Games, prizes, and fun.
A carnival where children can come together and play, where families with shared experiences can bond.
“It’s a place where families with children with autism can come and everyone understands each other,” says Valerie Goldade, assistant director of Dakota Family Solutions. “It’s just a really sweet, safe place for families to come and feel like they belong.”
But this carnival isn’t simply about fun and games. It’s about child safety and raising awareness for those with autism.
“This event, we’re incorporating working with the police department on how to protect our kids,” says Alice Etzel, mother of an 18-year-old with autism.
According to one study, nearly half of children with autism will wander off or runaway at some point in their lives. The spring carnival event provided parents the opportunity to fill out informational forms for first responders. The parents could include details such as the child’s favorite toys, location, or preferred method of communication.
“My daughter likes to go to the park. So that would give them a hint that the first place they would look would be the park. So it just gives us a head start in finding the child,” says Etzel.
The carnival provides an outlet for kids to be themselves. But it’s also raising awareness, providing necessary tools to increase understanding, and strengthening community ties.
The forms parents fill out are voluntary and will be used by the police department as tools to assist in locating or communicating with autistic kids.