The spooky season is back again, so out come the giant pumpkins and parades of children dressed up to visit people’s doorsteps for free sweets. But how can we help make Halloween inclusive?
How to make Halloween inclusive
Rachel Strickland, Neuroclastic.com’s author, points out that by trying too hard to help neurodivergent people in the community with gimmicks such as the blue bucket (which has been used to highlight autism friendly trick or treating),“It becomes all-too-common for non-autistics to inadvertently annoy or even unintentionally hurt the autistic community with actions that they intend to be helpful”.
Many of us overthink the term inclusivity. It doesn’t have to be that hard.
Kat Pond, Head2Head’s inclusivity ambassador says:
“There are mixed feelings in the autism community as the blue/teal pumpkin singles out children and young people with special needs. It’s a balancing act getting it right when we talk about ‘inclusion’. Children with disabilities want to be the same as everyone else whilst also being able to access Halloween. For example, not being able to say thank you after taking candy, having special dietary requirements, or not being able to trick or treat because of a physical disability. The onus is on those who are able to make the necessary adjustments for inclusion, eg no bright flashing lights, a bowl of candy that is gluten free or non-candy treats like little toys, a poster advocating acceptance in the window. The overarching message is just to BE KIND!”
Here are a few things to consider:
Not all children like Halloween. Many neurotypical, as well as neurodivergent children, don’t enjoy being spooked, walking around in the dark dressed as scary characters nor might they feel like they want to speak to strangers on their doorsteps at night.
Many children with sensory processing issues have difficulties wearing a costume, which can often feel prickly or tightfitting. Be mindful of this when commenting.
Neurodivergent children hate being labelled. Being inclusive doesn’t mean bringing attention to someone because they are differently abled by handing them a beacon for attention (like a blue bucket) to advertise it to the world.
How to make Halloween inclusive
Here are a few ways you can help create a more inclusive event;
offer kids non-food treats as well as food treats or sweets – lots of stickers or small sensory toys work just as well
set up your treat bowl closer to the pavement for better accessibility, especially for wheelchair users and children with limited mobility
don’t force children (all children not just autistic children) to say ‘ thank you’ they might be too shy or non-verb
Don’t block your eyes and mouth so you can properly communicate with children who may have speech and hearing disabilities
Be patient and understanding if a child with gross motor skills needs help grabbing treats out of the bowl
Halloween is a day for all children no matter their age, size or neurotypicality to dress up, pretend to be someone else, and have fun.
Kindness, patience, and understanding should be universal and not just reserved for special days or for those who are deemed by society as being “different.”
Are you feeling spooky? This year Head2Head Sensory Theatre is hosting a pumpkin competition with a chance to win a video of our sensory, interactive pantomime, Dick Whittington, plus online familiarisation workshop.
How to enter
Please email photos of your pumpkins to: email@example.com by 1st November 2022.
The winning pumpkin will be announced on 3rd November 2022.
Entry is free but if you wish to make a donation, however, small, please visit https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/h2hpumpkincomp