8 Halloween Alternatives for Kids With Disabilities


I have two kids with disabilities, and two of them have sensory issues. My youngest, in fact, has a diagnosis of sensory processing disorder. While all my kids love candy, Halloween has not always been a happy celebration. We have been that family, hiding in our home with the lights off so nobody would ring the doorbell.

Although my kids have learned to appreciate going around the neighborhood asking for candy, we only do it for a short amount of time. We have lived in places where October 31 has greeted us with rain, snow, and last year 70-degree weather. Unpredictable. So over the years, we have found alternative activities that worked for our family. My kids don’t feel left out, and they still finish the season with plenty of candy.

We reached out to our parenting community and asked, “Do you have kids who struggle with trick-or-treating? What are options or alternatives that work for your family?”

These were their suggestions:

1. Trunk-or-Treat

Trunk-or-treat is becoming more and more popular. Churches often put on these events, but other organizations are beginning to follow. People gather in a parking lot, decorate their cars for the occasion, and kids go from car to car asking for candy. Make sure to check out these events and ask about attendance. Some trunk-or-treat events are so popular there are long lines to get through them. The beauty of trunk-or-treat is that older kids or adults can participate, too.

“Auburn Alliance puts on a Trunk-or-Treat for the community. Trunks decorated, candy hand-outs, games and fun. The lines are very long so last year they let my guy come a bit early and one of the families actually made little prize bags for him to collect since he can’t eat candy. This year they are actually opening the event up an hour early for all families of children with disabilities to come and enjoy. They also put in a large padded changing table so families can change their older kids.” — Ellie M.

2. Fall Fest Party

Rather than going from house to house, some churches and businesses organize “fall festivals.” Typically there are games, prizes and of course… candy. My freshmen year in college we organized a fall festival for the community in our gym. We had carnival games, built a cardboard maze, played games with the kids and passed out candy.

“Businesses and agencies in our community put up booths in a gymnasium for two hours in the late afternoon. At each booth they hand out candy or have some fun game to play. It is free for people with [disabilities] age 25 and younger. Dressing up is optional. It’s so fun! ‘Trick-or-treating’ is as short or as long as you need it to be. No RSVP necessary. No having to get in and out of a vehicle. It’s a win-win for all involved. My son loves it.” — Brenda V.

3. Visit Local Businesses

Many businesses open their doors for trick-or-treaters for a few hours during the day.

“There’s a company in our city that puts on a Halloween party for kids with [disabilities]. We go to their office during the day and trick-or-treat at [their] cubicles.” — Arlene B.

“In our town, the local businesses do trick-or-treating in the late afternoon/early evening. So we just go up and down the Main Street so we’re visiting businesses instead of knocking on random strangers doors.” — Karla K.

4. The Mall

Yes, you can go to the mall and get free stuff: candy!

“[We go] trick-or-treating at our local mall in the shops. The mall trick-or-treating is fun!” — Jolene K.

5. Hand Out the Candy Instead of Going Out

Many families prefer to stay home and hand out candy. Some kids enjoy being the ones to open the door and give candy to their visitors.

“After many years of trying, we decided to just stay home and hand out candy, and everyone’s happier. We watch old scary movies (original Frankenstein, The Fly, some Tim Burton movies or Twilight Zone) eat fun snacks and sometimes my parents who live down the street will have a scavenger hunt for my kids with candy or little toys (my daughter can’t eat sugar).” — Charlotte S.

Some kids with sensory issues, however, have a hard time with the doorbell ringing or people coming to their house. While you can put up a sign on the doorbell, the reality is many kids don’t read signs and parents don’t often come to the doors. This is why many of us leave the house during trick-or-treat hours.

6. Movie Night

Some families prefer to make Halloween a fun night out to the movies. And I’m not talking about a scary movie, just a fun movie they’ve been wanting to watch. For kids who find Halloween overwhelming, this might be a great option to be “away” during the busy hours of trick-or-treating while still getting to do something fun.

“Our daughter does not like masks, never has, so we started going to a movie on Halloween. She dresses up, we go trick-or-treating at Grandma’s, then usually to dinner. She gets to pick her favorite candy from the drugstore, and then to the movie. It’s great. Limits the candy and avoids the masses.” — Jill A.

7. Host Your Own Party

Sometimes it is easier to host your own Halloween party. You can invite family or close friends and plan activities that work for your child.

“I always tired easily with the walking and had other spina bifida related issues to the walking. We got to where we just had friends over and had a bon-fire.” — Jolene K.

8. Make Dressing-Up Optional

Kids don’t have to dress up for Halloween. And when kids have sensory issues, many costumes are not sensory-friendly. Your child does not have to dress up to participate in Halloween related activities. But if you are looking for options, (or your child wishes there were options) check out our post on sensory-friendly Halloween costume alternatives.

What about you, what do you do on Halloween? Let us know int he comments.

Photo courtesy of Michelle Sutton Photography.


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