If your family is one of the millions with children who have an attention deficit hyperactivity (ADHD) disorder, a food allergy or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD), a bit of preparation can help keep the holiday fun and safe.
Candy Safety First
Food allergies now affect one in 13 children. The good news is, awareness is also on the rise, but free-flowing Halloween candy may still pose a challenge. Three of the most common triggers—peanuts, tree nuts and milk—are found in many types of Halloween candy.
Before your little ghost or goblin goes trick-or-treating, set some ground rules. It can be easy to get swept up in the fun, but remind her that food safety is always a priority. Food sharing is still a big no-no, and you’ll need to inspect all her treats before they’re eaten.
If you know the neighbors or loved ones you’ll be visiting to trick or treat, drop off allergy-safe goodies before the big night. Have a backup bundle of nonfood prizes or swaps on hand to prevent disappointment. If your child is young enough, set up a candy fairy station where nonsafe items can be magically exchanged overnight.
Stay vigilant as a parent. Brush up on your label reading skills since you may come across new items that need further investigation and carry an emergency medical kit to immediately combat allergic reactions with you just in case.
The flurry of activity, costumes, food and people that accompanies Halloween may be difficult for children with ASD or ADHD.
To prepare your child with autism for Halloween, try talking about how the evening will go or coloring pictures of the two of you going trick-or-treating. Choose a costume that is comfortable and have your child try it on before the big day. Know your child’s limits. If big crowds are a trigger, host a smaller gathering at home. If he’s not comfortable in the dark, check out a daytime or indoor event.
Many children with ADHD or ASD are on restricted diets to help manage symptoms. Consider planning with friends and family to host an event where sugar, casein and gluten are off the menu, if those items aren’t in your family’s diet.
Having a good plan will help minimize meltdowns and keep your family well this Halloween.