CHARLES TOWN, W.Va -- The Jefferson County Schools (PERC) Parent and Educator Resource Center hosted its second annual Sensory Trunk-or-Treat on October 24. Held at Charles Town Middle School, the event offered opportunities for neurodiverse students without the stigmas often associated with standard trick-or-treating traditions.
"This event is about meeting students where they are and providing choices to accommodate their diverse needs," said Haley Kern, the Jefferson County Schools PERC (Parent and Educator Resources Coordinator).
Kern said the JCS Sensory Trunk-or-Treat includes all the fun of trick-or-treating without frightening decorations, loud or scary noises, or bright flashing lights.
"We want to let everyone have this experience in a safe and controlled environment while practicing social skills in a judgment-free zone," Kern said.
Neurotypical students from several Jefferson County Schools joined JCS staff and community volunteers to help facilitate the event for their neurodiverse peers. These students served as peer hosts to guide and assist neurodiverse students and their families through the event, take photos, and help in other ways.
“It’s a great experience,” said peer hosts Sylvia Trevathan, Brielle Loring, and Kaitlin Rolfe of the Jefferson High School Leadership Class. “We get to meet with our community and help support students with special needs. We’re here to make people happy.”
Washington High School junior Selah Bunkley volunteered as a peer host through the WHS Connects Club. The new student group offers opportunities for students of all abilities to create a strong community.
“I wanted to participate more in community events, and this was a great way for me to do that while celebrating Halloween,” she said.
Parents of neurodiverse students in attendance expressed their gratitude for the inclusive event. Nancy Russell said it can be challenging to participate in activities with her daughter in a wheelchair, but she feels at ease in the controlled environment created by PERC.
“We love supporting these types of community events!” she said.
Julie Myers, an aide at Charles Town Middle School, also attended the event as a parent.
“I work in the PMI classroom, and this is my school. This is my family,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity for my son, who has never experienced a sensory trick-or-treat, to have fun with us and meet my extended family.”
Thank you to the following groups and organizations that helped facilitate this event: the Jefferson High School Leadership Class and mascot; Washington High School Key Club, Connects Club, and mascot; Shepherd University Ram; Charles Town Middle School Builders Club, 4-H Club, and mascot; Wright Denny Intermediate School K-Kids; Charles Town Police Department; and Citizens Fire Company.