Halloween is one of the most universally celebrated holidays in the United States today. Each year, children pour over costume ideas, dream about the treats they'll collect and enjoy fun, fall-themed activities at school. But Halloween isn't easy for every child.
This how-to guide guide offers tips and additional information to help families and the surrounding communities create more inclusive Halloween celebrations.
Be Aware of Sensory Concerns
Remove Obstacles for Other Disabilities
14 percent of all children attending public school receive special education services for a disability. Remove obstacles to ensure that children have equal access to Halloween activities.
Eliminate Food Allergy/Feeding Challenges
1 in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies and many more experience other issues with food. Consider non-food alternatives to traditional Halloween candy.
Sensory issues affect, on average, 1 in 6 children in the United States today. Children who struggle with sensory issues have trouble processing information received through the senses. For example, a child with a sensory aversion to loud sounds may cover his ears and hide in a noisy gymnasium.
You can make Halloween more sensory friendly in your community with the following tips:
Alternative Halloween Activities for Families
Looking for a sensory-friendly alternative to trick-or-treat? Here are a few ideas:
1 in 13 children are diagnosed with food allergies and many more experience issues with food, including diabetes, swallowing issues and oral motor challenges. Traditional candy treats can cause some unintended Halloween struggles for these children, but there's an easy fix: consider offering non-food treats as an alternative to traditional Halloween candy. Whether you choose to participate in FARE's Teal Pumpkin Project or just keep a few non-food treats on the side for a child who needs them, you can make a difference in a struggling child's Halloween night.
For more information on The Teal Pumpkin Project, including non-food treat ideas, click here.
Ideas for Families to Accommodate Candy Treats
Despite growing awareness for providing non-food treats, many children will still receive candy they can't eat. Here are some fun ideas that will help children give up candy without feeling like they're missing out:
Research shows that anxiety disorders, resulting in frequent and persistent symptoms that impact all areas of life, affect as many as 1 in 8 children in the United States. While many of us look forward to the spooky fun traditionally involved in celebrating Halloween, children with anxiety disorders may be so overcome by fears that they are unable to participate. To help include all children in Halloween activities, focus on an evening that is fun - not fearful:
Ideas for Families to Help Prepare Your Child for Halloween
One of the best ways families can help fight Halloween anxiety is by preparing in advance:
Halloween is a time when children can imagine themselves to be anyone - including someone with a different gender than their own. This is called gender expression. According to experts, gender expression through a Halloween costume that carries traits of the opposite sex does not necessarily mean that a child has a different gender identity or that he or she has a different sexual preference.
Because a percentage of children do experience gender dysphoria (a disorder in which an adolescent identifies with a gender other than the sex assigned at birth) in adolescence, it can be helpful to affirm gender-creative costumes. Community members can do this by acknowledging positive aspects of the costume. For example:
This video co-sponsored by Colors+ Youth Center
Ideas for Families of Children who Choose Gender-Creative Costumes
Families can support their children's costume choices by:
This guide has touched on how to make Halloween more inclusive for several specific issues. The final section includes some additional tips to help make Halloween a holiday that all children can enjoy: