How To Create An Inclusive Halloween For Special Needs Kids 

Halloween for special needs kids can be challenging. While it’s an incredibly popular holiday that schools and businesses participate in, children with mental or physical disabilities may feel excluded. They may have trouble finding a costume that fits with a mobility device or have anxiety about approaching neighbors for candy. But with a little extra holiday planning, you can help create a Halloween for everyone to enjoy.

Finding the Right Costume

Special needs halloween costumeThe first step towards feeling included is to participate, which means your child will need an adaptive Halloween costume. That’s where Target comes in with their recently released line of adaptive Halloween costumes for kids with special needs.

Among their options, there are costumes that are fit for children in wheelchairs by turning them into princesses in their royal carriage or pirates in ships on the open seas. Surrender your candy, matey.

Sometimes a heavy mask or uncomfortable fabric can trigger sensory issues. That’s why there is a line of soft plush costumes to comfortably fit your child. They don’t have tags to avoid scratching the skin and there are high rise leggings to fit over and conceal incontinence supplies if needed. The costumes are also easy to get in and out of for quick changes!

Consider Allergens In Halloween Candy

Because 1 in 13 kids have food allergens, trick or treating can quickly become a warzone as parents try to avoid candy containing tree nuts, wheat, soy, peanuts, and more. Parents would definitely prefer their kids avoid a Halloween emergency room visit and teal pumpkins can help with that.

The teal pumpkin project helps kids with allergies, diabetes, or swallowing disorders participate in trick or treating by signaling that certain houses are giving out non-food treats, like glow sticks or small toys.

All you have to do to participate is buy a teal pumpkin or paint one to let families know you’re offering items besides candy to help all children safely participate in trick or treating.

A few popular non-food items include:
  • Pencils
  • Glow sticks
  • Notebooks
  • Spider rings
  • Stickers

Prepare Your Child For Sensory Issues

While Halloween is supposed to be spooky and fun, one loud scare, an item that flashes, or a scary costume could turn innocent laughter into screaming, crying, and tantrums. Special needs children with Autism and other conditions may be uncomfortable with unpredicted changes to their environment, so take the days leading up to Halloween to prepare them.

Give your child the control they need by showing them how to turn off mechanical devices that light up, make noise, or move. Allow them to see that taking out the batteries or unplugging them renders these items motionless and quiet. It can also be helpful to allow your child to pull or bend plastic decorations, or even to build their own monsters such as ghosts or witches.

Special needs child crafts Halloween art

Get your child accustomed to scary images by allowing them to color on photos of ghosts or monsters. Discuss scary characters such as vampires and create your own funny monsters together like a bat cat or witch bunny.

It also helps to get your child used to different situations. Set your house up like a haunted house and let them pop out at you. Let them know you’ve hidden something in their drawer or the fridge to find, with everyday objects such as a sock or potato.

If your child wants to be a certain character but finds parts of the costume to be too scary, there are lots of alternatives. For example, paint their face instead of wearing a mask or allow them to carry a hat or helmet. They can also wear a T-shirt with the character on it or carry accessories.

How To Trick Or Treat

Anxiety can make going trick or treating difficult, especially when your child easily becomes overwhelmed. Keep an eye on their body language to be able to tell when they’re starting to feel uncomfortable.

Also, be sure to: 
  • Avoid homes with lots of decorations that light up or make noise. Special needs children trick or treating
  • Avoid trick or treating in dark areas.
  • Choose well-lit areas to approach or go to community family events like a trunk or treat.
  • Don’t hand out candy in a scary costume.
  • Make sure your child with incontinence wears an extra absorbent pull up and stays hydrated. Frequently ask if they need to use the restroom and keep candy at a minimum until they get home to avoid placing extra pressure on the bladder.
  • Do not force children to say “trick-or-treat” or “thank you”. This could cause anxiety for nonverbal children.
  • When addressing children make sure they can see your eyes and mouth to assist with children that struggle with speech or hearing issues.

Communicate With Your Child

Reach out to your child to discuss Halloween and encourage them to use words related to the holiday such as spooky or scary so they will tell you how they feel. Let them know that they can confide in you if something is too frightening or if they’ve had an incontinence episode.

Ask them what they want to do. If they’re too nervous to trick or treat you can have a candy scavenger hunt in your own home. Every child is different. Only you can prepare for the unique symptoms and challenges your child faces. Don’t force the holiday on them or be frustrated when an activity becomes overwhelming or they need to go home.

Encourage them to participate as much as they want to and adapt to their sensory issues to allow them to feel treated, not tricked, by Halloween.