Every year at Christmas time, you may be fighting an internal struggle – should we go visit Santa or skip it? Sure, you’d love to have that moment with Santa—your child is excited about Christmas, that’s for sure—and getting a good picture with him would be a bonus. BUT, if that Santa visit is in a mall or another high-traffic location, chances are that it’s a big sensory storm for your child—the lights, the music, the crowds, the waiting—and it may be just too much for them.
The good news is that many places are now offering special times for children with autism to visit Santa in a more sensory-friendly environment. It was an offer like this that allowed Erin Deely and her husband to take their son, Brayden, to see Santa at their local mall in North Carolina. The Deelys thought their chance of having Brayden visit Santa and get that traditional holiday snapshot was not possible after their son was diagnosed at age 3. But thanks to the Caring Santa program, organized by Autism Speaks, Brayden got to hang out with Santa on his own terms. As Erin explained it, “He (Santa) got down on his stomach and just started playing with him. They didn’t even talk to each other, really, they just bonded and played, and Brayden started to be really excited and started looking at him and smiling.”
Thanks to this Santa, Brayden and his family had the holiday experience they had always hoped for. And while the Caring Santa program is in malls in 120 cities, there are similar sensory-friendly Santa events happening in additional locations, so chances are there’s one near you.
Lynsey, Community Manager