AUSTINTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) — A “Not So Haunted House” was filled with excited kids Saturday afternoon as the Gateways to Better Living hosted an event at the Austintown Plaza as a unique, inclusive Halloween celebration.
For some kids, Halloween can be an overwhelming experience, whether they have disabilities or are easily frightened.
Gateways to Better Living held a session Friday afternoon for those with special disabilities. Organizers said it was important to provide a spot for those with sensory needs. to explore all the senses in a safe environment.
“A lot of people are very sensory defensive on certain things,” said Kristy Murphy, with Gateways to Better Living. “Some kids don’t like to wear costumes. Some kids don’t know how to trick or treat or say ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ but they still want to be part of the experience and they still want the candy.”
“A lot of people misjudge our individuals,” said Antastasie Robinson, with Gateways to Better Living. “A lot of people don’t understand that they are just as fun and as friendly as everybody else is.”
Jamie Nitzsay’s son has autism, but he danced his way through each sensory room with a huge smile on his face.
“Finding events that are inclusive are hard sometimes,” said Nitzsay, of Girard. “Not every place is as understanding when he gets really excited, so I thought it was a good thing to bring him here, when he can just be himself.”
Kids walked in awe though the “Light Room,” which was filled with bright neon colors and balloons. Other eye-catching props, like a smoke machine and plasma ball enhanced the theme.
“This is the first time we’ve done this and the staff are very aware. They are watching all the doors, so I felt like [son Isaac] was very safe here,” said Patricia Martin, of Kensington.
“It’s not scary at all,” said Manesha Young, of Youngstown. “There’s a lot of stuff around here for kids, but it’s not spooky.”
The red carpet was rolled out for families to take pictures on — a day they’ll get to remember.