CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Trick-or-treating is fun for most people, but it’s an activity that can bring challenges for those who are sensitive to loud noises and big crowds. That’s why Champaign-Urbana Autism Network is finding a way to get them all in on the fun.
This year the group had an interactive and inclusive trick-or-treating event for anyone to safely enjoy. Kids of all ages played games and got candy from different stations in a sensory-friendly way.
“I think it’s just really important to have these kind of events because there’s a lot of trick-or-treat events that our kids can’t really be a part of, because they’re overwhelming,” said Ashley Warren, Total Spectrum Behavior Analyst.
Children and their creative costumes are getting in on the Halloween action a bit early at The City Center in Champaign. Even better, they can enjoy the holiday in the best way for them.
“For a lot of our kids, it would be being at home because some of the other events maybe aren’t as understanding,” Warren said.
Marcy Satterwhite brings her son every year. She said if it wasn’t for CU Autism Network, she wouldn’t know if her son would feel included.
“Without those events, these kids just wouldn’t have that safe space,” Satterwhite said.
It isn’t just about the activities, it’s about the company too.
“They can go around to tables that have treats for them just to take one and not necessarily have to interact with other people,” Satterwhite said. “So that kind of a thing. Although this one’s gotten pretty friendly over the years.”
CU Autism Network Executive Director Julie Duvall said the costumed event isn’t just for the kids. It’s for the parents as well.
“I think we want to give the families a sense of security and a sense that it’s going to be okay,” Duvall said. ” We’ve all been here, and I’ve done this for 30 years, and I learn something new every day.”
She knows what it’s like to feel like no one understands, so she fills the space with countless families who do.
“In the autism world, we talk about mirroring. Oftentimes our kids learn from other kids, and we also want to do the same thing for adults,” Duvall said.
One tip they gave to people handing out candy during Halloween is to be welcoming to all regardless of age. They say you never know if that trick-or-treater is on the spectrum or has a disability.