For most children who live with one disability or another, Halloween is, and can be, as much fun as for anyone else. There is no reason why your child couldn’t participate in the enjoyment of the holiday with just some simple tweaking.
Halloween was always an interesting time in our house. Not so much because the boys liked to dress up and go trick-or-treating, but because the boys did not like any part of it. Halloween is a very social holiday. It’s parties, hijinks and ghost stories galore. For a child who faces challenges with everyday interactions, to understand new rules of a game or holiday for only one night, can be too much. We were in fact that family without costumes and the family who went out during the day, because the night was simply too scary. So on All Hollow’s Eve we stayed home, and learned to be the deliverer of candy rather than the imp who would threaten a trick if you deigned to forgo giving them a treat. Remember—Halloween is not for everyone!
To my younger son goblins and ghouls come out of their hideaways and walk the earth one day a year. He would refuse, and still refuses, to wear a costume. Masks freak him out to this day. No costume for him. (He actually would not join the video game club in college because they would dress up as their favorite character when the club got together. He wouldn’t mind playing the video games, he just didn’t want to be a part of the story that involves dressing up….)
We did Halloween our own way. The following ideas can help your child enjoy this holiday too.
From turning their wheelchairs into batmobiles, to creating allergy friendly treats, and even talking to their local PTA’s to make sure that everyone knows, not every child trick or treating will be wearing a costume, or, in fact, not every participant is of the age that society considers a child either. (For age appropriate trick or treating, check with your local police. There are some cities and towns that are now banning anyone over a certain age from participating.) Parents have been finding interesting ways to include their children in the fun of the holiday and make it a success for everyone.
Practice Halloween. They say practice makes perfect. That’s something you could do with your little goblin ahead of time. From staging a mock trick or treat session, to actually asking a neighbor to help with a trial run, to making sure that your child can tolerate the costume they want to wear. It all comes down to being prepared.
Social stories are a great way to prepare your child for Halloween. Always keep it simple and direct. Explain that people will be wearing costumes, but that they are still the same underneath. Describe for your child the steps they will take and the activities they will engage in during the day, from putting on a costume, to ringing door bells, to saying “trick or treat.” Make it sound like fun and provide them with enough detail so they know what’s in store.
Costumes are a big part of the holiday, but for children with physical challenges this may seem like a daunting part of the ritual. Keep it simple. Take your cues from your child. Most of all, don’t try to ignore the challenges your child lives with. Use it and incorporate it into their costume.
“For children with visual impairments, costumes or accessories that block their eyes don’t necessarily have to be avoided. Our special trick or treaters can be pirates or an English gentleman. Replace masks with face paint and exchange hoods with caps, and hats. For those kids with service dogs, dress their dog as well. Your child could be a circus performer and their dog can be their very well-trained lion.” Here are more costume ideas for those with physical challenges.
Everyone doesn’t have to go trick or treating either. You can have a party at your home with a few of your child’s friends. You can play Halloween-themed party games or make your own treats that are safe for everyone to eat. You can organize a special event or activity that relates to Halloween without celebrating the traditional way.
And in the end, if you are like our family, and Halloween is simply just another day, that is ok too! You are entitled to celebrate every holiday how you please.
Further reading on making Halloween fun and accessible for all:
Elise, an award-winning blogger, writes about the practical aspects of raising autistic children at her blog Raising Asperger’s Kids, http://practicalautism.com. She writes under the pen-name Elise Ronan, to protect her sons’ privacy, and has permission from them to tell their story.
Everything Elise writes about raising autistic children can be applied to any disability, invisible or even physical. There is information about creating your child’s support village, and practical information grouped by age. These direct pages can be found on the sidebar on her blog page. She is open to answering questions about her writings and helping other parents where she can. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elise also writes a book review blog at Journaling on Paper, http://journalingonpaper.com. She reviews different genres from memoirs, to spy thrillers, murder mysteries, space operas, historical fiction, and more. She also explores the use of language, and its effects.