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Advocate’s Avenue: Tips for Trick or Treaters!

Leslie McLeod, Guest Columnist

Halloween is just around the corner. Are you ready for those trick or treaters? Those who will be handing out candy this year will be greeted with many smiling faces (some behind a mask). Some of those faces will be of children with developmental disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about one in six, or about 15 percent, of children in the United States (ages 3-17 years) have one or more developmental disabilities. That means more than likely, those handing out candy this year will come in contact with a child with a disability.

How can you tell if a child has a disability? You can’t always tell just by looking at them. I can’t count the times someone has said to me my child doesn’t look like he has Autism. I have yet to get an answer on what a child with Autism looks like. But it’s just not with Autism. A child may have another type of developmental disability. They may have an intellectual disability. They may have a hearing or vision disability. They may have a cognitive or learning disability.

How do you make your trick or treating destination stop a friendly one to those with a disability? Here are a few easy tips that may help you this Halloween:

Hand out your candy in an accessible area.

Keep your pets indoors. While the animal may be friendly, some children may feel frightened, giving them an unnecessary and unpleasant experience.

If the child has a service dog, please remember not to pet or distract the animal. Distracting the dog takes their focus off the child, which they are working to assist.

Have more than one option when it comes to candy or snacks. Some kids may have diabetes, a food allergy, or other dietary restrictions. This can include food dye. The most common food dye parents steer clear from are ones with red and yellow dye.

If a child is visually impaired, describe the type of treat you have in the bowl so they can choose what they would rather have.

If a child is hearing impaired, speak clearly. Face them and let them see your mouth when you are talking.

Be patient and understanding. For example, the child may become over-stimulated and have a meltdown from the stress. These meltdowns can include tantrum like reactions, aggressiveness or self injury. The best reaction in this situation is remaining calm and allow the parents to take care of the situation.

Treat the child the same as you would any other child.

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