Down Syndrome Awareness Month
October is Down Syndrome Awareness Month, and we like to educate our community on some easy ways to help children with Down syndrome during Halloween. As you all know, Halloween is going to look different this year, so I wanted to give you some practical tips to help this population succeed during the trick-or-treat holiday.
Adaptive Costumes: Due to medical issues, children with Down syndrome tend to avoid costumes that have masks, helmets, headpieces or other objects covering their face or ears. More specifically, masks can be difficult for children with Down syndrome to wear consistently due to congestion issues (from having smaller nasal passages then their peers and chronic ear infections). Tongue thrusting, mouth breathing, and drooling may also decrease their ability to wear a mask securely. But, due to COVID, most neighborhoods are encouraging masks this Halloween. Here are a few tips to help keep them (and you) safe and comfortable:
- Social Distance: Leave a pumpkin, bowl or tray filled with candy (or toys) 6 feet away from you. You can refill the pumpkin as they leave and still enjoy watching the adorable trick-or-treaters from afar.
- Wear a Mask: Consider wearing a mask to help model appropriate placement of a mask while protecting those around you.
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.
- Homemade: You can purchase a plastic teal pumpkin or have fun making your own homemade teal pumpkin with your children. Halloween-themed crafts are a hit with kids this month! And 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.
- Take the Pledge: Sign up for the TTP Pledge Certificate – you can display it on your window or door for your entire neighborhood to see! This site has all sorts of allergy related resources, ideas and videos for you to explore. Check it out!
Communication: Generally, children with Down syndrome have a lot to say in social situations. But the masks, 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.
- Nonverbal: Some kiddos may only respond with gestures, sign language or one-word verbalizations to communicate. But know that you have been the receiver of a successfully communicated feeling of gratitude!
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.
- Six Feet Stickers: I am placing Halloween-themed 6 feet stickers on the sidewalk leading up to my house to help parents feel more comfortable + give children a visual to maintain social distancing.
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 #DownSyndromeAwarenessMonth
Dawn Winkelmann, M.S, CCC-SLP
Speech Language Pathologist & Feeding Specialist for ezpz
Dawn Winkelmann (M.S, CCC-SLP) is ezpz’s Pediatric Speech-Language Pathologist and Feeding Specialist. She has 26 years of experience teaching parents and medical professionals how to start babies on solids safely and encourage toddlers to overcome picky eating. In addition, “Ms. Dawn” is the designer of our award-winning Tiny Cup & Tiny Spoon (for infants) and the Mini Cup + Straw Training System & Mini Utensils (for toddlers).