Trick-or-treats, Trunk or Treats, Harvest Festivals, Fall Fest, whatever you call it, there are a ton of different churches, local organizations, companies, and schools prepping for hundreds of kids to have a fun night some time this week. We know that kids with special needs will attend these events, so here’s some things to think about!
- Wheelchair Accessible- Is your event handicap accessible? Many children rely on wheelchairs, strollers, wagons, etc to help them trick or treat. If you’re in the middle of a field, is the ground smooth enough to travel over? Do you have a way in place to transport a kid on a hay ride? Do you require entry through doors that don’t automatically open? Is there significant curbs that could tip a wheelchair? Does your event happen mostly above waist level, that someone seated couldn’t see? If a second floor is involved, are elevators easily accessible and marked?
- Sensory Experience- Are there flashing lights that could trigger epilepsy? Are there quieter spaces for kids that can become overwhelmed? Does your event use bolder colors to help the visually impaired? Are volunteers and parents clearly informed of what to do if a child gets lost?
- Non-Food Friendly- Do all of your activities center around getting candy? Do you offer an alternative for kids who cannot eat due to dietary restrictions, inability, feeding tube, etc? Small toys, pencils, trinkets, etc can be great alternatives. These could be placed at each station, or given as a little gift bag upon entry. Of course, you may always have parents who will gladly step in to help dispose of the extra candy the child receives. (Me!)
- Non-verbal Expectations- Make sure your volunteers don’t require a kid to say “Please” or “Trick-or-treat” or even make eye contact. Getting to the event may already have been a stressful event, and societal pressures can make it even harder on a kid. A lot of disabilities aren’t recognizable or visible. Don’t put families in a harder place by having to explain to your volunteers why their child isn’t answering.
- Restroom Availability- Do you have family restrooms available? Do you have changing tables in both the mens and women’s restrooms? Do you have a bench or mat available if a 35lb+ (the limit on most changing tables) kid needs to be changed? Is it clearly marked or told to any families that may come in? Make sure there are no small barriers to get to the restroom or changing table, such as a baby gate. We would hate for people to leave your event to go change their kiddo in the car and have to leave the fun. A simple long bench can go a long way towards bathroom accessibility.
- Activities for all ability levels- Are your activities organized by age? Consider a 12 year old that can only engage in activities for 5 and under. Make sure you don’t restrict activities just based on age. Also, do you have any activities that can be adapted to make it easier, or require less strength or skill? Do you have activities for all skill levels that won’t ridicule those that need it a bit easier?
We want to help make sure kids of all ages and abilities get to make fun memories this week! Is there an activity that’s been super fun for your kiddo? Do you know of an organization that does these really well? Do you have any other advice you’d add to this list? We’d love to hear it!