10 Tips to Host a Disability Inclusive Halloween

Make sure you’re including everyone in the fun! [Image Description: "TRICK or treat" in swirly hand lettering by @NickyLaatz with "TRICK" in "Smoke" Painting and "treat" in "Marigold" Painting by me on a crumpled paper background, with "April Marie Mai" at the bottom]
"TRICK or treat" in swirly hand lettering by Nicky Laatz with "TRICK" in "Smoke" Painting and "treat" in "Marigold" Painting by me on a crumpled paper background, with "April Marie Mai" at the bottom
"TRICK or treat" in swirly hand lettering by Nicky Laatz with "TRICK" in "Smoke" Painting and "treat" in "Marigold" Painting by me on a crumpled paper background, with "April Marie Mai" at the bottom

1) Set up in your driveway, if you have one.

That gives everyone the ability to see that you’re handing out treats and they’re welcome to come up. It also (hopefully) eliminates any need for Trick or Treaters to climb stairs.

2) Have small toys available for people with allergies.

Do any of them have a teal pumpkin? That means they have allergies! You can have your treat options in different bins, and have a stash of little toys or other non-food treats that you can offer. The most common allergy is peanuts, but you have to keep in mind that it’s not just what’s in the candy that matters, it also might contain bits of anything else that was made on that manufacturing equipment or in that facility. As someone with a lot of allergies (a tiny bit of dust of some nuts can cause my airway to close), I don’t eat things made on the same machinery as my allergens, but I do eat things in the same facility, because that reduces its chances of being a problem exponentially. But you don’t want anyone to have to use an Epi-Pen on your watch, so err on the side of caution! As someone with allergies, I would be sure to have a bag with the ingredients list available for everything you hand out which parents can inspect for safety, and I’d have a few flashlights there to help them read it. If they decide it’s safe, great! If they don’t, the child still gets a special toy treat from you. Having a bin of apples or some other fruit available gives more options. Kids with allergies might have a regular orange pumpkin, too. The teal is just to tip you off to their allergies, if their parents get one.

3) Don’t traumatize children or adults.

Keep the Trick or Treating fun. Sometimes adults can think it’s funny to scare children, but it’s not and it can cause them trauma. Only take the scariness play to the level the child takes it, and match them if you want to, but don’t go past that. Scaring toddlers is not funny. They need safety from you.

4) Give candy or toys to everyone.

Don’t make them come all the way to you if that is difficult or they are hesitant. Don’t demand that they say “Trick or Treat” or “Thank you.” Don’t say they have to have a costume to get candy. Are there teens coming up without costumes on? Great, they deserve candy, too! You don’t know who is disabled and who is not, or how they are disabled, and it’s not your business. The best way to go is to just go with the flow and meet everyone where they are. Does a child grab more than one item from a bucket? They may have a motor control disability. Is there a kid who just can’t decide between two options? Let them have both and reduce the chance of it turning into a meltdown that they have no control over. They honestly may not be able to choose or their brain might have a hard time processing only getting one option and go into fight or flight mode. We all are doing our best, and they are doing their best. It will not hurt you to let them have one of each. Are they an adult, and you can’t tell whether or not they are disabled? That’s okay, they get candy too if they want it! People’s personal medical information is none of our business, and no one should have to provide you with it in order to be treated decently. They deserve to participate as much as everyone else.

5) Teal is the only pumpkin color code that matters.

There’s a push telling parents that autistic kids should have blue pumpkins, and whatever other color coding. I’m autistic. Expecting us to label ourselves is dangerous (can lead to bullying) and unnecessary (if you follow the other steps, you are already accommodating), and it cuts in on the very important messaging of the teal pumpkins for people with food allergies.

6) Accept any form of communication, or no communication at all.

They may use a tablet or write or sign or speak in a different language. It’s all good. Don’t prioritize oral communication over other forms, and don’t expect the child to look at you or do anything for you. As autistics, eye contact can be physically painful for some of us, and we often move differently and can get overwhelmed by sensory input. This is your chance to give and show people they are worth being treated well and they are valued.

7) Don’t use flashing lights.

Flashing lights can trigger seizures, migraines, and be very painful for people who are sensitive to light. I’m one of those people. Bright lights are physically painful, especially if they are flashing. Fairy lights that aren’t flashing are a great option for lighting.

8) Don’t wear costumes that fake disabilities.

That witches’ face mask, hunchback, cane, or wheelchair is not necessary if you are not disabled. There are real people with facial differences, limb differences, and disabilities and just like cultures, cultural garb and skin color, those are not something to co-opt as a costume. A lot of the time stories make disabled people out to be villains, which is a dangerous thing to be teaching to kids. You can be a witch using your own face, or be a villain without faking a difference or disability. You get to rewrite any story and make it less problematic. Every kid around you’s brain is going to incorporate what you do into their idea of how things should be as they get older and grow up. You can be creative and validating, make their night, and show them how the world should be.

9) Interact with everyone the same.

Don’t talk down to people who are disabled, say you feel sorry for them, show pity, say they are ‘stuck’ in their wheelchair or mobility device, point out their differences, or guess people’s disabilities. Again, it’s their personal medical information, and none of our business. There are a zillion other things you can talk with them about. Do you like their costume? What’s their favorite kind of toy? Don’t avoid disabled people. Look at the person in the wheelchair. Our mobility devices are just (sometimes extremely expensive) tools that we use to help us.

10) Keep your pets indoors.

Disabled people may have a service dog helping them who needs to not be distracted. Don’t try to pet service animals. A service dog is an immense investment ($20,000 to $50,000 USD plus all the tons of training hours and the connection their humans have with them) and they are distracted, attacked and sometimes killed by pet dogs. Some people are afraid of dogs. Some people are allergic to cats. The animals are super cute, and I want to see them all on your social media, but having them participating in Halloween festivities can be confusing and scary for them and potentially disastrous for your disabled guests. You can definitely have pictures of them to show people!

Have a fun and safe Halloween!


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