Be a Creative Parent this Halloween

Being a special needs parent can be very difficult on normal days. Add a special event or holiday and often parents are overwhelmed. But with careful preparation and creative thinking that you can get through another of those days.

I am sorry to say that in general I am not a big Halloween fan, but with special needs children it does not go down well at all.

My son is a wheelchair user and finds it hard to find costumes and clothes that fit, he can’t get into houses (you rarely find ramps), it is dark –  so everything is very scary and uncertain.

Neurodiverse children often find the whole thing very scary in a non-scary way; They often don’t like to dress up (pretending to be somebody else). Find it very unsettling that everybody dresses up and tries to make everyone feel scared and uncomfortable. Maybe they don’t like the look of blood or anything jelly-like etc. or don’t like the games that often involve getting dirty or eating something that ‘looks like a dead something’ and then of course there are the loud noises, sudden movements and the dark.

So be a Creative Parent and invent your own ‘kind of Halloween’ that works for you and your family:

• Wheelchair: get creative with their Halloween costume. The wheelchair can become the city skyline with “superman” as the driver, the cape flowing behind. My son became the Doctor Who phone box!
• Check out the street where you CAN go trick-or-treating so your child feels included instead of excluded.

But the best idea we had was to simply stay at home and invite good friends over who knew about our situation and respected it for who they are. Make it into a special party where everyone feels included and special:
• Play games that are calm, safe and prepared: “guess what costume will come to the door next” to make the unexpected less scary.
• Have craft ideas: paint and decorate paper pumpkins, crave real pumpkins etc.
• Have a movie at hand: if we felt that things were getting a bit out of control, always have a movie at hand (that your child is familiar with) to calm down the party.
• Have food that your child is familiar with, likes and maybe have been part of making. We can even have healthy snacks to keep hyper-activity down.
• Create a costume out of comfortable, familiar clothing (so child feels ok in it). Make a simple costumes i.e. just a hat or cape.
• Practice wearing the costume before an event.
• You can get rid of itchy places or scratchy fabric ahead of time.

If you are planning to go trick-or-treating then help your child understand the steps of trick-or-treating. Practice ahead of time.

If your child is uncomfortable with trick-or-treating but at the same time wants to feel part of it why not visit a family friend to allow your child to show off their costume in a quiet and familiar setting.

At the end of the day do what is right for you, your children and family, be a creative parent.

Best wishes,
Mette Theilmann, founder of Predictable Parenting and creator of the Parenting Community App