Special needs students have fun at Fall Fling

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

ALABASTER — A group of 12 children sat at tall drums, imitating their instructor. As he pounded the drums with his hands, so did they. As he smiled and laughed, so did they.

Together, the children — special needs kids from across the county’s elementary and middle schools — created their own rhythm, on a day created just for them.

This is the fourth year for Alabaster’s Fall Fling at Veteran’s Park, held Oct. 1 this year, and Alicia Walters of the Alabaster Parks and Recreation Department said the day will be held for many more years.

“It is a lot of work, but it’s so worth it. When you see them catch their first fish, see them have fun, it’s so worth it,” she said. “We’ve got things the kids have not experienced before.”

Walters said the city partners with the school system to make the day happen. About 50 volunteers were available to help the 140 special needs students and their teachers and families.

“It’s a great event, and a great partnership. The kids have a lot of fun,” she said.

Jennifer Miller, a Calera Middle School instructional assistant, said she believes the children love new experiences, such as drumming, because they find new ways to show their feelings.

“It’s a new way for the kids to express themselves,” she said. “A lot of them follow patterns, and they follow the rhythm and the beat. It’s a new pattern for them.”

The kids also got to watch members of the Alabaster Radio Control Association fly model planes, some as large as 32 inches long. Students also enjoyed inflatables, Kona ice, face painting, fishing and blowing bubbles.

At the inflatables, Elaine Whiteside, a teacher, said her students constantly talk about Fall Fling.

“Once we find out when they’re going to have it, they ask, ‘When is Fall Fling? When is Fall Fling?’ she said.

Even though students are sometimes unsure, the teachers do their best to show them new experiences are OK.

“Just to have social time and interact with other kids is just wonderful for them,” Whiteside said. “Just for them to know they’re special and we care about them. To have this opportunity for them is wonderful.”