Is Trick-Or-Treating A Good Idea For Children With Special Needs?

Tonight, millions of children, dressed from Frozen characters to famous athletes, will take to neighborhood streets all across the nation for trick-or-treat. This year, however, there may be a healthier alternative to the sweets and treats they’ll bring home.


If you know me, you know I love a good costume! In fact, I’ve been known to plan a year in advance. I just love to get my hands into some craft supplies! Every year for a decade, on trick or treat night, our family has hosted a Costume Party. The planning goes on for weeks, signature drinks for the adults, spooky snacks and a costume contest. We’ve never missed a year. Not even the time our foster daughter had her g-tube placed.


The ring tailed lemur
$4 long sleeve shirt, hand-me-down sweats, $1 felt, $2 decorative craft piping, hot glue,
Total cost = $7 and 8 burned fingers.

I’m not really a Pinterest mom. Believe me, this is not a post about one-uping the ladies from the PTA. Who am I kidding? I’m not on the PTA. I’m a little more like one of those “Pinterest Gone Wrong” bits you find floating around Facebook. The ones that keep me up at night giggling while my responsible husband is trying to get some sleep.

This year has been a little different though. I’m feeling overwhelmed with food allergies, behavioral issues and a revised budget.  Our 5th grader has a severe reaction to red 40, yellow5 and high fructose corn syrup. He also has issues with impulse control. With his teenage years lurking around the corner he now has embarrassment over anything that makes him feel different. This time of year, which has always brought such joy, is now filled with anxiety.

We cancelled our annual party for fear that someone might bring candy containing allergens into our house. Instead of the typical buzz of excitement our family has been locked firmly in a no-win debate about Trick-or-Treat. Should we all participate and risk the exposure to allergens? Should we abstain and sit inside in the dark? Should we create an alternate activity? The uncertainty over what to do left me feeling paralyzed.


Vampire Bat
$2.70 felt, $7 sweatshirt, his own pants, hot glue.
Total cost = $9.70 and a few more burned fingers (but they are already numb from the last costume)

In our home, the costumes are typically ready to wear by October 1st. Until last night, I hadn’t even touched the pinking shearers.  As I was sorting through my youngest son’s back pack Wednesday afternoon, I found the crumpled up reminder that I had signed up for the Costume Party…THIS THURSDAY! What was I thinking?!  I stopped panicking and started creating. I was up till midnight hot gluing my fingers together the lemur tail and vampire-bat ears. I stayed up long past everyone was asleep and the house was peaceful, giving me plenty of time to think.


My Frugal Favorite
The Ghost!
Total Cost = $0 (and a heart full of pride for the child who wanted to wear a bed sheet)

I began to ask myself, “Why am I so sad about skipping out this year?”

Then I remembered, It’s the crispness in the air, the crunching of leaves. The nostalgic excitement I feel as my children wriggle into their costumes. The thrill of pretending to be something else, for just one night. Embracing the magical, scary, beautiful or daring. Most of all, It’s the sense of community. Neighbors who only nod to one another in passing are now gathered on the sidewalk swapping stories and taking pictures of their little ones as they race door to door. It’s the warmth I feel in my heart as our local fire fighters take time to great children as they make their way through our town. It’s the pride I feel in living where I do.

Tonight I’m going to talk about all of this with my pre-teen son. I know he doesn’t want to miss out either. We are going to make a compromise.

My son and his big sisters painting our Teal Pumpkin!

My son painting our Teal Pumpkin with a little help from his awesome big sisters!

Last week my sister-in-law sent me a link to the FARE Teal Pumpkin Project. Check it out by clicking here. With the help of our pre-teen son, we will be painting a teal pumpkin to place in front of our house. This will be a sign to other families that a non-food treat is available. It’s a way for us to empower him to be a part of Trick or Treat. I know he still won’t enjoy feeling different but this is a way for him to use uniqueness to help others like him to have a safe place to trick-or-treat.

Question: Are you participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project, or using a different Trick-Or-Treat alternative? Share your story with us! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Teal Pumpkin Project

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