A special Halloween event

Published 8:57 pm Monday, November 3, 2014

Attending a Halloween event hosted by a Suffolk school for children on the autism spectrum last week, I was reminded of how much most of us take for granted.

Growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Halloween — it’s not a tradition in Australia.

One holiday we enthusiastically celebrated that doesn’t seem as big here is Easter.

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Sadly, the Easter four-day weekend is just a fond memory now.

As an adult, I’d normally drive back from wherever I happened to be to my hometown to visit my grandparents. But as a kid, the Easter egg hunt was a big deal.

Hunts were held in schoolyards, churchyards, streets, fields, parks, anywhere a few hundred chocolate eggs could be hidden from sight.

I know Easter egg hunts happen here, as well, but believe me it’s on a smaller scale.

But if I’d been a child with autism, I imagine I would have missed the pleasure of all those hunts, along with so many other similar things that help children socialize and develop.

On Thursday, it warmed the heart to see so many children in the parking lot of Rivers Bend Academy so genuinely glad to be alive.

Many of those children cannot participate in traditional trick-or-treating, so academy staff and parents created a safe and nurturing activity — trunk-or-treating, they called it — so the children didn’t have to miss all the fun.

I was most impressed by the decorating skills of parents. Though on a smaller scale, the trunks of cars and back of one truck backed up to the academy building would rival any front yard.

Also impressive was the creativity of students, who dressed up in costumes — there were witches, goblins, even a police officer and Spiderman — and made bags to collect the candy and other treats, as a craft activity.

Of those River Bend students who were able to trick-or-treat around their neighborhoods Friday, Thursday’s activities were a great way for those with sensory processing issues to get used to their costumes, according to Anne Metzgar, academy senior director.

Children on the autism spectrum miss out on so much that other children take for granted. Not just once-a-year activities like trick-or-treating, either, but everyday things.

Good work, Rivers Bend, for hosting an event that ensured your students didn’t miss out on the fun of Halloween.