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Tips for creating an inclusive Halloween for every little monster

Halloween is probably one of the coolest holidays. Every kid gets to become something that they’ve always imagined and promenade their wildest dreams door to door getting candy as a reward. To make sure that every ghoul and goblin has the best possible holiday while trick-or-treating, we have a bunch of ideas.

For children with food allergies

With the flood of candy and treats, it can be easy to forget that many of the children trick-or-treating on your block may have dietary restrictions or food allergies that can make Halloween truly scary.

To ensure every trick-or-treater is kept safe this Halloween, pick up some non-food treats like stickers, glow sticks, or other party favors and put a teal pumpkin on your doorstep. A teal pumpkin signals to both children and parents that the house that allergy-safe options to give out. It’s a big help to parents who want their children to enjoy trick-or-treating but fear a potentially dangerous situation when it comes to candies they shouldn’t eat.

For more on the Teal Pumpkin Project, visit the Food Allergy Research and Education website.

For children with speech and language delays

In recent years, there has been a considerable push for trick-or-treat candy collecting bags that politely state the child’s abilities. These bags are personalized and usually state “Hi, I’m _______ I have _________ and I can’t say ‘Trick-or-Treat’, but I’m trying!” For parents who are comfortable with sharing such information, you can find examples of bags like this on Etsy or this viral Facebook post.

Speaking of greetings, taking some time to learn a little Halloween-related ASL can make your front door feel a lot friendlier to a child with hearing or speech issues. You can find lots of quick, simple-to-follow tutorials on YouTube to help you get prepared.

For sensory-sensitive children

There can be a lot of new sounds and noises on Halloween, especially when it comes to those interactive decorations that that one house in your neighborhood always puts up. Bring some earplugs to help with the rushing crowds and those spooky decorations that sometimes emit screaming noises. If being in the dark is an issue, make sure to bring plenty of glow sticks or flashlights. And while it’s typically meant in good fun, steer clear of houses where the scare factor looks too high. Your neighbor may think it’s funny to pretend to be a motionless scarecrow until the kids come by, but they don’t have to deal with the night-ruining aftermath.

Don’t be afraid to take a sensory break, either. It might be a good idea to have a parent, friend, or grandparent follow close by in the car so that you and your child can take a minute to breathe if either of you needs to.

Halloween costumes can also be an issue, especially when they’re made of unfamiliar materials or feature uncomfortable elastic and itchy tags. Whether your kiddo wants to be Luke Skywalker or a toothbrush for Halloween, it’s a good idea to desensitize them to their costume. Cut the tags out, let them try it on and play around the house for a bit. If they still have some sensitivities, let them try wearing a layer of their preferred sensory-friendly clothing on underneath.

If the costume idea that they choose is simple enough, you might always try making it. If you do choose to go that route, stop by your local fabric store with your little monster. Let them touch and feel fabrics that don’t overstimulate them. Craft your spooky creation accordingly.

For children with physical disabilities

Accessible Halloween costumes can be challenging but super fun. You can be as creative as you would like and incorporate their wheels or crutches in the costumes as accessories or assets. If you want costume ideas for individuals who use strollers, wheelchairs, or crutches, you can find them here on a compiled Pinterest page we made just for you.

Going Forward and Staying Spooky

Halloween is a holiday everyone can enjoy! Whether you’ll be distributing candy or trick-or-treating with the kiddos, try and make sure the spookiest night of the year is inclusive to everyone.


Announcing our 6th Annual eSN Halloween Costume Contest!

Our Sixth Annual Halloween Costume Contest begins today! Every year, we get submissions from just about everywhere of our customers flexing their most creative costume ideas. We LOVE seeing what you guys come up with. It brings us so much joy. 😊

Since we can’t have all of you come to us for trick-or-treating (that would be a lot of traveling just for some candy 😵) We thought we would give you no tricks, just a treat!

All you have to do to enter to win a $100 eSpecial Needs Gift Card (distributed virtually) is follow these four simple rules.

  1. Like us on Facebook and Follow us on Instagram
  2. Take a photo of your family and/or your loved one all decked out for the sPoOkY day 🕸
  3. Email your photos to us directly at contests@especialneeds.com
  4. Tell us your child’s name and a little bit about the costume. We know some of you put a lot of work into your costumes, so tell us your story!

The family that sends us the most creative and inventive costume photo will receive a $100 eSpecial Needs eGift Card good for anything on our website.

Please note: All entries must be received by 11:59pm, NOVEMBER 1ST.

We’ll announce the winner of our Halloween Photo Contest on Facebook and here on our blog on Friday, November 5th.

We’ll also be posting entries to our Facebook page and Instagram to show off how amazing everyone looks, so don’t forget to Like or Follow us for updates. And if you’re looking for inspiration, check out our past entries from our Halloween Photo Contest in 2013201420152016, and 2017. Good luck, and Happy Halloween!

