Halloween and Special Needs: What You Need to Know
As a child I didn’t think much about Halloween. I grew up in a household where my father was atheist and my mom became a Christian when I was 5 years old. Some years I went out and some years I stayed home.
I didn’t think much about Halloween… and then I became a special needs mom.
Over the years I have heard many spiritual debates about rather Christians should take part in Halloween and the origin of Halloween, but that is a different post for a different time.
Even while I was studying for my Early Childhood Diploma in a secular school, there was a debate on Halloween and how it affects children.
One of my favorite points was from the teacher of the class,
“For 364 days of the year we tell children don’t talk to strangers, and don’t take candy from strangers. Why is it that on Halloween it is okay?”
One argument that always get’s thrown back into these debates is, “Halloween is fun for children, it doesn’t hurt anyone.”
Yes, Halloween can hurt our children spiritually, but there is another way it can hurt children. One that doesn’t get discussed very often: over stimulated brain.
I had no idea about it until Lilly was two years old. We were grocery shopping in a super center and were heading towards the pharmacy, which happened to be on the same aisle as the Halloween items. As we started to pass the decorations my child started to cry and she went stiff as a board (she has Spastic Cerebral Palsy).
The change in her world was Halloween.
Her brain could not handle the decorations, costumes, and sounds. With her being non verbal, I didn’t know exactly what triggered her, so now I just avoid as much Halloween stuff and try to keep things positive for her.
For most children (and adults) masks are fun things to wear. You can easily become someone else. But for a child who deals with medical issues, masks can be scary. Why? Because for these children their world often has masks involved that are linked to painful procedures like needles, medical procedures, and lengthy hospital stays.
Whether a costume is sweet or scary, it can still scare a child. A child’s imagination is a very powerful thing and to see things come to life on Halloween can scare them. Also, doctors outfits, scrub gear, nurses outfits, and things with blood on them can scare a child, especially a child that deals with those things every day.
More and more costumes have lights that flash on them and houses have strobe lights in their decorations, but people often forget that these things can trigger seizures. In my household this is a big issue because we have two people with Epilepsy, so we try to avoid this trigger.
As I walk past houses that go all out for Halloween my daughters head is often covered or hiding in my neck.
The scarier it is the worse it is for me.
For a child’s imagination, that is still trying to figure out what is real and what is fake, a decorated house can be terrifying. To that child their senses are overloaded and their brain cannot handle what it’s seeing.
Lilly is not alone as she struggles with Halloween. Other children with Cerebral Palsy, Sensory Disorders, Autism, Medical Needs, and other needs have similar issues with Halloween.
I hope you walk away from this article with a different perspective of how Halloween can hurt a child.