FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – As people get ready for little ghosts and goblins to descend on their driveways, one Fort Wayne mom wants to remind everyone that the kiddos behind the masks aren’t all the same. That’s why it’s her mission to spread how to make Trick-or-Treating accessible for kids of all abilities.
“It’s been on my mind for eleven years as a parent with a child with disabilities. It’s something I’ve stockpiled and things I notice as I’m out with my kid and out with friends who have kids with disabilities,” Cassie Beer said.
Cassie’s oldest son Avram is eleven years old, but developmentally he’s only about three years old.
“His brain just didn’t grow like brains normally grow. So he has global delays; physical and cognitive delays,” she explained.
To say Avram is a people person, would be an understatement. He’s known as his neighborhood’s greeter.
“When he gets home from school, he’ll sit in the yard and say hi to everyone. He’s never met a stranger. If you see us in the grocery store, he might just take a lap around with you or he’ll go sit with other people at a restaurant because he just loves people and I love that about him,” Cassie smiled.
That love of people, makes Avram also love Halloween.
“Even more than the candy, he loves seeing all the people,” she said.
But, sometimes getting treats can be tricky.
“He might not understand that if there’s a bucket of candy, he can’t just take the whole bucket. Or he might want to go into your house and see what you have going on in there because it looks like a great place. Some of the social norms are challenging for him. But, often times, it’s that people just don’t know how to respond to him,” Cassie explained.
To help all kids have a fun Halloween, Cassie is trying to teach other homeowners how to make their Trick-or-Treating experience inclusive for kids of all abilities.
1: Have a separate bucket with candy that is peanut-free so it’s safe for kids with allergies. A teal pumpkin is also an indicator that the candy in that bucket is allergen-free. See more on the Teal Pumpkin Project here.
2: Have a bucket with little toys or non-candy treats for children who can’t eat candy.
3: Move the Trick-or-Treating display to the end of the driveway to avoid driveways and sidewalks that could be difficult to navigate for people in wheelchairs or those who have difficulty walking.
4: Don’t judge a child as being “too old.”
“Avram looks like a big kid, but he’s developmentally about three years old, so Trick-or-Treating is still a really big deal for him. Keep that in mind, that even if someone looks too old, it could still be a special activity for them,” Cassie explained.
5: Don’t make a child say, ‘Trick-or-Treat’
“Kids may not be physically able to say the words ‘Trick-or-Treat’ because of a disability or not having that muscle tone. Forcing kids to say ‘Trick-or-Treat’ could make them feel uncomfortable or left out,” she said.
Cassie added that if a child of different abilities comes to your house, it really comes down to kindness.
“They’re a person too and they’re a kid too and they’re just as deserving of eye contact and a big smile and a ‘Hello! Oh my goodness your costume looks amazing!’ as any other kid. Kindness and an open heart is the expectation,” Cassie said.