Please note: By sending us your photos, you are granting eSpecial Needs permission to use those photos for marketing purposes. Many may enter, one will win.


Ninja Therapy: Feeding

The Question

Welcome to another week of ninja therapy articles! This week, we were asked for help with feeding and feeding tips. Feeding can be a big difficulty for many individuals with special needs. There is a broad spectrum of individuals of varying abilities that each have their own needs when it comes to food. We are going to try to cover a wide array of tips and techniques, as well as supply you with resources that can help you in case we don’t cover exactly what you’re looking for from us.

 

Solutions

According to Emily Martin, OT:

“Like we said, feeding is super broad. The problems could stem from a couple of factors: motor issues with chewing and swallowing, oral aversion, oral sensory defensiveness, picky eating, or feeding disorder.

 

I always stress to parents that it is very important to see an occupational therapist who specializes in feeding. Feeding therapists can provide individual interventions based on the kiddo’s needs and recommend appropriate feeding equipment to ensure the health and safety of the child. You might have to do a little bit of research to find the right one you’re you and your child, but trust me, getting a feeding therapist helps so much.

 

That said, there are several things you can try before meeting with a feeding specialist.

 

Desensitizing Dinner

Food can be a sensory experience. Desensitizing kids to certain scents, feelings, and tastes of foods can be a way to engage a child with the sensory feeling of food. Here are a few things to try:

 

For younger kids, let them play and interact with their food. Sure, it might get a little messy, but allowing a child to get familiar with the textures and scents in their own way can be a big help.

 

For older children, invite them to cook with you. Getting a child involved in the process of making a meal not only builds essential developmental skills, it also provides a sense of pride that may make them more receptive to eating the dinner they made.

 

Offer foods that work oral motor skills. Crunchy or chewy foods that get the jaw moving and make the tongue push food around the mouth are great. Drinking think liquids or foods like smoothies, applesauce, soups, or yogurt through a large straw can also be used to engage oral muscles.

 

In helping your child integrate new sensory stimulations into their sensory diet (and their food diet) your inner ninja is hard at work. Long term, desensitizing your child to the sights, smells, and textures of different things, especially food, will be a great help.

 

Let’s Get Physical

Sometimes, feeding a child’s sensory cravings just before dinner is the best way to get them to eat. If the child is a picky eater, I often suggest to parents should try introducing some pre-meal physical activity to their dinner routine.

 

Try writing some various physical or sensory activities on popsicle sticks. Ask the kiddos pick three sticks from a cup. Set a visual timer for 15 minutes and spend a few minutes doing all three the activities. Make sure you leave a few minutes to cool down once the timer goes off so that they’re ready to sit nicely at the table.

 

For kids who do more wiggling at the dinner table than eating, tried-and-true solutions like cushions that allow for movement, foot fidgets, or a washable weighted lap pad. A little extra sensory input could go a long way toward a better meal time for everyone.

 

Keep Track of It

 

When it comes to introducing new foods to picky eaters, a calendar might just be your best friend. I like to suggest that parents create a loose 8-week schedule that takes the pressure off both the parents and their children.

 

Week 1: The food is just in the room where the child can see it

Week 2: Food brought to the table, but the child doesn’t have to interact with it

Week 3: Food is on the child’s plate, but they don’t have to play or eat it

Week 4: Food is on the child’s plate, but they have to at least touch the food

Week 5: Food is on the plate and child must pick it up

Week 6: Food is on the plate and the child must smell it, kiss it or bring it closer to the mouth

Week 7: Food is on the plate and child must try a bite

Week 8: reinforce all the steps to make sure the kiddo is ok with the food.

 

I tell parents to start with small things, like American cheese slices. You can use a chunk of a slice of cheese every night, so you are not having to spend a lot of money on the same food item. Our goal is to provide the kiddo with the food, and it’s their job to interact with it. If they have a hard time or if you notice a pattern in your calendar, you can adjust.

 

Using a calendar to track your child’s progress during their 8-week new food trial period is one of the best tactics to ninja therapy your way to a more diverse eater. You don’t have to let your kiddo in on your plan. They might never know you even have a calendar to help them integrate a new food into their diet, which makes you the most secret of ninjas.

 

Sometimes Chicken Nuggets Are Okay

Your child won’t make progress every day, and sometimes the dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets from the frozen section of the grocery store are all your kid will eat (or whatever other food they love).  That’s okay! Remember: fed is always best, even if they insist your latest casserole is “gross.”

 

Take each of these tips and ideas at your own discretion. Go at your own pace and try again another day. If the challenge becomes overwhelming, don’t be afraid to get a feeding therapist involved.

 

Going Forward

If you have any questions for our Occupational Therapist Emily, please submit them below! Please keep in mind that filling out this form results in the potential for your question to be anonymously shared on our blog with our answer. We try to be as responsive and helpful as possible but submitting your question does not guarantee a response.