This year, like countless other times, millions of children in the United States will dress down in their favorite super hero, monster, princess or other costume and head out to beg for candy while their parents wait at the foot of the door waiting for them to get their treat. Like many families that celebrate Halloween, ours too, will be decorating our home for the special holiday and preparing cob webs, spiders and carved pumpkins on our porch. We may even break out a few skeletons while we are at it and if the kids are really good and catch me at the right moment, they might get some extra goodies this month. Unfortunately, for families with children who have special needs, Halloween can be a never ending nightmare. Thankfully there are ways that a child with special needs can have a safe and happy holiday while still enjoying the festivities.
Learning how to Trick or Treat
Children with Autism and Down syndrome may need some extra help learning to trick or treat because understanding the concept of it can be very difficult for children with these types of developmental disabilities. In part because of the cognitive development aspect and also because children who have Autism and Down syndrome see the world differently than those without these disorders. It can be helpful to break down the steps of trick or treating using visual aids or other picture diagrams as well as social stories that explain the steps involved and the words to say to receive candy.
Special Dietary Needs
Children who have special needs often have dietary restrictions that make trick or treating difficult. If you are taking your child trick or treating you can place a label on your child’s costume that states the restrictions. An example would be “Warning: Peanut Allergy” and if your child is verbal you can have him say right after the words trick or treat “no peanuts please” as an extra precautionary. It is also a good idea to create a social story for your child that explains the ritual of parents checking candy before it is eaten. If all else fails mom or dad can carry the candy bag
Fear and Anxiety
It is sometimes difficult for children who have special needs to distinguish reality from fantasy. Your child may not understand that the scary monster she just saw at uncle Henry’s house is actually him dressed up. If there is a possibility that your child could become frightened during his trick or treat adventures you can always walk the path ahead of time without him to ensure there is no scary houses on his or her treat path. If there are some houses that need to be skipped but are still on the treat path, a visual aid could come in handy to explain to your child that those houses are not on the schedule. If you have opted out of trick or treating the neighborhood you can always provide other accommodations for your child such as the mall , a friends house or a visit to grandmas for treats. There are also early trick or treat events at parks, fire houses and even the police station.
For children who are in wheelchairs it can be hard for parents to think about costuming them, but there are many places online to find costume ideas for children in wheelchairs. One of my favorite sites I recommend to parents is parents.com . I also like mychildwithoutlimits for costume tips and other Halloween even ideas. Besides costuming children in wheelchairs there is also the sensory needs to consider; certain texture or the feel of a costume may seem perfectly fine to mom but to a child who has a sensory disorder the fabric can be torturous. For children with these needs you can decorate the clothing that they are used to wearing. Have the child help with this task because they will know best what is comfortable to them.
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