“Growing up I had a lot of education about empathy, inclusion and the different abilities of everyone. For many years of my childhood I was raised in a foster home right next to children who lived with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Epilepsy, Cerebral Palsy, Sensory disorders and many other afflictions that weren’t exactly diagnosed 25-30 years ago. While I do struggle with my own issues, I was always considered to be the least afflicted among my foster brothers and sisters. 30 years ago, grown adults would make comments in front of us all that I was the ‘normal’ one. I was a 6-year-old with a complete lack of respect for adults. They had no idea the struggles and hardships my brothers and sisters went through to try and fit in when mentally, their brains just did not grow in the same way, and therefore they would always have limitations.
I promised myself as a child that I would help kids as an adult and make sure that kids felt included.
Guys, I failed.
I haven’t done a single thing. I took this amazing upbringing – one I wouldn’t wish on any other kid but one I wouldn’t trade for any in the world – and I haven’t done a single thing with it.
However, recently I have been thinking about the upcoming Halloween and how when I was a kid, some of the children in my home couldn’t participate in Halloween because of the different issues we all dealt with on a daily basis. While my chronic anxiety and severe asthma didn’t withhold me from Halloween, I did participate in spite of the over-stimulation, not because of it. For some kids, this is not an option. For children with epilepsy, the flashing lights would induce a seizure causing them to fall and possibly suffer life altering damage to themselves. Children on the spectrum are already processing exponentially more information than any of us.
While I understand Halloween is about fear, and scaring, the night itself is very exclusive to a certain demographic of children.
Recently I thought up an idea to ask my neighbors if they would participate in a Sensory Sensitive Trick or Treating event the night before Halloween.
The guidelines would be:
- No song and dance. We do not require the kids to say ‘trick or treat’ or dress up
- Kids and teens alike are included
- Provide a no food option, like a small toy (which I am sponsoring as well as others in the community)
- No flashing lights or automated decorations
- No fear inducing decorations
I have one family who is covering their extensive decor up for a few hours so they can participate. Another house won’t be home on Halloween and are excited they are still able to hand out candy. Then I had someone donate a large amount of non-food treats for the event…
And then, the news called.
You guys, if you are losing your faith in humanity, come up with a tiny idea on how to make one kid’s night better and watch the ripple effect of love and light. I swear this has been the most fulfilling experience. Everyone keeps thanking me and I have no idea why. It feels wrong that as adults it has taken us this long to provide this for children. It makes me wonder how we all got so caught up in life that such a small idea has garnered SO MUCH attention. These small concessions for such a large population of children should be made every day. We are the next generation now. We are the adults. It is our turn to show the world all the good we promised we would do when we were little. It’s our turn. You can either realize you are the reason nothing gets done, or you can be the change.
I don’t mean to be preachy, because I am not perfect. My life is a mess too and I don’t help as much as I should. But I honestly had a small idea of getting a few houses together to give a small amount of children a special night of trick-or-treating, and the news is calling me.
This shouldn’t be such a big deal.
We should be doing these things all the time.
I hope each and every one of you can find some small way to make someone you don’t know smile today. I get the feeling the world really needs a smile right now.”
Since this mom introduced the idea, she has received an outpouring of support and thanks for organizing the event so all children can feel included.
“Thank you so much for organizing something like this! Halloween is always so confusing for my dude,” wrote one mother. “We would absolutely love to participate in your event.”
“I would love to bring my son to the sensory Halloween,” added another. “Love that you have organized this! Will definitely make Halloween much more enjoyable for my boy.”
“My son is 6-years-old and has non-verbal autism, so Halloween can be challenging for him,” another mom said. “A lot of people don’t understand why he can’t say ‘trick or treat’ or ‘thank you.’ This sounds wonderful for him.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kayleigh C. Lynds of 16 Seasons photography in Alberta, Canada. It originally appeared on her blog. Submit your own story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.
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