CALGARY – For the fourth year in a row, staff at a Calgary mall held a sensory-friendly trick-or-treating event for children with special needs aimed at helping them have fun during the season.
Southcentre Mall, along with Autism Calgary, welcomed about 300 children to the event on Sunday called "A Special Time for Halloween."
For the occasion, lighting was dimmed and music was turned off in order to ensure a calm and fun environment for all the children involved.
Participants were able to visit a dozen locations throughout the mall to gather some treats and non-food items for those children with allergies.
"My son has autism and he came to the event and was able to experience trick-or-treating for the first time, becuase children with autism are often very literal," volunteer Michelle Noble told CTV News Calgary.
"When we told him you can't go to people's houses and knock on their doors–as you do to little children–he takes that literally. So when it's Halloween and it's time to go knock on people's doors and get candy, he's like, 'No, I can't do that.'"
Autism Calgary says children with autism spectrum disorders and other special needs often aren't able to go out on Halloween night, so Southcentre's event is the next best thing.
"Wearing costumes and trick-or-treating is such a quintessential childhood experience and it is such a loss for so many in the autism community when their loved ones struggle with these holidays due to sensory and communication challenges," said Lyndon Parakin, executive director of Autism Calgary, in a release.
Holding community events like these is an important part of Southcentre's culture says marketing director Rashmi Aimiuwu.
"We hope to lead by example and inspire our community to consider how we can be more inclusive in providing opportunities for children with unique needs to enjoy special childhood experiences that they may not otherwise have access to."
The mall's Halloween event was inspired by feedback for its "A Special Time for Christmas" event, held in a similar fashion at the holiday season.
Demand for both programs has greatly increased over the past few years and the mall says additional dates for the sensory Halloween are being considered for 2020.
Registration for the Christmas event begins on Nov. 1. Full details are available online.