Photo of a WSBVI class dressed in costumes

By David Hyde

October means different things to different people. When I was young, and the leaves were falling, it was always fun to play in the big piles of red and brown things that fell from the trees. They had such an interesting sound when I walked through them, and I could always tell which way the wind was blowing by how they moved. If, however, it was my job to rake them up, I was much less happy. Once I got them into a nice pile, the wind always came up, and blew them into my neighbor’s yard. But I knew that soon I would have a new supply of them from next door.

Halloween was the big event.  For children who are blind, or have limited vision, it can be both a fun and stressful experience. When I was in first grade, we cut out witches, black cats, and bats to hang on the board. Now I had heard of witches, and I knew about cats. The bats we cut out, however, look nothing like the wooden thing I used to hit a baseball. And why oh why would you put a bat in someone’s hair? That would be heavy and awkward. This made Halloween a learning activity, and we all learned about flying mammals.

Most costumes are visual in nature. I remember dressing up like a ghost at home to go out to trick or treat. Now I knew what a ghost was, after all, we had Casper. For those who don’t remember him, he was a friendly ghost, and almost never scared anyone. It was rather disconcerting to me when I rang a door bell that the person opening it told me I was a “real scary ghost.” I was in science class when I learned what a skeleton looked like, and my Halloween costume looked absolutely nothing like that set of bones I was required to study

Masks were interesting. I don’t believe I truly understood the idea of wearing something that made me look like someone or something else until I had to wear theatrical makeup. The mask was just a plastic shape.

For my friends who had some usable vision, the trick or treating in the dark was a problem. They couldn’t see well in the dark, and then the contrast of porch lights and interior lights made it more difficult yet.

Since this is coming out after Halloween, I doubt that you can implement any of the following ideas, but they will be around for next year.

Parents could try to make the costume a little tactile. If you are making it, use different kinds of cloth. If you are buying it, see what you can find that lets you feel the contrast between the cloth and the design.

Take time to describe the mask and, if you can, find something with which the child can identify. Super heroes are always good.

If your child uses a cane, be sure to make it part of the costume. Decorate it with LEDs, or colored ribbon. Turn it into a wand, a shepherd’s crook, or put a net on the top like a fisherman. These are just a few ideas. The important thing is that the cane is there, and can be used.

If you go with your child, talk about what people do to decorate their yards. If the ornamentation looks like it can be touched, take the time to do so.

A child who doesn’t trick or treat can help hand out the treats to those who come to the door.

The most important thing to do is to have fun.

David Hyde is a Parent Liaison and the Professional Development Coordinator at WCBVI. You can contact him by email at david.hyde@wcbvi.k12.wi.us or by phone at (608) 758-6152 or toll free 1-866-284-1107 x6152.