Help Keep Halloween Fun For Everyone
Fall is the season of pumpkins! The month of October is home to some of the most entertaining fall activities; harvest festivals, apple picking, pumpkin carving, cooler nights, and dressing up to go trick or treating on Halloween. Halloween is exciting for some but can be equally stressful for others. Some children have severe food allergies and can not risk consuming unsafe candy while others may have developmental disabilities and be sensitive to light and sounds that some Halloween decorations produce. Children with anxiety, ADHD, down syndrome, and autism may have trouble walking up to homes that have overwhelming decorations and scary sounds. Not only can certain decorations upset or cause conflict with a child, but diet and food allergies can create Halloween stress for some parents.
As we’ve said before, many children today have allergies; some being more severe than others. In fact, 1 in 13 children have a food allergy. Being a parent to children with allergies can cause a lot of stress when it comes to Halloween and the holidays. You are not sure if the candy contains the allergen, is processed near an allergen, or wonder if it was accidentally exposed to an allergen. All of these scenarios, and more, can cause a parent to panic on Halloween. However, there is no need to worry. In this blog, we are going to give you some ways to make your Halloween experience this year fun and safe for everyone.
The organization FARE (Food Allergy Research and Education) inspired by mom Becky Basalone, started the Teal Pumpkin Project. You may have seen different color pumpkins at the store near the Halloween treats and decorations. There is the usually orange color, but also teal and blue. These are not just for decoration. If you see a child carrying a teal plastic pumpkin then it signals that child has a food allergy and needs to be careful about what they eat.
Similarly you can place a teal pumpkin on your porch which means that your house has non food items and treats that are safe for everyone. You can choose to also pass out traditional candies but having non food items helps include those kids who otherwise may not be able to participate in the Halloween festivities. Consider registering your house on the Teal Pumpkin Project Map so families know your house is safe.
Inspired by this, parents and families with children who have developmental disabilities like down syndrome, ADHD, or autism use blue pumpkins. This allows children to be able to participate in the Halloween festivities and be able to say “trick or treat” even if they are non-verbal. The blue pumpkin is a signal to others that trick or treater has a developmental disability and may be anxious, quiet, avoid eye contact, or appear too old to be dressing up. If this is the case, then don’t force them to look at you and say “trick or treat.” Be patient and let them pick out the appropriate treat.
Below are some other suggestions to consider this Halloween:
- Check the Teal Pumpkin Project Map: This allows you to see what houses in your area are safe for your child and do a “dress rehearsal” a couple days before Halloween. Take note of any irritations or triggers your child may show in their costume and make any necessary changes. Driving by the houses you plan on going to will give you a chance to see how your child responds to Halloween decorations both on the way and at the houses you are going to.
- Invest in allergen free options: Search for treat options that are free of the major allergens: tree nuts, peanuts, gluten, wheat. You can chose to hand out only these options or create a separate bowl for your allergen free options. Some ideas are temporary tattoos, glow sticks, stickers, stress-balls, play dough, putty and more.
- Talk to your child about what they may expect: Halloween is full of scary things-loud noises, lights, and decorations that may frighten your child. Having this conversation allows them to prepare for what they may encounter and you can discuss self-calming techniques. Consider investing in noise cancelling headphones and have them bring their favorite self-calming item.
- Keep your decorations PG rated: Some Halloween decorations can be frightening or triggering to younger children, with or without a disorder. Halloween is a holiday that is meant to not only be spooky, but also fun. Trick or treating is commonly an activity done by a younger audience. So when your house is decorated in more adult decorations, it can cause younger children to develop some anxiety or fear approaching your home. Another alternate option to this issue is to have an ‘on/off’ switch readily available to the person handing out treats. This will allow someone to decorate their home in the way that they desire, but also has the option to eliminate the loud noises, smoke, or spooky animatronics that can upset or trigger children, especially if they notice that child carrying a blue or teal pumpkin.
- Go trick or treating with your children: During trick or treating, a child travels from door to door of their neighborhood collecting candy. If a child does this act alone a number of things can happen: a child can come in contact with an allergen, a child can become triggered due to lights or sounds of decorations, a child can get lost, and worse. Make trick or treating a fun, family activity; this will keep everyone safe.
- Walk to the door with your children: If your child has an allergy, walking to the door with them can help insure that no allergen comes in contact with them or their previously collected candy.
- Always be aware of your surrounding: This is an important lesson to teach children as soon as possible. Having children be observant to what is around them will set them up for an amazing habit for life.
This Halloween be mindful of any blue or teal pumpkins you see a trick or treater carrying. If you see one of these colored pumpkins remember their meaning and respond accordingly. We hope that everyone has a fun, safe and Happy Halloween!