Halloween Tips for You and Your Child with Disabilities and Developmental Needs

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Trick-or-treating when you have a child with a disability can be, well, tricky. Here are some ideas to help your family enjoy a spooktacular event.

Halloween is a great way to get out in the community and meet your neighbours. And while a holiday that involves dressing up and getting candy is a dream come true for many children, it is not quite so simple for children with sensory issues, physical challenges, restricted diets or other disabilities and developmental needs.

Get excited and plan together as a family, letting the kids lead the way. Here are some ideas to help make your Halloween safe and fun for kids of all abilities.

Involve your child:

  • Map out a route together and consider a practice run.
  • Use a social story or video of children trick-or-treating to help your child know what to expect. Schedule a practice run of trick-or-treating and be honest about some of the challenges they might face.
  • Buy or bring a flashlight. Flashlights can go a long way in making children feel comfortable in the dark.
  • If your child has mobility needs that make walking or stairs a challenge, consider a backup plan on how they can participate. This could include Halloween with a buddy who can help them participate, looking for homes that are more accessible or asking neighbours to bring treats to your child on the driveway instead!
Talk to Neighbours:
  • If you have a friendly relationship with your neighbours and your child is open to sharing their concerns or needs, consider a pre-Halloween visit to practice steps and saying Trick or Treat or using their augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device. You may also want to ask many of them to hand out candy on the driveway, if mobility is a challenge for your child.
Be Flexible:
  • Even with all the preparation and discussions, Halloween may not go as planned. Be prepared to shift plans as needed and adjust expectations.
  • Some kids may change their minds at the last minute and that's ok! They may want to stay home and hand out candy at the door or watch some silly Halloween videos instead!
  • Remember that your child might get tired easily, be frightened or overstimulated. Be prepared to respond as needed and even cut the night short.
  • Costumes can be a challenge for any child. Heavy make-up or itchy tags might be tough for a kid with sensory issues. Try putting a layer of extra clothing (e.g., t-shirt, tank top, etc.) or have your child practice wearing their costume before the big day.
  • Some kids don't want to wear a costume at all...no worries! They can still go out and have fun.
  • For kids who use mobilty devices, there are some fantastic adapted costume ideas on this Pinterest board.
Be Inclusive:
  • Be sure to make your home and Halloween giveaways as inclusive as possible. Mini PlayDoh canisters or bubbles make great giveaways, especially for kids who have restricted diets. For a list of non-edible treats, click here.
  • If your child is not interested in going out trick-or-treating, ask them what they'd like to do instead. It may or may not involve the Halloween theme at all! Some ideas may be hosting a small Halloween party, movie night with or without costumes, creating some crafts, or just watching these great CTN Halloween videos of songs, activities and more!
If you don't know your neighbours or this is new to your family, you and your child may be nervous or want to skip the activities altogether (that's okay too!), keep in mind that members of the community are expected to be understanding and accepting of everyone.

Have a safe and happy Halloween!