Halloween Safety for Kids With Special Circumstances

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Last Halloween was my daughter’s first big holiday since being diagnosed with a chocolate allergy. I was more than a little nervous about her school parties, expecting a call from the nurse at any moment. Thankfully, she navigated the events (with the help of her terrific teacher) without incident, and our trick-or-treating went off without a hitch as well.

Much of this is due to the fact that Julia, then 6, was already well aware of her allergy and comfortable self-advocating. She always asks whether foods have chocolate in them and takes the extra step to explain that it’s an important question, as she is allergic. Of course, that’s all well and good when a child self-advocates this way. But many children do not or cannot, which can make Halloween more than a little intimidating for their parents.

It’s also a challenging holiday for parents of kids with diabetes, developmental disabilities, and other conditions. For example, my 9-year-old son, Will, has severe autism. For him, Halloween is difficult because the parties, activities, decorations, and costumes can be a significant disruption to his much-needed routine. He isn’t interested in trick-or-treating, but, in staying home, he’s bothered by the constant ringing of the doorbell.

We had to learn to let go a bit. We had to learn that it was ok to take turns trick-or-treating with Julia and staying home with Will. We had to learn that it was ok to put out bowls of candy for the neighborhood kids and tape over the doorbell. We had to learn to create a positive Halloween for Will by making the day as normal as possible.

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With other conditions, such as Type 1 Diabetes, a “normal” Halloween means something altogether different. Most parents of kids with Type 1 navigate this candy-focused holiday by trying to allow their children to participate in all the fun without risking dangerous blood glucose fluctuations; not an easy balancing act.

No matter what the condition or reason, there are a few things we can all do to help make Halloween a fun, safe holiday for all.

  1. Plan ahead. Whether that means volunteering for the school party, packing alternative treats, or getting the grocery shopping done at a time when there are no in-store festivities, planning ahead is essential.
  2. Get help. Enlist the other adults in your circle to help ensure your child stays safe. This can mean reminding adults about your child’s allergies or diagnoses, or it can mean lining up a babysitter to stay home with a child who doesn’t want to trick-or-treat.
  3. Gear up. Arguably the most important element in planning a safe Halloween, making sure you are stocked up on the right supplies can make all the difference. Be sure that whomever is trick-or-treating with your child knows about his/her condition(s), what to look for, and how to handle an emergency. Provide that person with multiple doses of emergency medications and ensure s/he has a well-charged cell phone that works properly in your neighborhood. And, of course, make sure your child wears a medical ID bracelet or necklace so that, should an emergency arise, those nearby can help as quickly and effectively as possible.
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