Updated: Oct 18
Do you know the feeling when you’ve been looking forward to going to a special dinner all day? Your stomach is grumbling, you’re all dressed up, and ready to eat. Imagine getting to the restaurant and there is nothing on the menu that you can eat, it’s all inedible to you. But you have to watch everyone else at the table enjoy themselves. That’s sort of what it’s like for a child with dietary restrictions on Halloween.
Now imagine: you’re at home, you’ve got a show playing on Netflix, the washing machine is going, your phone starts ringing, a firetruck drives by with the sirens blasting, your dog starts barking, all at the same time. You just want to press mute on the world. This is comparable to what it can sometimes feel like for children who experience sensory overload.
Last scenario, I promise. Say you need to get to the second floor of a building. But the building has no stairs or an elevator. There is no conceivable way to get from point A to point B. Disabled people on Halloween struggle with issues like this when it comes to the physical barriers in the way of getting to the front door to Trick or Treat.
Figuratively putting ourselves in these situations will help us gather a better understanding for what other people may be experiencing. Practicing empathy is one of the most effective business strategies and here are a few ways you can apply that empathy this Halloween.
The question is: How can we make Halloween more inclusive?
Whether you’re using these tips in your personal life when planning how to hand out Halloween candy at the end of this month, or if you intend on having a Halloween party at the office, these ideas could allow for the space to be more inclusive for everyone to enjoy this fun holiday!
Be mindful of the treats you’re handing out. Some people have separate bowls of candy for those with nut allergies. Also, having non-food treats available can be super meaningful. These treats can be glow sticks or even toys. 1 in every 13 children have dietary restrictions due to food allergies. Many more children have issues with sugar intake, swallowing, or other health related occurrences that may prohibit them from being involved in the candy aspect of Halloween. There is a movement called Teal Pumpkin Project. The idea is for homes or businesses who have non-food treats available to display a teal pumpkin. By even having the option of non-food treats, you can make a huge difference in the way a Trick or Treaters Halloween night plays out.
Create an intentional space that is conscious of sensory stimulation. Having a space specifically for Trick or Treaters that is allowing for a child to choose fun over fear can create a very special Halloween moment. When thinking of children who experience sensory aversions, it’s important to note - use of any fog machines, strobe lights, or other mechanisms such as these, can be very overwhelming; limiting loud or startling noises will be beneficial; and accepting a costume (or lack thereof) as okay is important because some sensory problems manifest in different ways. In the office, you may want to have a space allocated to the children participating in Halloween. Save the spookier things for the adults.
Make sure that there are accessible routes for those who are differently abled. If you have steps to your front door, try setting up your Trick or Treating station on the walk-way before the stairs. Or you could even set up the candy station at the end of your drive-way. At your office parties, or if handing out candy at your business location, make sure that there is enough space to navigate and it is well-lit. Don’t make disabled Trick or Treaters feel like an after-thought. Halloween is about community, and they are just as much a part of the community as anyone else.
Other things to think about when cultivating the Halloween experience
Some children are non-verbal. Some children are blind or deaf. Some children have anxiety. Just because you can’t see a disability does not mean it doesn’t exist. So be sensitive and empathetic towards others. Taking steps to make sure that each child is given an opportunity to have an enjoyable holiday will make a difference. If you are able to get feedback and make adjustments, do so without hesitation. Do your best, and make your best even better. When we actively seek to be inclusive, we are all better for it. Showing the people in your company and/or community that inclusivity matters to you and your business will make them want to support you just like you’re supporting them.
How this is about more than just Halloween
Employing these strategies outside of the holiday and incorporating them in your every day business will bring us closer to achieving equity in our work places and the community. When we talk about inclusivity, it’s important to note all the intersections. The children that are Trick or Treating today will grow up to be adults in the work place tomorrow. It goes beyond just striving to create a safe space for children on a holiday, and goes into curating an attentive environment for people of all ages and abilities. Use these tips for this Halloween as a start to pushing towards a more conscious atmosphere in your work place.
Remember - it’s not tricky to make Halloween a treat.