by Kathy Kuhl
Halloween is this week. Whether your child goes trick or treating or you skip it, you’ll have opportunities this fall for your child to wear a costume and be offered sweet treats. How do we help our kids with learning challenges and special needs have a more satisfying, less stressful, and safer time? These three steps will help you:
- Your child needs a safe costume, especially if they’ll be out walking in the dark. Choose or make a costume that is easy to see and easy look out of. Some masks can nearly blind your child, make up won’t block their view.Long trains and caps look cool, but can trip up a child, especially one going up steps and down unfamiliar walks.For kids with sensory processing issues, try the costume on ahead of time. Watch for tags, irritating masks and collars, the smell of any makeup or costume, and other distractions.Feel free to ignore the usual superhero-vampire-Disney princess route and choose something more unusual: a favorite character in a book or in history, or a household item. When she was about ten, my daughter assembled her own costume for Lucy from the Narnia stories: blouse, skirt, cape, and tiny bottle on a necklace (Lucy’s lifesaving cordial).If your child is in a wheelchair, many websites can inspire you. One popular approach is putting a box over the chair, shaped and painted to resemble a vehicle: a race car, ship, even a glass carriage. The child wears a matching costume: race car driver, pirate, princess. Another popular approach is to make a tabletop around the child and turn the wheelchair into a kitchen, garden, TV news studio, with the child in a matching costume. For more ideas, just go to Pinterest and search for “child wheelchair costume,” and check your local ARC website.Speaking of boxes, any child can decorate a wear a box and become a TV, a calculator, a box of candy, or… well, think outside, or inside, the box, and see what you come up with.
- Next, prepare the child for the journey. (It does feel like a journey and familiar streets and homes look different in the dark.) Practice trick-or-treating manners: don’t grab a fistful, don’t shove, greet neighbors you know, (I have special treats for the kids I know!), say thank you, make eye contact. What to say if offered candy you don’t like or cannot eat.Some kids need to rehearse, so let them ring their own doorbell and practice on you.
Talk about what you’ll do afterwards, how you need to check candy before they eat it. Talk about how much they’ll get to eat that night.Send them with a flashlight. Take one for yourself, too. It’s not just kids who trip and fall Halloween night.
- Or just skip it! There are plenty of alternatives for families who choose to skip trick or treat. You may object on religious convictions, or maybe you just dislike the emphasis on scariness, or the commercialism. Perhaps it’s just too much hassle your kids’ dietary restrictions. In any case you can:
- host a party—a harvest party, a fall costume party, or even a Reformation Day party.
- spend day making healthy yummy treats. Here we love to roast pumpkins seeds. Saute them briefly first in a little oil.
- Older kids can carve pumpkins.
- For dinner, I like to serve jack-o-lantern cheeseburgers. Just cut a face out of your slice of cheese before you put in on your burger. Make it a healthy meal, because It’s an easy night to require vegetables. (“No Halloween candy later unless you eat two more carrot sticks!”)
What are your favorite tips for making Halloween easier for your child with challenges? Please post in the comments below.