Making Halloween Inclusive

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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Kevin Embracing my inner alien

Green Arrow costume, image provided by Kevin Schaefer

October is one of my favorite times of the year, and not just because it’s my birthday month. Call me childish, but I never grow tired of the creative Halloween costumes, the festivities, scary movies and the buckets of candy that accompany this season. It’s the only time of the year when no one is judged for dressing ridiculously and embracing their inner child.

Yet as people get ready for Halloween parties and buy costumes for their kids to go trick-or-treating, some may think that it’s just too difficult for children in wheelchairs to participate. The costumes they sell in stores and online are already tight and hard to put on able-bodied kids. Why would anyone want to go through the hassle of trying to find one that an SMA child can wear?

While it’s true that the traditional store-bought Halloween costumes aren’t exactly tailor-made for children with disabilities, there are many other options for parents. Growing up, my Mom would either help me make my own costume or modify a store-bought one to fit me. I wanted to be the Terminator one year (when I was a teenager, not a 5-year-old), and to do this I simply wore my Mom’s jacket and sunglasses, spread some of her lipstick on my face to make it look like blood and topped it off with a toy gun that was easy for me to hold. Creative solutions like these have allowed me to be Captain Pike from Star Trek, Kevin from The Office, Darth Vader, Green Arrow, Batman and my personal favorite, Shia LaBeouf when he made that “Just Do It” video on YouTube.

Shia LaBeouf costume, image provided by Kevin Schaefer

One year, I was recovering from a broken leg when it came time for Halloween, but I was still desperate to go trick-or-treating. My Mom simply made cuts on my Spider-Man costume, so it could cover me without interfering with my cast. Even though I had to ride in my manual wheelchair that year, I was happy as could be in my mask and partial Spidey costume.

My best Halloween experience occurred a few years ago in college, when I went to a friend’s party. It took place on our college street right across from campus. The entire area was flooded with people in costumes walking up and down the street, and stopping for burrito discounts at Chipotle. My friend drove me, so we were able to stay out late and grab food close to midnight. The best part was that it was my friend’s Christian fraternity party, and it was shut down by the cops for a capacity violation in the building where it was being held. And, yes, I regularly tell people that I once went to a Halloween party that got shut down by the cops – and leave out the hilariously boring details as to why it was shut down.

There is no reason why SMA individuals can’t participate in things like Halloween. Just last week, I interviewed Christine Getman from the organization Magic Wheelchair for the SMA News Today podcast. Magic Wheelchair is a nonprofit that works to create specialized costumes for kids in wheelchairs, and it works year-round so kids can cosplay at comic cons and other events.

Batman costume, image provided by Kevin Schaefer

Halloween is a time for everyone to explore their creativity and imaginative spirit, and if you really want to give SMA children the same opportunities as everyone else, then let them participate.


Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.


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