How to Create and Safe and Inclusive Halloween

By: Mollie Shauger | Wednesday, October 23, 2019 | Child Care

Children trick-or-treating. Credit: Rawpixel

You may have heard of the Teal Pumpkin Project, which signifies that a house is giving out allergy-friendly treats for Halloween. Now there’s a similar trend that is making the holiday more friendly for children on the autism spectrum.

If a trick-or-treater is collecting treats in a blue pumpkin bucket, it could be a subtle way to alert others that the person is autistic or has specific needs. A child who is carrying this bucket may not want to say “trick-or-treat,” struggle to make eye contact, or not tolerate a costume or mask. The trend gained momentum since last Halloween, when a mom posted on social media that her autistic son would be carrying a blue pumpkin.

Halloween can be a fun holiday for kids and adults alike, but for those on the autism spectrum, or with other diverse abilities, activities like trick-or-treating can present a range of challenges.

Here are some ways to make your home on Halloween more accessible for all celebrants.

Limit sensory triggers

On average, 1 in 6 children in the U.S., struggle with processing information received through their senses. Sensory issues associated with autism can involve both hyper-sensitivities (over-responsiveness) and hypo-sensitivities (under-responsiveness) to a wide range of stimuli. Try to avoid bright lights, loud noises, and startle scares, and devices like strobe lights or fog machines. A child who has sensory issues may not be wearing a costume; be accepting of their choices.

Remove obstacles

If you have stairs leading to your house, walk down them when offering treats, or put a bucket of treats at the bottom of the steps. Create a clear path to your door. It might be fun to create scary obstacles, but it makes trick-or-treating difficult for those with physical disabilities. If your house or apartment building isn’t accessible or well-lit, move to a more accessible area to hand out candy. 

Give out non-food treats

One in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies and many more experience issues with food, including diabetes, swallowing issues and oral motor challenges. Have alternative treats to candy ready, such as stickers, small toys, or pencils. Put out a sign or blue or teal pumpkin to show that your home is accessible for all trick or treaters.

Be observant 

Children with disabilities such as autism, ADHD, Down Syndrome or anxiety are at a higher risk of wandering from their parents or caregivers. To help them return safely to their caregivers, stop to see if they need help first, then ask police for assistance, and stay with the child until police arrive. For more information, visit Connecting for Kids resources online.

Be accommodating 

If a child is blind, take the time to describe the type of candy to make sure that they get to choose the type they want. If a child has a hearing impairment, face them so they see your mouth when you are talking, even if they have an interpreter present. If a child or family member is walking with a service dog, do not try to pet or distract the dog, and try to keep your pets in the house and away from the door when trick-or-treaters arrive. 

Celebrate Halloween with the YMCA! Check with your local branch or child care center to learn about events planned for the holiday.


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