October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we celebrate by educating the public on different topics related to children with Down syndrome. We love our friends with Down syndrome and, as a proud partner of the Changing the Face of Beauty campaign, we showcase their beautiful faces in our advertising and branding! Since it’s Halloween season, I thought it would be a great opportunity to share some tips to help this population succeed during this trick-or-treat holiday.
Allergies: Children with Down syndrome have a higher incidence of food allergies than their peers and the teal pumpkin project (TPP) creates a fun and safe environment for them. Becoming a TPP household is easy; just place a teal colored pumpkin on your porch signifying that you offer non-food treats for kiddos with food allergies. You can have fun making your own homemade teal pumpkin with your children (or purchase one). It’s a great conversation starter about a candy-free alternative that promotes inclusion for kiddos with food allergies, celiac disease and other medical conditions.
Communication: Generally, children with Down syndrome have a lot to say in social situations. But the costumes, the ‘pretend’ scary situations and going door-to-door to strange homes can be a tricky social scenario for them. If you have a trick-or-treater who struggles to communicate effectively at your doorstep, please give them some extra time and patience. Offer them a treat, comment on their fun costume and give them a few extra moments to engage you in conversation. Some kiddos may only respond with gestures, sign language or one-word verbalizations to communicate. Others may only give you a sweet smile instead of a verbal ‘thank you.’ But know that you have been the receiver of a successfully communicated feeling of gratitude!
Adaptive Costumes: Children with Down syndrome tend to avoid costumes that have masks, helmets, headpieces or other objects covering their face or ears. This is due to congestion issues from having small nasal passages and chronic ear infections. Tongue thrusting, mouth breathing and drooling may also decrease the ability to be comfortable in a costume that includes a mask. They might also have adaptive equipment such as assistive technology, braces, walkers or a therapy dog, which they will usually add to their creative costume!
Vision & Hearing Impairments: Some children with Down syndrome have vision or hearing impairments that can affect their safety on Halloween night. To help provide a safe environment at your home, keep your porch well lit and decorations out of the path where children will be walking. If you have fun Halloween music playing, try to keep it at a low volume so kids can hear their parents and oncoming cars.
We hope that you incorporate these simple ways to make an impact in the lives of children with Down syndrome. How are you spreading awareness this month to support children with Down syndrome? #ezpzfun #Halloween2017 #downsyndrome #DownSyndromeAwarenessMonth
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz