Autism Speaks

Malls Open Early To Create A Calm Environment For Kids With Autism To Meet Santa

Christmas is all about the kids, and grown-ups have one duty in particular: making sure the season is as magical as possible. Even under the best of circumstances, that's not easy. When you consider every other parent out there is doing the exact same thing, and packing the malls to do it, that just ramps up the difficulty.

For parents of kids with autism, it's another battle entirely.

But kids who are sensitive to busy, loud surroundings will get a helping hand this holiday season.

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Autism Speaks has teamed up with Cherry Hill Programs to bring "Santa Cares" events to malls around the nation.

This involves opening them up early, before all the shoppers can pack the stores so those kids can meet with Santa in a quieter, calmer environment.

It's not just a matter of opening before the shoppers arrive, of course.

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The Santa Cares events will also feature subdued lighting, and any Christmas carols playing in the mall will be set to a lower volume.

All of the Santas involved receive special training as well.

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They've learned how to interact with kids with special needs, and they'll listen to parents' cues as well.

"Most of all, Santa remains flexible, standing behind his chair or kneeling beside a wheelchair to capture unforgettable moments and smiles on camera," Ruth Rosenquist of Cherry Hill Programs told Disability Scoop.

It's all about making sure as many kids as possible get to have as magical a Christmas as possible.

More than 700 Santa Cares events will be featured at 582 malls around the U.S. and Canada during the 2019 holiday season. You'll have to book a spot ahead of time, but visits with sensory-friendly Santa are free.

h/t: Disability Scoop