10 tips to keep your kids with special needs safe this Halloween

Halloween can be a fun time, but it also has an element of scariness about it for both kids and their parents. Here are 10 tips to make sure your child enjoys this spooky fun holiday and stays safe at the same time.

1. Pick the right costume. 

Select a costume that makes your child easily visible in the dark. Most Halloween costumes are dark colored and make it hard to spot kids while trick or treating. Some ways to help children with special needs to be seen is to have them bring a flashlight, a glow stick or to place reflective tape on their costume or wheelchair.

2. Be careful with masks or hoods. 

Double check that your children can see OK with their mask or costume on. If your child with special needs has a Halloween costume with a mask or hood, it may make it difficult for them to see properly. If needed, modify the costume so the child doesn’t have obstructed vision. That way as they are going from house to house they won’t fall on steps (and other things that go bump in the night).

3. Introduce the trick or treat route. 

Help your children to become familiar with the trick or treat route. Doing a test run in the daytime is a smart way to help your child get to know the route a bit better. It will help ensure they don’t get lost. You can also encourage kids to stick to the sidewalks to stay safe.

4. Beware of oversized costumes. 

Make sure the costumes won’t trip your child. With oversized costumes and capes, it may make it difficult for your child to walk. Shorten long costumes if necessary. Also check that the kids have warm, safe, shoes that are comfortable. With all the walking they will do, it’s important to make sure they don’t trip or slip due to ill-fitting costumes or shoes.

5. Use the buddy system. 

If you have a younger child, it’s better to have an adult accompany them. If your child with special needs is old enough to trick or treat independently, you may want to group him with another responsible older sibling or friend. Tell the kids when they need to be home. If your child has a cellphone, have him carry it with him in case he needs to reach you or vice versa.

6. Make sure the costumes are comfortable. 

Whether it’s the feel of the fabric, the snugness of the costume, or a noise it makes, sometimes children with special needs are extra sensitive when it comes to sensory stimulation. Bring children along when shopping. It may save you having to return the costume. Or, there may be easy ways to “adjust” the costume so your child feels happy and comfortable in it.

7. Teach Halloween safety and manners for children.

Trick or Treat time is a wonderful opportunity to teach Halloween etiquette. Teach kids to be polite as they ring the doorbell and say “Trick or Treat”. Then advise them it’s proper to take only one piece of candy unless told otherwise. And always tell the person “thank you” before leaving. Also tell the kids not to eat the candy until they get home and parents can check it. Finally tell kids not to go into someone’s home.

8. Dress properly for the weather.

The full moon and the cool of autumn can make for a frightfully cool Halloween evening. Dress the kids in layers so they can stay warm. Gloves to match the costume can keep little hands cozy and warm.

9. Select flame retardant costumes.

With candles glowing, pumpkins lit up and bonfires, there’s a fire danger for children. Make sure your child with special needs has a Halloween costume that is flame retardant.

10. Prepare kids so they won’t be afraid.

Goblins, skeletons, and witches – oh my! There are lots of spooky sounds and decorations that may upset your child. Prepare your child for this experience by talking about it in advance. Let them know what they can expect and tell them it’s all part of Halloween fun.

This article is reprinted with permission from the National Lekotek Center. For more great tips and play ideas, including advice on toys, also check out AblePlay.org. Its blog offers great suggestions for all parents.

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