Often times, and perhaps unfairly so, if a situation requiring modified accommodations does not directly affect us, we are less likely to be concerned with it. A building lacking an access ramp has no bearing on us unless we, or someone with us, are confined to a wheelchair. A restaurant’s absence of gluten-free offerings is a non-issue, unless our best friend and fellow foodie has Celiac Disease. I never paid much attention to community events geared specifically towards children with special needs until I became friends with mothers whose children are autistic. I saw repeatedly the frustration and hurt that came with wanting to involve their children in “normal” childhood experiences such as attending a theater play or going trick-or-treating but being unable to because of the exceptional circumstances that had now become their everyday life. It tugs the heart, really, to learn that a child will miss out on some of these adventures through no fault of her own. ARMS (Autism Resources of the Mid-South), in collaboration with The Pink Palace Museum and sponsorship by the White Station Optimist Club, is determined to change this with their Spooky Science Spectacular.
Now in its third year, the Spooky Science Spectacular is “the most well-received program we’ve done,” says Alex Eilers, Manager of Education for the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Though only four families attended the event its first year, everyone involved was resolute that it return the following year after seeing the effect it had on those four families in attendance. Alex recalls a mother’s tear-filled statement that it was the first time her autistic child had ever been part of a Halloween-themed party or event.
So far this year, 130 families have signed up. It is a success Alex attributes to the museum’s staff and volunteers and to the efforts of ARMS, led by its president Tara Mohundro.
For children on the autism spectrum, reactions to the sights and sounds traditionally part of Halloween can vary greatly and because their communication and interaction with others is affected by the developmental disability, it is sometimes difficult to construct a setting in which everyone feels comfortable. Tara worked closely with museum staff to create activity stations, some manned and some self-guided, that would appeal to just about every child who participated. In fact, she had lots of help from her autistic son who, through verbal input and non-verbal reactions, allowed for the making of a welcoming and magnetic space, complete with quiet corners for those who might need them.
Among the activities offered, there will be a Scavenger Hunt and a Beware of the Blob station, where children play with oobleck (cornstarch and water) which is a great sensory activity for anyone but particularly for those with autism. There will be goodie bags, with both edible and non-edible items. Children of all ages are welcome to come in costumes and will be met by staffers and volunteers who are thrilled to be a part of this incredibly fun affair.
The Spooky Science Spectacular will be held on Thursday, October 27, 5:30-7:30pm at the Pink Palace Museum. Costumes are optional and admission is FREE for families in the Autism Community. You may get tickets at www.spookysciencespectacular.brownpapertickets.com
“ARMS is the leading Advocate and Resource for the Mid-South autism community. ARMS’s mission is to ‘Provide Support, Advocacy, and Education for all affected by Autism’”. For more information, please visit www.autismresourcesmidsouth.org