The first time I brought Ladybug trick-or-treating in her wheelchair, I was appalled at the lack of respect others showed her. Honestly, I wanted to yell at a few kids and then say a thing or two to their parents sitting back watching it all happen.
Then there were the adults passing out candy. It made my heart sink to see their indifference to the fact that my child couldn’t meet them at their doors.
I wanted to go into full out mama bear mode that night, but I didn’t. I realize the limiting aspects of our lifestyle never cross the minds of those who do not have a special needs child. Ruining everyone’s evening was the last thing I wanted to do so I held my tongue. The kids were having a good time and I didn’t want to ruin it for them.
Now, however, I’m giving everyone a few tips for when you see that family with a child in a wheelchair trick-or-treating.
HANDING OUT CANDY
When you’re handing out candy to kids running up to your door, stop for a moment and look to your feet. What do you see? If you’re like most houses in our neighborhood there are at least three steps leading up to your door. Now stop to think what this means to a child in a wheelchair. They cannot get up from their chair, climb those steps and meet you at the door.
PLEASE, I cannot stress this enough, walk down and MEET them. Many times, the simple task of getting out trick-or-treating is a feat for these kids.
These kids work hard to get around. They often cannot access things other kids take for granted. The simple act of walking down your steps to meet them will speak volumes. You’re showing them that you acknowledge their difference and you care. You’re showing them you’re proud of them and offering the respect they deserve.
Most importantly, you’re letting them maintain their dignity.
I can’t tell you how many times Grasshopper would walk up the steps to ring the door bell, and the person answering the door would just give an extra piece of candy and say “give this to your sister.”
Can you do this? Yes, the physical act of allowing their siblings to pass the candy on can be done. But please, stop and think about what you’re communicating to my child. You’re communicating that they aren’t worth the extra effort to walk down the steps. If you had even the slightest idea of what these kids go through each day, you wouldn’t hesitate.
So meet them, acknowledge them, and comment on their costume like you would for any other child. Remember that aside from their physical challenges they’re just like other kids. Treat them how you’d like to be treated if you were in their shoes.
The other thing that’s stood out to me while trick-or-treating is the lack of consideration from other children. I cannot tell you how many times we were at the bottom of the steps waiting for someone to answer the door and a swarm of kids ran around Ladybug and up the steps to the door! I mean hello!
You weren’t here first, wait your turn! The worst part was their parents hanging out on the curb allowing this to happen. Ugh, seriously just typing this is making my blood boil.
I realize the kids are excited and it can be hard to reign them in, but this is just plain rude. This is a perfect teachable moment for your kids, don’t waste it. Teach them consideration for others, and basic rules of taking turns. Show them how to be respectful. Don’t worry about being stuck behind us for your entire trick-or-treating evening. Your kids are fast and I know they’re running from house to house.
Teach them self-control at the one house you find yourself behind a special needs child. I promise you that you will be in the front of the line before the next house.
Also, please recognize walkways leading up to someone’s door are not typically wide enough to turn a wheelchair around. If you’re coming to a house where there’s a child in a wheelchair trick-or-treating, please hang back until we’ve had a moment to back away and get turned around. Again, it’s just common courtesy. When your children are piling up behind us, it doesn’t give us any room to keep going and allow your children to walk up to the door.
The bottom line here is to simply treat our special needs children with the same courtesy you’d want to be treated with.