Families and children filled the streets of Bourbon Street Bar and Grill in celebration of Mardi Gras for Autism on Saturday.
The event included an array of attractions, including face painting, bounce houses, stilt walkers, balloon twisters, a sensory-friendly area and much more.
Many vendors were also present, including numerous organizations geared towards providing families with resources regarding autism.
Admission was free to the public and thousands of attendees could be seen enjoying a fun interactive day.
Fullerton Cares Autism Coalition hosts Mardi Gras for Autism every April to bring awareness to autism. The group also raises funds to give back to special needs programs in the Fullerton School District.
Larry Houser, founder of Fullerton Cares and co-owner of Bourbon Street Bar and Grill, said that this event was important because it, “provides an atmosphere of inclusion and acceptance.”
Houser is also the proud parent of 7-year-old son Boyd who was diagnosed with autism, and also attends these events.
Although this particular event is focused on kids with autism, Houser says the goal is to provide an environment that is inclusive for all, children who are neuro-typical and also those with autism to enjoy.
Houser added that through Mardi Gras for Autism, donations have been able to “provide lots of technology” for programs in Fullerton, and mainly schools in the FSD.
Technology used to help support the special needs programs include iPads, whiteboards, computers, and much more.
Activities at the event are geared towards meeting the needs of the autism population, while making it fun for everyone.
Many activities are themed around sensory for children with autism in mind.
Family Cares Autism Coalition director Summer Dabbs discussed one of the highly favored attractions, the Sensory Zone.
“Sensory is important because it helps reorganize the brain and kind of reset it, so that makes [children] more available to learn, and to absorb the world around them,” Dabbs said.
Jose and Christa Espinosa are the delighted parents of David 10, who has autism.
David enjoyed playing in the sensory zone, one of his favorites.
“This is perfect for the kids, this is mostly what a lot of our parents are looking for; events like this where they understand sensory issues,” Jose said.
Families are very thankful for the many different collaborations that help with autism. They truly feel the inclusiveness of the event, and are more than proud to be a part of it.
Sasha George is a thrilled attendee, and local Fullerton resident who has written 7 children’s books for autism needs. She was inspired to write after her son, Daniel was diagnosed with autism.
“Special events like this really open up doors and allow for autism families to take part in an enjoyable outdoor experience that may not always be possible,” George added.
“Every year it gets bigger and bigger and accommodates more people and this is because everyone in the community comes to support children on the spectrum,” Shannon Penrod said. Penrod is a producer and host of a free interactive web show, Autism Live.
James Miller, Penrod’s 12-year-old son, added that he was proud of what his mom was doing.
The outpouring of acceptance and inclusiveness could be felt from all attendees, allowing the event to be an enjoyable experience for all.