It may seem as though Halloween might be an easy holiday for kids, but for special needs kids, it can be a maze to be navigated. Many of the safety instructions that kids without special needs just know must be explained carefully to special needs children.
1. Make sure the child knows exactly what he can eat and when. If you choose to check his candy, make sure he is aware of the rules. Don't assume he gets it, repeat instructions!
2. Make sure the child knows how to cross the street, and be sure to dress him in lighter colors and have him wear a glo-stick for easier visibility. Under no circumstances, should he cross without looking or dart out into the road. Stick to crossing at corners, and not from between parked cars.
3. Be sure the child knows proper etiquette for trick-or-treating. Social stories can help. The mystery of ringing the doorbell, saying "trick or treat!" and waiting for candy, then thanking the person actually isn't as easy as it sounds. Make sure the child knows it isn't the time to make small talk. Pokemon might be fascinating to him, but few candy hander-outers will appreciate a blow-by-blow description of the latest game.
4. Make sure the child knows not to make comments about either the house or the person handing out candy. While their home may actually smell like cats, or onions or tuna, it is impolite to call attention to it.
5. Instruct the child not to tell anyone where he lives, or personal information. He can tell his name, and carry your cell phone number in his pocket, in case of separation.
6. Only go to houses in your immediate neighborhood, and ones that are well-lit.
7. Don't touch strange animals. While many animals can be safe to be around, there is always that one that isn't. Also, Halloween can make even the most gentle animals skittish, so don't chance it.
8. costumes can be really scary for a child with special needs. Talk about the evening, plan it out, try to help the child know what is coming. If there is fear, graduated exposure to scary things (maybe visiting the Halloween aisle of your local store every week) can help to quell the jitters.
9. A house party can be a great alternative for scaredy-cats. Being on his own turf may encourage an otherwise reluctant child to join in on the festivities. Choose costumes that are not frightening to the child, as well as decorations designed for younger children.
10. If all else fails, sometimes, just doing nothing is okay. Some children just don't like Halloween. There is nothing wrong with going with that bent. If you choose, buy candy, and give the child a pass for the night. If he is wiling, he can pass out candy. If not, just let him sit in another room and play a game or watch a movie. There is always next year!
photo copyright Paul W. Locke, used under cc