Let’s Trick or Treat

Special needs parents, more so than anyone, know that special needs come in all forms. Some are very minimal, barely recognizable by the naked eye. Others are so severe it impacts your every daily function.

Our family falls somewhere in the middle . . . severe enough to be noticed … it’s hard not to see the wheelchair, but we have been able to find our own kind of reasonably normal daily life.

That being said though, this time of year always brings up the question, what do we do on Halloween? And I know we are not the only special needs family to wonder this.

I’m a big holiday Momma, and we celebrate all the holidays in our household (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, 4th of July).

I feel like they remind us to stop a few days out of the year and have fun.  And as a bonus, the holidays usually bring us close to family and friends we might not have seen in a while.

We decorate our house for major holidays and there is always good food involved. I enjoy dressing our daughter up in holiday attire, and I can remember how excited I was the first time we bought her first Halloween costume. It felt … NORMAL.

Unfortunately for us, a lot of our holidays have been accompanied by sickness; Halloween included the stomach virus the first year and RSV this past year. On top of that, our daughter does eat much by mouth and has a lot of physical limitations.

So, every year we tend to have this struggle, if she is even well enough, do we take her out and go trick or treating?

In the back of my mind I know this would not even be a question if she did not have special needs. But still in the past the answer has been no.

However, not going trick or treating creates an internal struggle for me because I am a firm believer in inclusion despite a person’s limitations. Our daughter attends a school where inclusion is just the norm.

So, when she is at school or attending school events, we never worry about whether people will look at her funny or wonder why we brought her.

But going door to door in our neighborhood would be a different story, and so we have yet to embark on this adventure. Maybe it is fear or just uncertainty that tends to keep us inside on this holiday. I’m not really 100% sure.

I try not to focus on our child’s limitations, but they exist whether we dwell on them or not … that’s just reality.

So, what do you do when you have a child that is not physically able to ring the doorbell or say trick or treat; when they can’t reach for the candy bowl or say thank you and walk away; when feeding issues limit their ability to even eat candy; when their costume revolves around what the wheelchair will accommodate?

Well to say the least, it makes trick or treating a bit discouraging, and it is easy to find a million reasons why sitting out this holiday might make the most sense.

And in years past we have let all of these reasons justify why we did not get out there and knock on doors with all the other kids.

After thinking about it a lot though, I believe it is time our family changed this and tried something new! When I let myself move past the negatives and really start to think about it, there are just as many reasons for why our daughter should go trick or treating.

We have tons of friends who love her and will welcome getting to see her in person in her Halloween costume; she loves being around people and the interactions will make her day; our wheelchair will make it easy to get her from house to house (and she can’t run off); we could design her costume to include her wheelchair.

We can record “trick or treat” on her big mac button and let her push it when people open the door; we can help her get a piece of candy and this will work on her reaching and fine motor skills; she will be exhausted by the time we are done and we all should get a good nights sleep; and since she can’t eat a lot of her candy, we get a treat as well.

I’ve learned first-hand that there are so many ways to talk yourself out of doing things when you have a child with special needs.

But lately I’ve been learning more and more that I need to find ways to include our daughter into things instead. Anytime we’ve ever forced ourselves to push through a social situation we thought would be difficult, we have found most often that it is rewarding and our daughter usually enjoys it.

What I’ve also realized is that it is us parents that tend to stress over these social situations way more than our kiddos seem to.

Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that if we don’t get our children more publicly involved, especially at a young age, the world will never learn to see them like we do (amazing).

Please don’t think it is lost on me that some people just can’t do this. I know there are some conditions that merely getting out in public puts a child’s health at risk or exposes a child to sensory overload. I’m a firm believer in parental intuition, and parents know best in these type situations.

My thoughts are merely for those parents who have ever sat out something because our children are a bit different and don’t fit the norm. I certainly can’t judge because I’ve been that parent… more than once.

But I think sometimes we have to change our own point of view in the effort to change others hearts and opinions.

My most recent revelation in this special needs quest is that our daughter’s limitations should not hinder her from trick or treating on Halloween. Instead we need to use this night as an opportunity to embrace this life she has been given and share in the fun with our friends. So, for the first time since she was born, we are going trick or treating on Halloween!

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