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Trick or Treat for Nonverbal Children

Submitted by kim on Tue, 10/14/2014 - 13:23 in Nathaniel's Story

I think a lot about how to help Nathaniel understand and engage with the world and how to help the world understand Nathaniel. In this light, Halloween has been troubling me.

How does a child who can not speak and does not eat participate in Halloween?

We could skip it. There are many Christian homeschool families that avoid the holiday all together. We did at one point in our child rearing. In recent years Halloween has provided an excuse to spend time with our friends, Dan and Kelly and their seven children. Last year, Nathaniel's first Halloween, was a cold and rainy week night. After enjoying soup with our friends, we brought him home and missed the door to door part of the evening. We could probably do that every year.

Nathaniel Halloween 2013

But I do not want to get in the habit of avoiding things that are difficult. God's grace is sufficient to push through hard situations toward new solutions. He meets my parenting struggles with gifts of creativity and possibility.

In speech therapy today, Nathaniel was given a file folder with laminated picture squares representing nursery songs. He selected a square, handed it to his therapist, and she sang. Mary Had a Little Lamb. Old McDonald. Mr. Sun. He gave her the Mr. Sun square over and over. It was his favorite. While Nathaniel uses his iPad speaking app occasionally in specific settings, we are still working with him in learning to instigate communication and express himself. The purpose of the file folder song game was two-fold: Nathaniel had to "ask" for something, and it provided another setting to learn that pictures represent things.

Halloween, slightly modified, offers the same communication opportunity. When he goes door to door with his friends, Nathaniel can offer the card above in exchange for candy. A world that understands Nathaniel will be a world that is more accepting of all the Nathaniels.

But what about the fact that he cannot eat?

At our meeting last week, Nathaniel's doctor's approved the use of suckers. One of his therapists suggested it for continued growth in oral strength. Some how, details are hereby delegated to Dad and teen brothers, all candy collected by Nathaniel will change into Dum Dums and Tootsie Pops.

Do you have a kiddo that needs to modify Halloween celebrations? Feel free to edit this word document to meet your needs.