trick or treat sign in car

Fall Festival offers walk-through trunk-or-treat, cool cars, costumes and resource booths

Sensory-friendly MIND Institute event great for children with autism, other neurodevelopmental disabilities


The UC Davis MIND Institute’s annual Fall Festival is back with a walk-through trunk-or treat, cool cars, costumed characters and resource booths. The event will take place Oct. 21 from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in the MIND Institute parking lot.

A sensory-friendly gathering, the Fall Festival is designed to support families of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as fragile X syndrome, ADHD and autism. It is open to the public.

For the past two years, the event featured a drive-through trick-or-treat, due to COVID-19. Erin Roseborough, a child life specialist who’s helped to plan the event for many years, is thrilled at the return to an in-person, walk-through celebration.

“We are really looking forward to connecting with the families who attend. The event will be completely outside where kids can trunk-or-treat, say hello, really see the costumes and talk to everyone. We welcome wagons and strollers,” she said.

Five costumed people in front of an SUV with an open trunk decorated with pumpkins and leaves. Costumes include 70’s garb, a wedding dress, a nurse, Minnie Mouse and a blue inflatable monster.
The event will feature decorated cars and volunteers in costumes who will hand out treats and toys.

A safe, friendly alternative to neighborhood trick-or-treating

Traditional trick-or-treating can be a challenge for some children with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The fall festival offers a safe, welcoming alternative.

“Many families express that they have never done trick-or-treating, as there are too many unknowns – such as someone jumping out to scare the kids or having a scary costume. These things can trigger distress for kids,” Roseborough explained. “Some children also don’t enjoy dressing up in costumes. At the Fall Festival, kids can come in costume or not, nothing will be scary, and we’ll have treat and toy options for families. We also have people sign up for a specific time slot to prevent waiting in long lines.”

The NorCal Challengers, auto enthusiasts who are long-time supporters of the Fall Festival, will provide festively decorated cars. Several organizations will also host booths at the event to share community resources.

Erin Roseborough
Events like the Fall Festival are designed for families in the community to gather in a space where staff and volunteers understand the neurodevelopmental disability journey. Our hope is that people can connect with others walking in the same shoes.”Erin Roseborough, child life specialist

Family Time at the MIND

The Fall Festival is one of many “Family Time at the MIND” events hosted by the MIND Institute’s Child Life Program throughout the year. These free gatherings are open to the public and offer fun for the entire family. Other events have included movie and game nights, art shows, yoga and arts and crafts.

Child life specialists are developmental experts trained to provide evidence-based interventions like therapeutic play and preparation for procedures to reduce anxiety and pain for children.

“Events like the Fall Festival are designed for families in the community to gather in a space where staff and volunteers understand the neurodevelopmental disability journey. Our hope is that people can connect with others walking in the same shoes,” Roseborough explained.

Fall Festival registration opens Oct. 1; spots are limited

Admission to the fall festival is free, but registration is required. Attendees are asked to sign up for a specific time slot. Registration opens on Oct. 1. Spots are limited and usually fill up quickly.

What: UC Davis MIND Institute Fall Festival and trunk-or-treat

When: Oct. 21, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. Please arrive at your selected time slot.

Where: UC Davis MIND Institute parking lot, 2825 50th St., Sacramento. Please park on 50th Street.

Who: Open to the public, a great event for children with neurodevelopmental disabilities such as autism, 22q, Down syndrome and fragile X syndrome.

Register here for the Fall Festival.

This event is made possible thanks to the generosity of donors. Donations to the Child Life Fund are welcome. For questions about the event or about child life, email

Watch Videovideo iconBaby in a car seat looking out the window
Last year, the MIND Institute held a drive-through trunk-or-treat. This year, the event returns to a walk-through format.

The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of challenges associated with neurodevelopmental disabilities. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at