Some special students from Union School and West District enjoyed a special Halloween party Tuesday evening, with camaraderie, costumes and trick or treating.
The children were special needs students, mostly in kindergarten through fourth grade who have autism and are part of the schools’ Specialized Learning Center.
Parents and teachers volunteered to bring the children together for a night of fun and support – both for the children and their families – at Union School. The volunteers dressed up and waited behind classroom doors for the children to knock and say ‘trick or treat.’
“This is great. It’s wonderful and safe,” said Union School Principal Lynn Katz.
And while all the adults remarked at how adorable the kids were as they passed through the hall collecting candy and other treats, the event offered many other benefits.
“We have been hosting more family events for the purpose of offering these children typical experiences and for their families to be able to get together and become friends,” explained Dr. Laurie Singer, director of special services for Farmington schools. “We’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”
Kara Phillips, an SLC teacher at Union School said the event also allows the children to practice important skills – for Halloween and life.
“They’re learning how to wait their turn in line and say trick or treat. Children who are nonverbal use a picture card. And there are some who don’t trick or treat and for them it’s an opportunity to do that,” Phillips said. “We’re pre-teaching the skill and allowing them to practice.”
At each door adults coached the students on saying 'trick or treat' and rewarded them with smiles and prizes. Katz noted that all of the adults wanted to give their time to host the party.
Kellie Failla and her son came dressed up as Angelica and Chucky from the Rugrats. For him, she said, it was a great opportunity.
“It’s hard to take him places with typical children. They don’t understand him. So coming to something like this lets him be himself,” she said.
Another parent recounted a previous Halloween experience when she brought her child to the firehouse only to have the other kids laugh and run away.
“It’s an opportunity for kids like my child to get together and enjoy themselves. It’s pretty unique,” said Yuri Katuntsev, whose daughter attends West District. “She really looked forward to it.”
Katuntsev said he was also glad to get to know some of the other families.
“We’re trying to become more of a community,” Phillips said.
The Specialize Learning Center, with classrooms at West District and Union School, is designed for students who need a more structured learning environment. Many of the students are included in regular education classrooms as appropriate but have the curriculum modified to meet their needs.
The students spent the month of October planning for the event by: following directions to create decorations, going on a pumpkin field trip, writing about their projects and experiences and by practicing their communication skills related to Halloween and the Fall.
The Halloween party was the second such event the SLC held; the first was a Valentine's Day party.