Modified Trick-or-Treating Saves Halloween for Our Family

Sabrina L. Johnson avatar

by Sabrina L. Johnson |

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trick-or-treating with Angelman syndrome | Angelman Syndrome News | Juliana and Jessa sit on the couch wearing ballerina costumes before going trick-or-treating.

Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson

Juliana and her sister, Jessa, pose as ballerinas for their first Halloween together.

When you’re raising a child with Angelman syndrome, even Halloween plans need modifications. For the past several years, we have been changing the way we handle the beloved event of trick-or-treating.

The modifications resulted in part from my Angel’s anxiety when traveling out and about on Halloween night. Now that I’m wiser, we have a plan for trick-or-treating that meets the needs of both my 11-year-old Angel, Juliana, and her 10-year-old sister, Jessa.

Going out is tricky

Many Angels have anxiety issues, and managing that behavior is not always easy. Anxiety can occur with changes in their routine, and dressing up in funny clothes and visiting neighbors for candy is not a part of our daily routine. So, each year, when Oct. 31 rolls around and it’s time for trick-or-treating, my family follows a different routine to make the night fun, but not overwhelming.

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Originally, I envisioned us having the average family Halloween. However, I overlooked the fact that our hilly neighborhood and even certain costumes wouldn’t pass muster for our Halloween. The original plan was also met with resistance from Juliana.

I remember one Halloween when we spent time at neighbors’ and stayed a little longer to chat. Juliana was adorable in her bee costume, but she fussed during most of the visit, and her behavior put me in a sour mood afterward. I was so frustrated because she had such an awesome day at school. Why couldn’t that carry over into the night?

trick-or-treating with Angelman syndrome | Angelman Syndrome News | Juliana sits on the floor wearing a bumblebee costume before going trick-or-treating.

All set for trick-or-treating, 3-year-old Juliana goes out as a bee. (Photo by Sabrina L. Johnson)

That was so much earlier in our special needs journey. I hadn’t thought through how Juliana’s hyperactivity would make it difficult for her to stay engaged while we chatted. She sat while we talked, and this can be very challenging for Angels who need constant motion. Exchanges like this have helped me formulate a better night out.

A better adventure

As Juliana got older, I started to see trick-or-treating from her point of view. One year, she almost refused to get into costume. Another, she pitched a fit as we tried to navigate our neighbor’s tricky steps. So, I did what any smart parent would do. I changed our Halloween.

Modifications have been so important in making our Halloween celebration easier. First, I keep Juliana’s costume super simple. I make sure that nothing is too itchy or tight. Next, I’ve rethought how much ground we cover when trick-or-treating. We visit our favorite neighbors on our street. We don’t leave the block or try to go to every house in our subdivision. And remember that example of the long chat we had one year? That has changed, too.

Walk this way

My husband, Lamar, and I divide and conquer. If a long conversation is brewing, I give a quick goodbye and Juliana and I start moving on to the next house. That way, if my husband wants to continue the conversation, he can stay with Jessa, and I don’t have to worry about Juliana getting fussy from staying in one spot for too long. If it’s near the end of our outing, Juliana and I head home and camp out in the driveway to start in on her candy.

Finally, we limit some of the walking that isn’t always easy for Juliana. When a house has challenging stairs or a tricky driveway, Jessa will retrieve Juliana’s treats while Juliana and I wait at the curb. This is a much safer and easier way to manage those challenges.

Modifications are usually not the first things special needs parents think about when braving the streets for trick-or-treating. It took a few years of trial and error to finally get our tradition right.

As my girls get older, I know we don’t have many years left for trick-or-treating. Even so, it’s comforting to know that the few we do have left will be met with more fun and less stress.


Note: Angelman Syndrome News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Angelman Syndrome News, or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Angelman syndrome.


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