Santa Ready To Go Sensory-Friendly
Just in time for the holidays, a series of special events across the country will offer calmer environments for children with disabilities to enjoy some one-on-one time with Santa Claus.
Over 400 malls and other shopping destinations from Maryland to Hawaii will host sensory-friendly experiences with Santa, most of which will be held Dec. 2 or Dec. 9.
The events advertised under a variety of names including “Santa Cares,” “Caring Santa” and “Sensitive Santa,” will be held during off-hours to avoid crowds and allow for adjustments to the malls’ lighting and sounds.
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Participating Santas have been trained to take cues from parents and caregivers in order to meet each child’s individual needs, organizers say. Some are even knowledgeable in American Sign Language.
“Most of all, Santa remains flexible, kneeling next to a wheelchair, standing behind his chair to capture the photo or simply allowing extra time for each visitor to experience a time-honored holiday tradition,” said Ruth Rosenquist of Cherry Hill Programs, which is organizing the events along with Autism Speaks.
Unlike most Santa experiences, families are asked to reserve a time slot in advance for the special sensory-friendly events. Then, each child will be called up individually in order to avoid waiting in line. Quiet activities will be available to entertain kids while they wait.
The events are open to anyone with special needs and families can sign up online to participate.