It’s that time of year, when pumpkin patches, hayrides and corn mazes are abundant. The weather is cooling off and the Halloween costume stores are officially open. The anticipation for what can be one of the best nights in a child’s life is about to happen: Halloween! The one night that you get to go door-to-door, yell “Trick or Treat!”, get candy in your bag or bucket, and run with glee to the next house.
While this may be one of the best nights for some children, other children may struggle with it. Some kids struggle with social cues, like making eye contact. Some have sensory issues and struggle to take candy from your hand or from the container you may be giving candy from.
I’m reminded of a Halloween episode of “The Middle” – a show where a mom, Frankie Heck, has a son, Brick Heck, who struggles with social cues and whispers and whoops for no apparent reason. Brick is placed in a special group of kids at school to help support his developmental and social skills. In this particular episode of “The Middle”, Frankie ends up trick-or-treating with Brick’s entire social skills group. She goes door-to-door with a child that “meows” because they believe they are cat, and another child who needs a pair of socks on his hands because he cannot get his hands dirty. The episode is all in fun, and in no way makes fun of the kids, but it does place focus on a group of children who are special, and are needing special attention in a way that other kids do not. In the episode, you see Frankie struggle to get from house to house with all the kids from the social group, and bumps into a mother and daughter who are trick-or-treating. While Frankie apologizes to the mother-daughter duo, the mom says under her breath, “I wouldn’t let my kids act like that.” In horror, Frankie hears what the mom says and is outraged, as she is doing her best to give the kids from the social group the same experience every other child is entitled to; which is to have a fun night where you get to dress up, run from house-to-house and get candy.
I really want to encourage you to take a moment this Halloween, when you are handing out candy to all your trick-or-treaters, to realize that some of the kids may struggle with things your child may not, such as social cues or sensory issues. I believe all parents are doing their best and so if a child bumps into yours, or is running in excitement and cuts your child off, before you conclude “that’s an unruly child who needs to be disciplined,” and possibly making a comment to another parent, take a second to think about what that child may be needing that you are unaware of. Every child deserves nonjudgmental fun dressing up as their favorite character, running door-to-door, and having fun this Halloween night.
Jenny Wegner, MS, MFT