ARTICLES, HEALTHY LIVING & WELL BEING. EATING DISORDERS
Making Halloween Fun for Everyone
Halloween is just around the corner! Spooky things are showing up in stores, candy is filling up the aisles, and many people are already beginning preparations.
For many people – adults and children alike – Halloween represents so much fun. However, for children with disabilities, anxiety, or food allergies, it poses some unique problems.
For children with food allergies, they will struggle with all the treats they receive that they cannot enjoy. Children with sensory, social, or communication challenges will struggle to say “trick or treat” or “thank you”. Many other children will struggle to find a costume that works with their wheelchair or mobility device.
This may seem daunting – especially if these are issues you don’t normally have to think about on a daily basis. However, here are a few simple tips to make sure that everyone can enjoy the festivities!
For kids with sensory processing issues
Sensory processing issues affect many children of all ages. These issues affect their ability to process the information their senses pick up. This can look like a child becoming easily overwhelmed by what may seem like a normal amount of stimulus.
Here are a few ways you can make your home a little friendlier for kids with sensory processing issues this Halloween:
- Don’t use decorations like fog machines, strobe lights, things that jump out at you or have sound effects. These can trigger kids with sensory aversions to light, sound, or smell.
- Realize that some kids with sensory issues may have difficulty wearing costumes, so be accepting of the costume choices they make.
- Be gracious with kids experiencing a sensory overload. Halloween can be overwhelming for any child, but a kid with sensory processing issues may not know that they have reached their limit – until they are already melting down.
For kids with anxiety
Many of us look forward to the spine-chilling, spooky holiday that is Halloween. However, for kids with anxiety its an entirely different story. Anxiety affects as many as 1 in 8 kids, and it can affect them so strongly that they are afraid to participate in Halloween festivities. To help make sure Halloween is a good time for everyone, focus on making your home more fun than fearful.
- Save the scary decorations (especially ones that jump out at you) for adult parties.
- Make sure your home is well lit – specifically the area where you hand out treats. Not only will this ease the fears of children with anxiety, but it will also help vision-impaired kids as well.
- Keep your pets away. This not only helps protect your pet, but it also helps children with animal induced anxiety.
- Don’t wear a mask or scary costume when handing out treats.
- Don’t try to scare the kids that come to your house.
- Try to be sensitive, and let kids know that it’s OK to be afraid.
For kids with allergies
Every kid should be able to experience the joy of trick or treating, but for kids with food allergies ‘trick or treating’ can be more disappointing than exciting. This isn’t just about kids with peanut allergies. Severe food allergies, diabetes, and swallowing issues put most candies off limits for these kids.
However, there is a simple fix. Consider offering non-food items to those trick or treaters. Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE) had put together a movement to raise awareness and let kids with allergies know which houses are safe. It’s called the “teal pumpkin project”
To participate in the teal pumpkin project:
- Put a teal coloured pumpkin on your doorstep.
- Offer non-food treats to trick or treaters.
- And spread the word!
You can learn more about this initiative on the FARE’s website.
For kids with other disabilities
These are just a few specific issues that many children are dealing with. However, it would be impossible to touch on every issue — so here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Be sensitive to children who do not respond with expected social feedback.
- Don’t push for verbal responses, as some children may be non-verbal.
- Be patient and willing to describe what you’re handing out to children with blindness or low vision.
- Make sure the place that you hand out treats is well-lit and easy to access. If your home is not, consider handing out treats in another location (like a community space).
For minimal effort, you can make all the difference this Halloween. What other ways can we work to make sure that everyone feels safe and has fun during the Halloween festivities?
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