What is one of the first things you think about when someone says Halloween?

Most times it is pumpkins and candy.  Followed by the phrase ” trick or treat”

The thing is that small phrase is actually quite important to the holiday.  It is what is expected to be said by all candy hunters and quite frankly there are a number of candy givers who will seriously not give up the treats until those words are said.

But what if your child cannot say those words?  What if your child cannot talk at all? or what if your child has such intense sensory issues that even simply wearing their costume is taking all they have that day?

I have to say that all that really fits how things were for Elizabeth in her early years.  Her special needs of Dyspraxia and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) were really affecting her life at this point.  She was non-verbal until five years old and even after that, there words were slow in coming.

So what do you do?

Well for us, I must say, I wish I had done more.  I wish I had known then what I know now because I will say, I would have done things so very much differently.

So here is what I wish I would have done.


By this I mean, know what they like and do not like.  And go with it.  If the costume is so adorable that you just must have your child wear it, but in truth, their sensory system cannot handle it.  Then it is time to let go of the desired costume and find one that works with your child.

I fully recognized that the black cat costume, when she was three years old, was stressing Elizabeth, but it was SOOO cute!

I see now that a calm Elizabeth would have been so much more fair to her to allow her to enjoy her holiday.


I  most certainly know that Elizabeth’s big sister, Emily, wanted to go to each and every last house on our street.  A street that is close to a mile.  EVERY.  LAST. HOUSE.  So not wanting to disappoint her, we worked overtime to keep Elizabeth as calm and organized as possible.

But what would have been better would have been to plan a route that was within the parameters of what Elizabeth could handle and then have a plan B to make sure Emily had the Halloween experience that she was wanting.

Oh, and some advice here, once the route is planned.  Stick with it.  This allows your special needs child to relax and trust that what they are expecting to have happen, happens.


As much as it would have been wonderful for Elizabeth to march on up to the door and loudly and clearly say “trick or treat’, the reality of our world is that, at that time, she could not and would not.

She would walk up to the door.


She would stand on a step.

But that was where she was with her special needs at the time.  So it was up to me or my husband to bridge that gap and kind of say the words with and for her.  Sort of helping her to succeed.

How great to have been able to hand the candy passer outer a card that says the word your child cannot (yet) say?

Our would have said something like this:

Trick or Treat. It is hard for me to say those words. But I love “treats” Happy Halloween.

Making up some of these cards or even a small sign that can be shown would be such an effective and subtle way to help your child enjoy a holiday that most children love.

These are just ideas and the things I wish I would have thought about before Halloween arrived.  Maybe one or two will look good to you.

Lastly, anything you plan  do to help your child, try to do it a couple of weeks before.  This gives you plenty of time to talk about it, plan for it, talk about it. And talk about it.(insert smile face here)

Good luck with your planning and as a quick sidebar here, Elizabeth grew to be, what we like to say the champion Halloweener.  She simply and fully loved the holiday and the hunt for those treats.

I wish everyone a peaceful week.

Michele Gianetti author of “I Believe In You: A Mother and Daughter’s Special Journey” and “Emily’s Sister”