To help you plan a more inclusive celebration, we’ve compiled some tips and resources to get you started.
Halloween, for many, is a time of costumes, candy, and camaraderie, a beloved “spooky” holiday that brings joy to many, especially children.
The excitement of wearing costumes, getting treats, and simply being a part of fun, fall-themed activities can make it a magical occasion. Yet, for some children, Halloween can be daunting. Sensory concerns, food allergies, anxiety, and other challenges can turn a memorable time into a stressful experience.
Inspired by our commitment to disability inclusion, here’s a comprehensive guide to help families, programs, schools, and communities make Halloween a great and inclusive experience for all children:
1. Understand the Scope of Sensory Concerns
1 in 6 children in the U.S. are facing sensory challenges. This means that they have difficulty processing and responding to information taken in through their senses . For this reason, it’s crucial to create an environment that’s sensory-friendly.
Children with sensory challenges can be easily overwhelmed by certain types of sights, smells, sounds, touch, taste, and movement. During the busy Halloween season especially, it’s important to be aware of the potential dangers and how best to support and be considerate of the needs of all kids:
- Reduce sensory triggers like fog machines, strobe lights, and loud noises.
- Recognize that some children may have issues wearing costumes. Be accepting and accommodating.
- If you notice a child becoming anxious, understand that they might be experiencing sensory overload.
- Educate yourself further through programs like the Connecting for Kids Sensory Awareness Program.
2. Offer Sensory-Friendly Alternatives for Traditional Halloween Activities
While many kids look forward to this holiday for weeks in advance, others may feel anxious or stressed by the prospect of dressing up and trick-or-treating.
Some kids who have sensory sensitivities especially during Halloween, so, consider these alternatives:
- Visit a local pumpkin patch.
- Organize or attend a “trunk-or-treat” or mall trick-or-treating event.
- Opt for a family movie night with special treats.
- Let the child experience the joy of handing out treats from your home.
- Create your own sensory-friendly costumes. Here are some ideas.
- Organize an indoor candy hunt (like an Easter egg hunt but with candy/non-food treats)
3. Make the Celebration Allergy-Friendly
When we think about the kids in our communities, it’s easy to imagine them enjoying all the fun and festivities of Halloween, especially with all the candies, cookies and other delicious treats.
Unfortunately, for a significant number of them, this is far from reality. It’s estimated that 1 in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies, and many more experience other issues with food.
To make trick or treating more inclusive, try these ideas:
- Consider offering non-food treats alongside traditional candy to accommodate children with allergies or sensitivities. The Teal Pumpkin Project promotes this idea; households displaying a teal pumpkin signal to trick-or-treaters that they have allergy-friendly options available to allow a child to choose.
- For families who receive candy their children can’t consume, introduce fun alternatives like non-food or cash trades, such as Operation Gratitude’s candy give back program.
- Try a Halloween book trade at school or at home. Organize with friends and family so that instead of trading or getting candy, kids can get books.
4. Cultivate a Stress-Free Environment for Children with Anxiety
For 1 in 8 children, anxiety disorders are a daily challenge. During Halloween, these challenges can intensify. The season often brings heightened symptoms of anxiety, especially for those with specific phobias. Given the nature of Halloween, where dressing up in costumes and trick-or-treating among strangers at night is the norm, it’s understandable why many children’s anxiety levels spike.
Even the decorations adorning homes can trigger anxiety if they lean too much into the shock value, creepy or macabre. To ensure a more comforting environment, here are some strategies to keep your home and celebrations from exacerbating any child’s anxiety during this festive period:
- Refrain from using overly scary decorations, especially those that activate automatically.
- Illuminate the area where treats are handed out, assisting not just kids with anxiety but also those with vision challenges.
- If you own pets, keep them inside to prevent unintended scares.
- Avoid donning masks or intimidating costumes when distributing treats, and always prioritize kindness and understanding.
5. Removing Obstacles for Children with both Visible and Invisible Disabilities
Roughly 14% of all children attending public schools benefit from special education services due to varying disabilities. While Halloween is synonymous with joy, mystery, and wonder for many kids, it can present unique challenges for those with disabilities. However, with a little thought and effort, we can make sure that every child can join in the festivities and create cherished memories.
Here are some proactive steps you can take to ensure Halloween remains inclusive for all children:
- If you’re decorating your house or yard for trick-or-treaters, ensure that the path to your front door is clear of obstacles. For children using wheelchairs or other mobility aids, even a small step can be a significant barrier.
- Offering well-lit areas can aid those with visual impairments while reducing loud, sudden noises can be considerate for children with auditory sensitivities.
- Remember, not all children can verbally express “trick-or-treat” or gratitude. Be patient and avoid urging verbal feedback.
- For visually impaired children, be ready to describe the treats you’re offering.
- Ensure the treat-giving location is accessible and well-lit. If your home isn’t, consider alternate venues like a driveway or community area.
- When speaking, allow children to see your face and mouth clearly. This aids kids with speech and hearing issues. If possible, learn a few simple Halloween signs.
- Stay observant. Some children might wander away from their safe zones or caregivers.
Make Every Celebration and Every Occasion Truly Inclusive with KIT
As Halloween approaches and we strive to make the festivities welcoming for every child, it’s important to remember that the spirit of disability inclusion shouldn’t be confined to just this holiday.
Truly inclusive communities celebrate and support all of their members year-round, on every occasion. Whether it’s a birthday party, a school field trip, or any other community gathering, the aim should always be to ensure that every individual feels welcomed, valued, understood, and included.
KIT is at the forefront of championing an inclusive spirit on every occasion.
We are more than just an advocate for inclusivity; we are a beacon of support for schools, childcare centers, parents, and many other organizations. With our robust disability inclusion and behavior support training services, we help ensure that educators, caregivers, and parents are well-equipped to create environments where every child can thrive.
Why is this so crucial? Because inclusion isn’t merely about providing access. It’s about reshaping our communities and mindsets to value every individual’s unique contributions. When we build inclusive environments, we’re not just accommodating those with disabilities; we’re actively valuing their presence and unique contributions. We’re saying, “You matter, you belong, and you’re loved.”
For those eager to further this mission, KIT offers a wealth of resources to help. As an authorized provider of the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) CEUs, we offer online courses tailored to support your professional development needs. With the KIT team’s reach extending to over 20,000 learners annually across 220 domestic locations and 49 international ones, our impact is felt far and wide.
When you take advantage of our online courses and resources, you’re not just educating yourself; you’re joining a global community that believes in the power and importance of inclusivity.
Together, let’s make every occasion a testament to what we can achieve when we commit to celebrating and including everyone.