Halloween with a Disability
Halloween. For some, the mere mention of this spooky holiday draws on fond memories of creative costumes, buckets spilling over with candy, and friends running door to door shouting, "trick or treat!" with contagious enthusiasm. But for others, Halloween is an intimidating night of fright... but not necessarily for the reasons you may expect.
For individuals with a disability, Halloween can be an overwhelming event that requires exhaustive preparation. It's estimated that one in 59 children in the US is diagnosed with autism each year, suggesting there is a high probability of encountering an afflicted individual during Halloween festivities. In an effort to raise awareness and keep Halloween an inclusive holiday for all to participate in and enjoy, HRC has some tips for those looking to create a welcome environment for individuals with disabilities.
Understand some trick-or-treaters may be non-verbal. If an individual doesn't say "trick or treat!" or "thank you!", please don't take it personally. They may simply be incapable of communicating verbally.
Welcome "older" trick-or-treaters without comment. Don't assume that individuals who appear to be older are trying to take advantage of the holiday -- they may experience a development delay.
Keep costumes optional. Those who experience a sensory processing disorder may find costumes oppressive or intolerable.
Your "take one" rule may be broken... and that's okay. Understand that some individuals with disabilities can have developmentally delayed motor skills, making it difficult for them to grab just one piece of candy.
Don't rush. Individuals taking several minutes to dig through the candy bowl may have specific dietary restrictions and could be trying to find a candy they can enjoy.
Try to avoid flashing lights or excessively loud music in your decorations. The elements of decor can be extremely disconcerting for individuals with disabilities and can even cause seizures in severe cases.
Lastly... be kind and patient. The truth is, you never know what sort of predispositions or limitations an individual may be experiencing. As simple as it may sound, committing to a kind and patient attitude during festivities can help ensure everyone has a pleasant and memorable Halloween night.