Empowering the Special Needs Community
Help Your Child with Special Needs Have Fun & Stay Safe this Halloween
A post by AngelSense, a GPS & voice monitoring solution designed for children with special needs.
Learn more about how AngelSense’s GPS tracking device can help improve your child’s safety and well-being.
There’s no escaping the enchantment of Halloween, when unassuming neighborhoods take on a certain other worldliness. So captivating is this holiday that adults and children alike find themselves spellbound by the uniqueness of the day. And this is something that children with special needs should also get to experience.
While the holiday can be overwhelming for special children with sensory sensitivity and anxiety, there are strategies to help those with special needs cope and enjoy Halloween. With some forethought and little extra planning, Halloween can be a highly enjoyable holiday for a special needs family.
Why is Halloween challenging for special needs children?
Here are a few of the factors which impact how special children experience Halloween:
Tendency to wander: It’s very common for a child with special needs to wander from a place of safety. One study found that more than 40% of special children between the ages of 4 and 10 will attempt to wander off at some point. The challenges posed by a holiday like Halloween may increase the likelihood of elopement.
Sensory sensitivity: The noisy crowds, street lights and array of costumes can be too much for a special needs child to process. As a result, they may withdraw and are likely to express less excitement than other children.
Anxiety: Many special needs children struggle to manage their anxiety levels. The issue tends to be exacerbated during holidays like Halloween when the streets are filled with children in frightening costumes. Some children may have difficulty understanding that they’re simply costumes, and are likely to feel afraid and threatened.
Impulse control: Autism is often characterized by a lack of impulse control. This can be particularly challenging during Halloween when children go trick-or-treating. A child with autism may be tempted to take all the candy being offered, and eat it all in one go.
Food intolerance: It’s not uncommon for a child with special needs to have food allergies. Certain foods, like dairy or sugar, may cause hyperactivity or stomach issues which will make a special child act out. During Halloween it can be particularly challenging to manage a child’s food sensitivities.
What can you do to have a safe and fun holiday?
Ensuring your special child is safe during Halloween will give you peace of mind so you can relax and enjoy the holiday. Here are some practical tips that will make the day manageable and hopefully meltdown-free.
1. Create your own Halloween tradition
Trick-or-treating may not be suitable for your child. For many children with special needs this can be too overwhelming and stressful. A good alternative is to plan your own private party or play date with one of your child’s friends. This way you can control the number of people who attend as well as the type of music played and food served. A small party at home makes it easier to limit sensory overwhelm and will help you keep an eye on your child.
2. Involve friends and family
Wandering is a big concern for many special needs parents during Halloween. You can alleviate some of this stress by only trick-or-treating with a small group of friends or family. It’s also a good idea to find a buddy for your child to walk around the neighborhood with. Be sure to explain to your child that they can’t go anywhere without their buddy. Another option is to invest in a GPS tracking device which will ensure you always know where your child is.
3. Give your child time to adjust to the holiday
Be sure to explain Halloween to your child as thoroughly as possible so they have an idea of what to expect. This will also prepare your child for some of the unusual things they’re likely to encounter on the day. It’s important to prepare your child for trick-or-treating so they understand that they can’t take all the treats and that you won’t be visiting all the houses in the neighborhood. You should also spend some time explaining the difference between what’s real and fantasy as this difference can be confusing for some children.
A good way to prepare your child is with a social narrative which would describe what you’re going to do during Halloween. This helps your child adjust, and can make it easier for them to transition to their everyday routine. Be sure to read and practice this social story several times before the day so your child has time to process and make sense of Halloween in their own way.
You may also like to have a mock Halloween a few days before. In addition to giving a child time to adjust to their costume, you can use this as an opportunity to role-play different scenarios. This could include practicing what your child would say or do if they’re complimented on their costume or are offered a treat they don’t like.
4. Dress for safety
It’s a good idea to give your child a glow-in-the-dark bracelet or necklace so they stand out. This should make it easier for you to spot your child in a crowd. It’s also important to include your child’s name and relevant contact information on your child’s person in case you do get separated. Remember to take a picture of your child before you leave the house.
5. Print out a sign if your child can’t say “Trick or Treat”
While some of your neighbors may already know your child, it’s still a good idea to create cards if your child is non-verbal or just not comfortable saying “Trick or Treat.” There are various free printable cards available online. Here is one example:
6. Find alternatives to unhealthy trick-or-treat snacks
For children with food allergies Halloween can be a tricky holiday. Some parents find that sugar can sometimes be a trigger food for undesirable behavior. The best way to avoid this is to prepare healthy alternatives. The important thing, however, is to make sure your child doesn’t feel left out. You can either give your neighbors healthy snacks beforehand or you can encourage your child to swap some of their unhealthy treats for a more nutritious option when they get home.
7. Pick comfortable and familiar costumes
Finding a suitable costume for a child with special needs can be challenging. Most costumes are bright, bulky and made from uncomfortable polyester material. For a child with sensory issues, these costumes are likely to irritate their skin and can be painful to wear, resulting in meltdowns. The key is find a costume your child feels comfortable in. It’s often best to repurpose clothing your child already has as these fit properly and are familiar. If your child agrees, you may be able to add a small accessory such as cat ears or fairy wings. Just keep in mind that when it comes to Halloween costumes, simple is best.
Halloween becomes more manageable when you know your special child is safe, calm and content. While the holiday may be challenging, it’s also an opportunity for special needs families to make their own traditions and create unique memories.
AngelSense is committed to creating a safer world for special needs children. We designed the AngelSense GPS tracking solution to give parents the peace of mind that their child is safe at all times. Try AngelSense Today.