Every October, the American Autism and Rehabilitation Foundation hosts a Sensory-Friendly Trick-or-Treat Event. This event allows us to serve families with special needs in our community who feel that their child’s unique differences prevent them from participating in fall festivals or other trick or treating events.
Children in Baldwin and Mobile County are invited to the American Autism & Rehabilitation Center (AARC) facility for trick-or-treating. Upon arrival, families create a memory with a festive family portrait photographed by our volunteers. Then they are directed to follow a set route through the facility and each child receives candy or trinkets at every stop along the way. This set-up is ideal for families whose children tend to elope or become overwhelmed easily and provides parents with a secure and safe place to take their children with special needs. Costumes are welcome but not required in hope that every child with sensory-processing difficulties will feel included. Our volunteers, many of who are also AARC employees, decorate all our doors in the facility and love participating and dressing up in friendly costumes. It is a wonderful evening that allows all children to join in an event that many families without children with special needs take for granted.
A trip to a shopping mall to visit with Santa is a Christmas tradition for many families. Children eagerly share their Christmas lists with the jolly man in the red suit, and parents cherish the Santa photographs which help to preserve a happy memory for years to come. However, visiting Santa at a noisy, crowded mall with bright colors, blaring holiday music and a long wait in line can be overwhelming for children with special needs, especially those with sensory issues who are sensitive to excessive stimuli. That’s why AARF launched their Sensory-Friendly Photo Session with Santa program for the special needs patients at AARC. This event provides a chance for these precious children to have a true holiday experience like that of their peers. We provide a calm and quiet space with dimmed down lights and no loud music or holiday crowds with a Santa who understands special needs children. There are no long lines to endure while waiting for Santa as all of our meeting times are scheduled by reservations in advance. By accommodating their needs, we give families an opportunity to get out, have some holiday fun and create treasured memories.