In just a few days, little goblins will be ringing my doorbell. I can’t wait…I really love seeing kids having fun, all dressed up in costume, and so excited to go home and sort out their treats!
However, for many families, Halloween is really not all that much fun. Special needs can throw a wrench into this holiday, making it a rough day for everyone. For some kids, costumes are itchy, or have unfamiliar textures that make them feel uneasy. For others, the concept of dressing up feels uncomfortable. One mom of a child with autism confided, “My daughter really doesn’t like to pretend to be someone she’s not.” Some children may have difficulty navigating wet lawns and uneven pavement in the dark, while others feel frustrated because they’re sensitive or allergic to many of the popular treats they collect. Finally, those who struggle socially are often left out of trick-or-treating groups or Halloween parties. One dad found out that every child in the neighborhood was invited to a pumpkin party…except his son. When another neighbor asked the party host about it, she simply replied. “Oh. We really don’t care for him. So he’s not invited.”
While we can’t control the hearts and minds of everyone in the neighborhood, we can easily make a few modifications to our Halloween practices that can help everyone feel welcome and included. Here are a few suggestions:
- Consider giving your trick-or-treaters fair warning if you enjoy a spooky Halloween. Perhaps you can post a sign that points to your front door that warns, “Those who want a fun Halloween scare, go this way…” and another sign that points to your back door that indicates, “Those who prefer a friendly face, please go this way.” Have your spouse or a teen helper take over that station, and parents can help their kids decide which choice is best.
- If you are aware that kids in your neighborhood have food sensitivities, consider offering a choice of candy or pocket money. Tie up a couple of shiny dimes or a quarter in a Halloween bag for kids who can’t have candy.
- Chat with your kids about their Halloween plans, and gently suggest they include someone who may not have plans. The child who is invited may refuse, but for kids who are frequently left out of such activities, the invitation alone is priceless.
- Invite a child who can’t trick-or-treat to hang out with you for a couple of hours. For kids whose health is fragile or for those who have disabilities that make trick-or-treating impractical, a special invitation to your house could make a tremendous difference. In addition, this might allow parents to assist others in the family with Halloween activities…or just have a couple of hours of rest.
- Go easy on kids’ manners. In the best of circumstances, Halloween is exciting and overwhelming. For kids who struggle with language, impulse control or social skills, waiting for their turn politely or saying, “thank you so much” just might not happen. Be sure to send every kid off with a warm, and heart-felt, “Thank you for coming…I was so happy to see you!”
None of these ideas is ground-breaking of course…just a few simple ways to spread a little love and “treat” your neighbors to a great Halloween. Enjoy!
Annie and Bill getting ready for trick-or-treating…1998
Just wanted to share some events, programs and services I’ve come across this summer…add them to your idea file and enjoy!
Summer is a great time to delve into a new book or two. When our kids were little we always joined the summer reading program at our local library. It was a fun place to visit when we needed a break from the heat, and the kids always enjoyed the games and prizes as well as their books. Christ Community Chapel’s Hudson Campus is inviting the community into the church library for a similar program What a fabulous way to reach out and draw kids into some great reading that points them to Christ! Read more about it here.
Our friends at St. Gabriel’s Parish in Concord, OH. held a special “One Day Voyage” Vacation Bible School for the second year. This program allowed children with disabilities who were not able to participate in the week-long program to enjoy learning about Jesus in an environment that is the “just-right-fit.” I’m a little biased about this, since it was the brainchild of my friend (and Key Ministry Board Member!) Amanda Mooney. Earlier this summer, Steve Grcevich interviewed Amanda on his blog…check it out here.
When we attended our daughter’s orientation at Calvin College, we learned about a program run by Student Academic Services. Calvin’s “Coaching Program” pairs students with trained study coaches (also students!). Together, they set goals for issues such as time management, study skills, and test taking. What struck me about this program is that it is completely funded by a donor and the services are provided at no cost to the students. What a wonderful way to make an impact!
Finally, we attended a fabulous party at Fellowship Bible Church: The Luau. This event, led by the amazing Abby Hamilton, hosted over 60 adults with special needs. The evening included games, prizes, food, crafts and a whole lot of good fun! It was a wonderful way to serve as a family as well as meet some new friends.
Now…share your summer sampler with me! Leave a comment below to tell me about the programs and events that you’ve enjoyed…I can’t wait to learn from you!
As I write this, I’m sitting in the outpatient surgery waiting room at Rainbow Babies and Childrens Hospital. Annie is having her wisdom teeth removed today. It’s really a no-big-deal procedure that will result in some swelling and discomfort. I predict a lot of milkshakes and jello in her near future.
As I glance around the room, I’m so impressed with the obvious planning that went into this space. Televisions are well-placed and the chairs are quite comfortable (they’re gliders, so I’m happily rocking while I blog!) Above me is a lighted image of the earth taken from outer space. In the adjacent room, computer games are installed on wall computers for young patients to enjoy. The bathroom is accessible and lockers are provided to store belongings under lock and key. The hospital staff, architects and interior designers worked together beautifully to make this a comfortable, inviting space.
However, none of the “stuff” replaces the kind of care we have received. The parking attendant greeted us with a smile.The receptionist we met this morning was pleasant and helpful. The admissions secretary led us up to the surgery center so we wouldn’t get lost. The nurses and doctors weren’t in a hurry, and, with kind smiles and patient eyes, answered all of our questions.
In short…it was a medical procedure wrapped in a thick, comfy blanket of hospitality.
So, what can the church learn from the waiting room?
- Ministry begins as soon as the mini vans turn into the parking lot, and parking attendants are the church’s “first face.” Be certain that those who are serving in this capacity know that in addition to ensuring safety, they are promoting hospitality as well.
- Be certain that your ministry area is comfortable, clean, and appropriately lit.
- Purchase or create signage that helps newcomers to know where to go.
- Greeters should be on the lookout for visitors and anticipate their questions and needs.
- Provide activities for children to enjoy while they’re waiting for class to begin (this lessens anxiety and prevents behavior problems.)
- Good care ALWAYS trumps good “stuff.” Don’t worry if you can’t afford fancy computers, the latest sound system or the nicest furniture. The Church is NOT about pretty things.The “wow” factor that a slick, exciting space evokes is short-lived; the care provided by humble, loving staff and volunteers is lasting. THAT is what builds the Kingdom!