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Expert advice on making sure all trick-or-treaters have a safe, fun night

Safety and Health Tips for Children with Special Needs at Halloween

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Remember - tonight when the little ghouls and goblins come trick-or-treating at your door, you most likely don't know the child under the mask.

The children who knock on your door may be walking up your steps with special developmental or health needs to keep in mind.

"Halloween should be a fun time for all kids, particularly young kids. Homes should be a welcoming place for trick or treaters who come to have fun and get candy," Joy Crabtree, Psy.D., a licensed psychologist and clinic manager for Cook Children's in the Northeast Clinic and Southlake. "Please keep in mind that a lot of children, particularly young children, may have anxiety issues and can be easily frightened. Keep this in mind when decorating your home, yard, and even in what you choose to wear in terms of a costume when you answer the door for trick or treaters. Halloween night should not be viewed as a time to frighten young trick or treaters, in my opinion. Kids are out to have fun and get candy, not looking to visit a haunted house!"

Kat Davitt, a Child Life specialist at Cook Children's, reminds us to not make assumptions about the age of a child based on their size. An older child or teen with special needs may still want to trick-or-treat. "The best clue about their special developmental needs would be a parent close by a child or teen who we may think at first sight is too old to be trick-or treating," Davitt said.

Speaking of adult supervision, Sharon Evans, Cook Children's Trauma Injury Prevention/Outreach coordinator, reminds grownups to be careful tonight.

She recommends:

  • Active adult supervision.
  • Put electronics down.
  • Keep your head up and walk, never run, across the street.

Evans asks parents to follow the same safety measures they do the remainder of the year that they do on Halloween. She says she sees too many kids riding around in the back of a truck or the cargo area of an SUV.

"There is lots of research to show a child does not have the cognitive ability to cross the street by themselves until they are 10 years old," Evans said. "A child with special needs may require active adult supervision at an older age. However, on Halloween when kids are already excited and then you add a ton of sugar, and a costume that can obstruct a child's vision, we have to be especially attentive. Have fun, but keep the safety rules in place."

Children with food allergies can have a particularly challenging time during all holidays, including Halloween. Their desire to feel included in the rite of passage that is trick-or-treating doesn’t always mesh well with the risk of getting food that could harm them.

Many of the most common food allergies are frequent ingredients in Halloween treats (nuts, milk, egg, soy and wheat).

"Over the past few years, there has been a movement toward providing non-food options for trick-or-treaters," said Justin Smith, M.D., a Cook Children's pediatrician. "You can designate your house a food-allergy friendly house by painting a pumpkin teal or for those of you are aren’t as crafty, you can print out this flyer and tape it to your door."

Being a parent is tough. We want you to know that you are not alone. We've compiled tips, resources and practical advice on a variety of safety and prevention topics designed to help you raise a safe and healthy family.

7 Tips for a Safe Halloween

Sadly, many kids get hit by cars during Halloween. A little planning before the big night can go a long way toward keeping your children injury free. Safe trick-or-treating begins with your littles ones' costumes.

"Parents may think buying costumes that are too big allow children to wear the costumes for several years, but outfits that are too big can cause falls," said Dana Walraven, manager of Community Health Outreach at Cook Children's and coordinator of the Safe Kids Tarrant County Coaltion.

Use these tips as your kids are preparing for Halloween:

  1. Select costumes that fit well.
  2. Trick-or-treat with your children.
  3. To help drivers see kids in the dark, put reflective tape at the top and bottom of costumes. This lets drivers better see your kids' height and movement.
  4. Use face paint instead of masks so trick-or-treaters' vision isn't blocked.
  5. Plan a familiar trick-or-treating route on safe, well-lit streets, use sidewalks and cross the street at intersections.
  6. When crossing the street, use the crosswalk and make eye contact with the drivers so you know they see you and your group.
  7. Use a flashlight or glow stick to light the way. 
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