Keep Special Needs in Mind for an Inclusive Halloween

Halloween is haunted, hectic fun — and while some children can’t get enough of spooky season, others have a hard time with this high-energy holiday.

One of our favorite Real Life Ruggish moms, Jessie of @daily_dig, reminded us recently that October is Sensory Processing Awareness Month, a perfect time to think about how kids experience Halloween in unique, individual ways. Her son John is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder as well as sensory processing disorder.

“Sensory processing disorder looks different for everyone,” Jessie wrote in a recent post. “J is a sensory seeker. Loves big bear squeezes, crashing on his Nugget, and zooming as fast as he can!” Other kids may avoid or be upset by sensory experiences like loud noises, bright lights or darkness, or certain textures — all of which tend to be part of the Halloween happenings.

Children with sensory processing disorder aren’t the only trick-or-treaters who encounter challenges on Halloween. Costumes that accommodate adaptive devices have only recently become widely available, nonverbal children can’t shout “trick or treat!,” and it goes without saying that candy can be tricky for kids with food allergies. 

Many special needs aren’t readily apparent to strangers. So how can we help make a happy Halloween for all? Here are a few of our suggestions — and we’d love to hear more from you!

Be allergy-aware.

Common allergens are hiding in many of our favorite Halloween treats, and some of them can be life-threatening. Consider keeping a separate bowl with non-food treats like stickers, glow bracelets, Wikki Stix and punch balloons. A teal pumpkin on your porch will let visitors know you have allergy-safe alternatives! 

Learn about blue pumpkins.

Over the past couple of years, some families of children with autism spectrum disorders have adopted blue pumpkins as a way to raise awareness. If you see a child carrying a blue pumpkin bucket, be aware that this may indicate that they may be nonverbal or sensitive to stimuli. Just because you don’t see any blue pumpkins doesn’t mean you aren’t welcoming trick-or-treaters with autism or sensory processing disorders, though, so keep them in mind as you plan your decorations; flashing lights and surprise scares at the door can be too much for many kids. You might even consider putting out a blue pumpkin of your own to signal that you are a sensory-friendly house! Check out this guide to Halloween for parents from the Autism Society that outlines some of the factors to consider when planning your festivities.

Be kind to trick-or-treaters.

Not everyone who comes to your door will carry a special pumpkin (and they shouldn’t have to!). Be aware that some trick-or-treaters with special needs may not be able to speak, may exhibit unusual behavior, or may look “too old.” They might not even wear a costume — but they still want to join in the fun! Try to remember that it’s an exciting night for everyone, and you can help make it magical by giving out candy without pressing trick-or-treaters or their parents for an explanation.

Follow Jessie on Instagram @daily_dig for sensory play inspiration and resources!

Along with Sensory Processing Awareness Month, October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month. Ruggish is proud to support the National Down Syndrome Society, which advocates for individuals with Down syndrome.

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