emfizz.com December 14, 2017

Local mall offers "Sensory Santa" event for children with Autism

05 December 2017, 02:30 | Todd Saunders

Special needs kids get to meet Santa at Bay Park Square Mall

Autism Society of Alaska hosts alternative to the overwhelming experience of sitting on Santa's lap

The "Santa Cares" organization travels across the country to provide a sensory-friendly experience for children with all spectrums of special needs.

Green Tree Mall in Clarksville is making sure every child has a chance to see Santa, no matter their disability.

The mall lights were dimmed, the music was turned off, the workshop was open before operating hours, and families scheduled in appointments to avoid waiting in line.

"I'm always appreciative of any type of event or anything that specifies time for special needs because it is a lot harder than people realize and it's nice to have a little help", said Jan Smith, whose son also has special needs.

According to Autismspeaks.com, Santa Cares is a sensory-friendly Santa photo experience in partnership with Cherry Hill Programs. Organizers create a low-sensory environment just for children with special needs to enjoy a visit with Santa.

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Breanne Hartfield, a parent, says she found out about the event through Facebook and couldn't pass up the opportunity. Part of the problem with going out to big events like this is the distraction and that overwhelmed feeling he gets, he gets overstimulated by all the people, and so just the time where it's quiet, and there's not a lot of people, takes a lot of the stress off of us. "So, just to be able to get this one-on-one time without the crowd is a blessing for us".

Vanessa Avila brought her daughter and her non-verbal four year old son, Nathan.

Turtle Creek Mall says they hope to make this event an annual tradition.

So in years to come, when families look back on their holiday photos, they can remember a good day with snacks, family and Santa.

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