Adjusting Expectations: Special Needs on Halloween (BUB #11)


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Today Megan Goates is back to share her how special needs have changed Halloween for her family. Megan's oldest and youngest sons are typically developing, and her middle two sons are on the autism spectrum. Tune in to hear how her expectations for the holiday have changed. A few other parents share their experiences of special needs on Halloween as well! If you'd like to be on a future episode, please record your answer to the question of the month.

Even though Betty has only been in our family for two and half years, I'm already starting to understand that many of our traditions and expectations - especially around holidays - need some tweaking. Halloween is no exception. Many parents have shared the adjustments they've made for their kids with special needs on Halloween. I've collected their thoughts for one mini episode and post about how Halloween is different for special needs kids.


My 2 young daughters have anaphylactic food allergies. We still want them to have the same experiences as their cousins and friends so we still take them trick or treating. When we get home we separate the “safe” candy from the “unsafe” candy. When our 6 YO was younger we had a Switch Witch that would come in the night and leave her a small toy in exchange for the unsafe items. Also the last 2 years we have taken part of the Teal Pumpkin Project. Any house that has a teal pumpkin on their porch is a clear indicator to FA children that the home has safe treats or non-food items available.-Stacy


Clara has a hard time with certain fabrics, plus the overwhelm and excitement can often stress her out. Last year she ended up wearing the same costume she had worn the previous year because she just couldn't make up her mind and it was causing too much anxiety.-Brittany

Halloween got changed from the time Eddie was about 3yo and started walking. He would walk into peoples homes. Scream and not let them put candy he did not like in his pail. Also i had to learn to except his differences, i had to explain his needs at almost every house because i felt bad letting people think i had 2 awesome kids and a spoiled one. I also took that opportunity to educate people on Autism.-Alexandra

Halloween hasn't been an issue in our family. Now that my son is 6, he wants to wear face paint!!!! Go figure?-Stephanie

We have had to change how we approach Halloween. We wear normal clothes that can be used as a costume. Last year Max was a train conductor. Overalls and a white shirt. He has so many clothes issues. He also doesn't like anything touching his face. Then we can only be out for an hour tops. Max gets overwhelmed and nervous around new people and environments. We try to show him cartoons about Halloween and get Halloween books from the library. Preparation is key with a child with Autism.-Tiffany

Halloween is sort of a trigger for me, because it's always been my favorite holiday, and while I never envisioned being a mom really, as soon as I found out I was pregnant it was "OMG ALL THE COSTUMES!". Cut to: a kid who hates anything on his face/head, doesn't really like candy (!?!), cannot say "trick or treat", has no concept of holidays, could not care less about dressing up/characters/pretend, and is a RUNNER [meaning we can't trust him outside without holding his hand - which is of course not his preference]. These things sort of un-do what I'd previously built up around Halloween as the fun parts...and that's ok! This year I'm looking forward to living in a neighborhood that gets a lot of trick-or-treaters and having him help me pass out candy. Motherhood really does redefine everything.-Ellen

Blind or Vision Impaired

Remembering that it's not my holiday and letting them make their own plan is our key to success. They plan where they go, what they wear (if a costume or not) & especially when we go home. Sensory overload happens every year. This year we are going two places and then doing a party with them that night with trick or treat in every room, snacks, & scary movies.-Kimberly

We definitely have original costume ideas: Since my daughter has been old enough to say what she wants to be, there has never been a dull moment. She is six now. When she was three she was "Bad Cat Purple Cat. At 4 she was a chicken, last year she was "an oscillating fan," and this year, we're still deciding, but top contenders include Shredded Wheat, a lemon poppyseed muffin, or a dog bone.-Ashley

Cerebral Palsy

My son wasn't able to go up and down stairs to knock on doors until maybe about the age of 5. So we would dress him up and sit on our front porch and hand out candy together. My son also didn't like masks or face paint. However, at age 9 he now wears costumes but he really doesn't get the full grasp of what Halloween is. We celebrate anyway every year, and even attended the NYC Halloween Parade.-Renee


My son is deaf and has had cochlear implants for nearly two years. We've had to interpret for him, "He's signing, 'Candy, please!'" *signing* "Ben, you can pick one piece of candy from the bowl." Things like that. Obviously, this cuts down on the conversations he had with others about what he was dressed as or what kind of candy he likes. His spoken language has really improved since this time last year, so I'm curious to see how things go and if I noticed a huge difference.-Ryan

Harlequin Ichthyosis

Because Brenna has trouble regulating her body temperature, Halloween can be tricky with hot costumes and cold weather! We've had to be much more diligent about those things.-Courtney


It has changed for us in a pretty big way. We were the family that would go to all the events leading up to halloween and on Halloween we would trick or treat till we couldn't walk anymore. Once my son came along halloween turned into church trunk or treats and very little of the trick or treating due to his stroller/chair not being able to most doors. It's still just as fun just different so he can be included and not felt left out.-Jennifer

Halloween is different than I thought it would be because my son doesn't [yet] enjoy or understand Halloween. His delays and sensory challenges mean he won't wear a costume that has anything on his face or head. I know crowded places with a lot of noise will make him anxious, so we kindly decline big party invites. And I know my son might only last for 1 or 2 houses of trick-or-treating before he's had enough.-Lauren

Halloween hasn't changed much for us. My girl didn't really "get it" until she was 3, but she liked getting candy and would hold her bucket out. You could see people expecting her to say "trick or treat" or "thank you" but we just said it for her. She can speak better now so we'll see how things go this year. The hardest part on Halloween is all the carrying and lifting. It's too hard to bring a stroller since she'd have to get out at every house. She can walk this year but with the busy sidewalks, we'll likely end up carrying her still.-Janelle

It changed to where my 19 month old will either be on a hip sling on my side or in a stroller. We also do less houses. She's ready for bed after two hours max so I'm keeping it low key for her.-Honey

Spina Bifida

We make a costume for calvin AND his chair :)-Cami

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