Seven Tips for An Accessible and Happy Halloween

Photo of child in wheelchair dressed as a knight

It’s the rare child who doesn’t look forward to celebrating Halloween. Children with disabilities are no exception. Depending on the issues presented by your child’s disability you may need to come up with some creative ideas to make the most of the holiday. We’ve surfed the web to find the best advice for making your Halloween fun and accessible.

1. Be creative!

Now six years old, Elena Walke, daughter of Easter Seal’s blogger, Bernhard Walke, was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. As a very little girl, Elena was unable to sit up on her own. That didn’t prevent her father and mother from making sure Elena celebrated Halloween in style. Since Elena needed to be held, her parents dressed up as chefs, and carried Elena, who was wearing a bright red lobster costume, around the neighborhood in a giant pot!

2. Incorporate the wheelchair

If your child uses a wheelchair, make it an important part of his costume. Cinderellas can ride door to door in beautifully decorated coaches, and Batmans’ wheelchairs can be transformed into bat-mobiles! For more great ideas on wheelchair decorating, visit Magic a nonprofit started by Ryan and Lana Weimer, parents of five children, three of whom have spinal muscular atrophy.

3. Make the costume comfortable

If your child has sensory integration issues, be sure that the costume she wears doesn’t have tags, seams or a texture that irritates her skin. Likewise, make-up or masks may be too uncomfortable for those who are sensitive. Easter Seals, N.J. recommends using “long popsicle sticks and construction paper to create handheld masks of your favorite characters.” Don’t forget to have your child try on her costume prior to Halloween night. This way, if the costume is uncomfortable, you’ll have time to make any necessary alterations.

4. Make the most of your child’s special interest

Children on the autism spectrum are often hyper-focused on one particular topic. Be it a Disney character, a superhero, or an inanimate object, Halloween is an ideal opportunity to let your child go to town, creating a costume that reflects what he loves. For examples of awesome Halloween costumes that were created to reflect the obsessions of children on the autism spectrum, visit The Mighty.

5. Prepare your child for what she may encounter

Halloween can be scary! If your child is fearful or has trouble adapting to the unexpected, make sure to talk with him about anything that might be upsetting to him and devise a game plan for how you will handle it should an especially ghoulish creature come around the corner. If your child is simply too frightened or over-stimulated by the Halloween action, don’t insist he trick-or-treats. Have a Halloween celebration at home, and if he is willing, let him answer the door for other trick-or-treaters. Then try again next year.

6. Plan for any dietary restrictions

Some children with special needs aren’t able to partake in the treats typically distributed on Halloween. Make sure your child doesn’t feel deprived by having some of her favorite goodies on hand. You may also decide to make an exception to your child’s special diet on Halloween.

7. Get your child’s service dog in on the fun

If your child has a service dog, it can be a wonderful accessory that will make him the envy of other trick-or-treaters. Ramona Taylor, writing for United Cerebral Palsy’s blog, My Child Without Limits makes the following suggestion: “Your child could be a circus performer and their dog can be their very well trained lion.” When dressing up your service dog, take precautions to ensure that the dog isn’t uncomfortable.

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