter, more visible costume. Adding reflective tape can also make trick-or-treaters more visible to motorists. Making sure the costume is warm enough for a late October night can also help ensure a positive experience.
Many parents of children with special needs find that holidays are more enjoyable if they consider what traditions their child would enjoy and skip the rest. A child with sensory issues might find it just too difficult to enjoy trick-or-treating to houses with loud noises, flashing lights, and sudden surprises. Parents can instead reinvent the holiday to feature traditions that their child can truly enjoy. Some choose to host a small party at their house where guests wear costumes, play simple games, and feast on allergy-friendly treats. Another option is to attend daytime events or parties at a local library or community center.
Special needs children often benefit from understanding what’s coming next and practicing what’s expected of them. For instance, having the child wear the costume the week before can help them get used the new experience. If trick-or-treating is on the schedule, parents can walk with their children around the neighborhood reminding them of safety rules such as staying on the sidewalk or only crossing the street with an adult. Children might even benefit from practicing the trick-or-treating script with a friendly neighbor before the big day. Preparing in this little ways may make a big difference in a child’s ability to participate.