We’re nearing the end of October, and if you’re like me, you’re excited for the candy, the costumes, the spooky decorations, and seeing everyone enjoy the festivities on the 31st! This year I want to give a few suggestions for how you can make Halloween accessible, inclusive, and fun for everyone, especially those with special needs. Whether you find these tips helpful for those close to you or for all the trick-or-treaters coming to your doorstep this month, I hope you’re able to find a few that you can practice to make this Halloween even more magical and memorable!
Wheelchair users or those with other physical disabilities or sensory needs may need adapted costumes. Thankfully, many of these are now available from sites like Target, Disney, and Amazon. If you can’t find what you want online, you can always DIY and make it a special project for the family to work on together.
For many reasons, kids and adults may not speak or say “trick-or-treat” when they come to your door. Simply giving out treats and wishing them well or giving them a compliment will go a long way to make them feel seen and comfortable. For those supporting loved ones, you might make or print signs or cards with “trick-or-treat” or other traditional phrases to express the Halloween spirit instead!
Whether they have a big a sweet tooth that will have parents running wild around the house or have dietary restrictions, allergies, or other needs, some trick-or-treaters may love to have something besides candy dropped in their buckets. Having a stock of small toys, prizes, stickers, or other fun Halloween trinkets can ensure everyone leaves with a treat when candy isn’t an option. The Food Allergy Research and Education organization (FARE) suggests that homes mark themselves as those having non-food treats by putting out Teal Pumpkins. If you’d like to signify your home as a place with alternative treats, this can be a great way to make it clear, and you can support their Teal Pumpkin Project this Halloween!
Always show kindness and allow everyone to enjoy Halloween to the fullest, without judgement. Saying things like “Aren’t you a little old to be trick-or-treating?”, “What are you supposed to be, anyway?”, and “Where’s your costume?” can be especially discouraging to those we may not know have disabilities or special needs, who have already likely had to work up a lot of courage to come out and enjoy the traditions we love. Instead, we can all be encouraging and allow people to participate or not participate in Halloween however makes them most comfortable.
Who said you have to go house to house trick-or-treating to enjoy Halloween? Kids and adults with or without special needs can enjoy Halloween in other ways like having a family game or movie night, going to a smaller trunk-or-treat, or focusing on other activities like pumpkin carving or giving out treats to others. Presenting different ideas to your loved ones can also give them control and help make Halloween special. You can stick with old traditions or start your own new ones!
One of the best parts of Halloween is putting up creepy decorations, painting pumpkins, and maybe getting a little scared, but we want to make sure that our homes are still places that everyone wants to visit. There’s a time and place for scarier decorations, but for the most part you should work to make your home one that invites people and intrigues them but doesn’t overwhelm those with sensory needs or those who might be a bit sensitive to frights. For parents, it may be helpful to walk through your neighborhood and see decorations during the day to make Halloween night feel a bit more comfortable for those with special needs or sensory sensitivities.
Especially if your home has stairs leading up to the front door, you may consider setting up a place to give out candy by the road or sidewalk, especially if you’re in a high foot traffic area. You could also just keep an eye out for those who may need you to meet them at the sidewalk. Place accessibility signs in your yard to let those with disabilities know that your house is ready for them. RE/MAX and some other sites have signs for purchase, or you can print out your own.
These are just a few ways you can add to the Halloween magic and make it a holiday that’s just a bit more inclusive for everyone. What are some other ways you’re planning to make this Halloween an inclusive one?