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How to Plan a Stress-Free Halloween for Children with Special Needs?

It is that magical time of the year when you get to see the unlikely sight of Harry Potter hanging out with the Avengers and ghouls, all in the spirit of Halloween. What can be more fun for kids than getting free candy and toys for dressing up as their favourite characters? But for children with special needs, Halloween can be a stressful time. 

There has been increasing autism acceptance, and awareness about other disabilities in our society. So, with a little planning, you can make sure that your child too can join in on the fun this Halloween. 

Here are a few ideas to make sure that Halloween is an enjoyable experience for children with special needs and their parents-

Adaptive Costumes

Adaptive Halloween Costumes
Adaptive Costumes launched by U.S retailer Target

Choosing a Halloween costume can be tricky for children with special needs. Regular costumes might not be wheelchair friendly and few children can also have sensitivity to certain fabrics. So, parents usually go for DIY (Do-It-Yourself) costumes to accommodate the child’s individual needs. But in recent times, we see that retailers are waking up to the idea of inclusivity. 

There are a lot more adaptive costumes available on the market now. These costumes are tagless and have flat seams. Some costumes include wheel chair covers that match the theme of the costume. Adaptive costumes ensure that your child does not have to compromise on style for their convenience. Children with special needs can choose to dress up as a pirate, a Disney princess, or their favourite superhero and show off their costumes just like other children.

Halloween Social Story

Halloween Social Story
Halloween Social Story created on Avaz AAC app

Any change from their set routines can unsettle children with special needs, especially those on the autism spectrum. Creating a Halloween social story is a technique that can prepare them for the big day. 

Here is a sample of a Halloween social story we created for you. Feel free to tweak this story or make up your own to suit your child’s needs. You can make the story as simple or as elaborate as you deem fit for your child. You can also use this folder while taking the child trick-or-treating.

Icons to be Added

  • On Halloween Night
  • Wear Costume
  • Go Trick or Treating
  • Knock on the Door
  • Say Trick or Treat
  • Say Thank You
  • Go to more Houses
  • Come Home and Eat One Treat

Read the story several times before the big night. Read the story along as you go trick or treating. You can carry the AAC device and show the story to your child if the child responds well to visual representations. If carrying the device is not feasible, print the pdf version of the story from your AAC app such as Avaz AAC app and take it with you. 

Halloween Treat Bucket

Blue Halloween Treat Bucket for Stress-Free Halloween
Blue Halloween Treat Bucket

There has been overwhelming support for a parent from the U.S who has recently proposed that children with special needs carry a blue treat bucket to signify that they have disabilities. Although the idea has its fair share of critics, this emphasizes the need for greater awareness about making Halloween more inclusive.

Children with special needs may have different needs  including intellectual, language, or physical ones. When every child is expected say ‘Trick or Treat’ out loud, it can lead to many awkward moments for  children with complex communication needs and their parents. Children who are non-verbal or minimally verbal may find it nerve-wracking when there is a pause and delay before they get the candy. The blue bucket idea is useful because it denotes to those giving out the treats that the child has special support needs. You can also choose to hand out notes with a brief explanation of your child’s disability. 

Notes for Those Handing out Treats

Some might prefer staying home and handing out candy to the trick or treaters. Here are a few things to keep in mind if a child with special needs knocks on your door:

  • Do not focus on the child’s disability. You may have the best intentions, but making it about their disability can make the child feel uncomfortable.
  • Always, always  say something nice about the child’s costume. Halloween costumes are a big deal for every child. Especially for children with special needs, wearing a new costume can be overwhelming. So, make sure to appreciate their effort.
  • Some children with special needs can take longer to speak their words. If you see them using an AAC app, wait patiently while they type. 
  • Some children may be non-verbal and may not be able to say ‘trick or treat’. So, it is better to hand out treats or toys to them without waiting.
  • Do not expect eye contact as children on the autism spectrum might avoid making eye contact.
  • If you have a trick planned to spook the children, please refrain from doing so unless you’re sure that the child at the door will be okay with that.
  • If you have scary music or lighting in your house that seems to trigger anxiety in a child, please put the child at ease by turning them off. 

By following these simple tips, you can make sure that Halloween is a memorable experience for all children. To learn more tips for fun-filled Halloween memories with your children, click here.


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