There’s no question Halloween is one of the favourite days of the year for kids, but more than 400,000 children in Canada have one or more disabilities that may prevent them from enjoying trick-or-treating with their siblings and other children.
That’s why Five Counties Children’s Centre — which provides therapy services to children with special needs in the counties of Peterborough, Haliburton, and Northumberland and the City of Kawartha Lakes — is sharing its top tips to make trick-or-treating more accessible and inclusive for all children this year.
The tips echo the message of Treat Accessibly, a grassroots movement formed in 2017 that aims to make Halloween the world’s first accessible holiday tradition. According to Treat Accessibly, 100,000 Canadian homes participated in accessible trick-or-treating last Halloween.
“We’re encouraging people to consider children of all ages and abilities this Halloween,” says Five Counties Children’s Centre CEO Scott Pepin in a media release. “A few simple tweaks to your Halloween plans can literally open doors to more trick-or-treaters.”
“In our everyday work at Five Counties, we support children and youth with physical, developmental and communications needs with the aim of enriching their independence and quality of life every day,” Pepin adds.
“Halloween is one of those days or festivities that children of every ability should have the chance to experience and enjoy. We’re calling on our communities to help make that happen.”
Here are some suggestions for breaking down barriers to all children this Halloween.
Set up a trick-or-treating station that is accessible and barrier-free for every child to enjoy
For homes with stairs, consider setting up an accessible treat station on the front lawn, driveway, or garage.
If all else fails, be creative and use your vehicle’s trunk to hand out candy.
Clear the path for trick-or-treaters
Remove potential obstacles and ensure the way to your treat station is wide open and well lit, especially for trick-or-treaters with mobility challenges.
Consider parking on the street or in the garage to create even more space.
Decorate for Halloween with care
While scary and spooky decorations are appealing, they can be frightening for some trick-or-treaters.
Bright flashing lights and loud or frightening noises can cause problems for children with sensory processing issues, autism, or epilepsy.
Be thoughtful and tactful in how you decorate so more children can take part in trick-or-treating.
Some children may say ‘trick or treat’ differently. Some may use sign language, assistive technology, speak slowly, or be non-verbal.
Be respectful whatever the circumstances. A smile and wave can say so much.
Seeing blue is OK
Blue pumpkins have been informally adopted by some families as a way to indicate children have unique ways of behaving and communicating.
If you see a trick-or-treater carrying a blue pumpkin, be understanding and adjust your interactions as needed.
Use some ‘show and tell’ to hand out treats
If you encounter children with visual or hearing problems, describe or hold up the treat before placing it in the bag so they are aware of what they are receiving.
Make a sign for the times
If you want to make an even stronger statement, put up a sign indicating you are an accessible trick-or-treating stop. Free accessible trick-or-treating signs for your home are available from local participating RE/MAX offices or agents or you can print your own by visiting the Treat Accessibly website.
If you have a sign, Treat Accessibly suggests displaying it at least a week before Halloween to give families and caregivers plenty of time to plan their trick-or-treating route.
For more suggestions about making Halloween more accessible and inclusive for every child, visit the Treat Accessibly website at treataccessibly.com.