All month long, families have channeled their spooky senses and prepped their homes for Halloween. Decorations, costumes and candy all have to set the right vibe. But parents of children with intellectual or developmental disabilities have additional things to consider when preparing for the holiday, particularly for children whose disabilities aren’t visible.
An estimated one in 59 children in the U.S. is diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder each year, so it’s likely that a child with a disability will be stopping by households that aren’t aware of their condition this Halloween.
To help ensure a successful holiday for children with disabilities, Jeanne Marshall and Melanie Mills of Easterseals Midwest joined Friday’s St. Louis on the Air with guest host Jeremy D. Goodwin. Marshall is the organization’s executive vice president of services and chief program officer. Mills is the director of autism services.
Easterseals Midwest offers suggestions for an autism- and disability-friendly trick-or-treating experience:
- Consider avoiding flashing or excessive lights and loud music when putting up yard or house decorations, as these can be overwhelming to children with disabilities and could even cause seizures.
- Try asking questions children can respond to by pointing or showing the answer, and don’t press them or withhold their candy.
- Make sure everyone, including those with allergies and dietary restrictions, can get a treat by offering toys or trinkets.
- If a child is taking a long time to choose or is rooting through the candy, be patient, as they may want a closer look to ensure they get the candy they want.
- Be aware that some children with disabilities may have less developed motor skills, making it hard to just grab one piece of candy.
- Maturity levels and the interests of individuals with intellectual or developmental disabilities don’t always line up with age, so a teenager or young adult might come to your door.
For parents or guardians of children with disabilities:
- Help familiarize the child with what trick-or-treating may be like by practicing with a neighbor. Rehearse going up to a door, knocking or ringing the doorbell, and asking for candy however the child can.
- Set a trick-or-treating route and walk it in advance.
- Encourage the child to try their costume on before Halloween, in case modifications need to be made for comfort.
- Before trick-or-treating, discuss and set rules on how much candy the child can eat and when.
- Let the child stop or go home when they want to.
- Make sure the child has identifying information on them, such as a tag, glow necklace, card or bracelet in case of accidental separation.
“St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill, Lara Hamdan and Tonina Saputo. The engineer is Aaron Doerr, and production assistance is provided by Charlie McDonald.
Send questions and comments about this story to firstname.lastname@example.org.