Why the New Trend of Trick-or-Treating 'Announcement' Cards Seriously Pisses This Mom Off

Mom and daughter
Adrian Wood
As a mom of a little boy with autism, Adrian Wood is more than familiar with not only what holidays can be like for kids with invisible disabilities, but what life in general is like. As a mom-of-four and 3-year-old Amos's fierce advocate, Adrian has an important message to everyone who will be handing out candy to trick-or-treaters this Halloween: "Don't make my son carry a disability announcement to trick-or-treat."

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If you haven't come across these personalized cards before, Adrian described them as an introduction to your child that explains why they may not trick-or-treat the "standard" way:

Trick or treat cards for kids with autism
Simply Special Ed/Facebook

"Truthfully, I really wanted to like them. They are well designed and child friendly and you can fill out your child's information," Adrian wrote on Facebook. "The cards, which I thought initially were to be pinned on a costume, are actually to pass out as your child trick-or-treats. Now, let me just say, I have no problem with being real and honest, but this card thing burns me up."

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"The idea of my 3-year-old handing over a card to promote folks being kind, just felt wrong for me," Adrian tells CafeMom. "One, what about when we go out to dinner or church or to the playground. I think if all of us just tried to be more open and kind and less judgmental about 'behavior,' we wouldn't need cards."

Adrian admits that she used to be someone who wasn't initially understanding of all trick-or-treaters who came to her door. "I am guilty too. I used to request for children to say trick-or-treat or ask about where their costume may be," she says. "I like to think now that I'll let parents worry about those things and my role is to participate and be kind or turn my porch light off. I think if a child chooses to offer a card, that is awesome and empowering, but [my family and I] are not there yet and I want people to feel like we can talk and they can ask questions."

Little boy
Adrian Wood

Instead of making Amos hand out a card at every house and having the stranger struggle to read it in the dark among the Halloween chaos, Adrian wants to get frank with anyone who comes across her message. "Let's have a conversation and I'll be honest and hopefully you'll see the amazing joy that my shark/Peter Pan/R2D2 (we can't decide) brings our family," she wrote. "Life is not understood by printed messages on cards. Empathy is built upon interactions, relationships, and putting yourself in another's shoes."

As a child with disabilities, Amos might not trick-or-treat the same way as every child, but that doesn't mean he should have to beg each home for understanding by presenting them with a card. "Be kind. That's all that is required, be kind. Kind people don't demand little boys say trick-or-treat or judge parents whose children may 'appear' rude or refuse to wear a costume," she wrote. "Kind people recognize a regular family trying to do a simple thing like trick-or-treating and they smile and are friendly. They don't need a card."

Luckily, Amos didn't have any problems with insensitive candy-givers last year, but Adrian is urging everyone who is handing out treats this year to be understanding instead of making assumptions that a child is rude. "I think if we want to be a part of Halloween as hosts, passing out candy, then we should be gracious hosts," she says. "It's not the role of the giver to chastise or scold or expect. It is to give and be the one that folks will remember as kind."

Boy in stroller
Adrian Wood

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Adrian wants to be as transparent as possible before the festivities begin, and she is sharing 11 helpful hints from her special needs family that she hopes everyone keeps in mind and can make the difference in a child's Halloween experience: 

  1. Keep an open mind. Remember that many disabilities are hidden, and so be gentle and kind to everyone rather than questioning.
  2. Do not demand that little people say "trick or treat." Please consider that some children may be nonverbal or, like my Amos, not great with questions.
  3. Offer a candy/food-free bucket of treats. Again, families that have children with food allergies will be so appreciative of this extra effort. Glow bracelets are a hit for everyone.
  4. First impressions matter. You may never again see the families or children that darken your doorstep, but be the type of person that they will remember fondly. 
  5. Don't expect trick-or-treaters to have good manners. Leave the good manners up to parents and remember that children may have special needs, be shy, or perhaps have just had too much sugar. Whatever the reason, you smile and say hello.
  6. Ask open-ended questions to parents if the child is silent. Tell me about this costume and where y'all have been this evening.
  7. Roll with the punches. My son says, "smell my feet, chocolate," so not entirely correct, but we consider it a win.
  8. Expect unpredictable. Small children with autism may grab candy and haul ass into your house, so just smile and invite them in or give them extra candy and send them on their way.
  9. Special needs are awfully tricky when it comes to trick-or- treating. Yep, I sweat just thinking about it. It's hard enough to cram little people in costumes, much less someone with autism who doesn't relish being in crowds. Encourage us?
  10. Our kids can get easily overstimulated. If we hear loud noises and avoid your house, it's just to look after the needs of our little people.
  11. Relax. Fun means talking and hugs and laughing and not being in a hurry. 
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