Sensory haunted house comes to Marion for second year

By Elizabeth Biernacki, Staff Reporter

Marion Carnegie Library will be hosting a Sensory Haunted House for children who are sensitive to stimulus.

The haunted house, which will take place on Oct. 25, will consist of different rooms called sensory rooms. 

Shelley Hudspath, the coordinator of children’s services, said sensory rooms stimulate the different senses but in a safe manner for people that are easily over stimulated.

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The idea began when Hudspath was at an Easter Egg Hunt hosted by John A. Logan College, she said. There were Easter egg hunts for everyone including the deaf, the blind and kids on the spectrum.

“I thought, what could we do at the library to reach more than just the neurotypical kids? How do we reach the neuro-atypical kids?” Hudspath said. “I figured that we could do a haunted house, and make it like a sensory room.”

The rooms, Hudspath said, are decorated to the bare minimum with absolutely nothing spooky or scary.

“We try to offer a very light scent in the room, as well as very soft music,” Hudspath said. “There’s things that you can feel with your hands, or you balance on with your feet.”

There will be rooms like a pool noodle forest with pool noodles hanging from the ceiling, a tunnel with lights that kids can hide in, bubbles and more, according to the event description on the Marion Carnegie Library calendar of events.

“At the very end, kids or anybody who participates, can practice trick-or-treating, so they get used to that idea as Halloween is coming up,” Sarah Watkins, the coordinator of library services, said.

The way the trick-or-treating practice is set up is there will be a door with a volunteer behind it, Watkins said. Kids can knock and practice saying ‘trick-or-treat’ to get a piece of candy.

The practice, Hudspath said, helps the sensory kids understand what is happening and understand the social norm of trick-or-treating.

The point of the haunted house is to give kids, who are on the spectrum, the opportunity to be a part of a community event they otherwise may not have been able to take part in, Watkins said.

“It’s really beneficial to have events like this because for the families that have people on the spectrum or who have sensory issues, they can connect with one another,” Watkins said. “It’s like another community building aspect that we are trying to offer here at the library.”

Last year, Hudspath said, 25 people signed up for the haunted house, and over 90 people showed up. The typical age range is preschool to elementary school, but there are occasionally older kids, too.

“Older children, who have pretty severe sensory issues, are going to want to enjoy this just as much as the younger children,” Hudspath said. “The very young preschoolers are going to enjoy a sensory room no matter what.”

Watkins said the event is open to anyone who believes it would be a good fit for them. It is not just for those who go to the Marion Carnegie Library, but for anyone in the southern Illinois area that may want to attend. 

Staff reporter Elizabeth Biernacki can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @EBiernacki_619.

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