Join CafeMom Today! Autism Spectrum Disorder: Treatments: ‘Sensitive Santa’ Meets Kids With Autism - ABC News

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Monday, December 5, 2011

‘Sensitive Santa’ Meets Kids With Autism - ABC News

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‘Sensitive Santa’ Meets Kids With Autism - ABC News

A trip to the mall to sit on Santa’s knee is a special event for families, but the holiday hustle and bustle can be overwhelming for kids with autism. That’s why Northtown Mall in Blaine, Minn., opened its doors early Sunday morning for some low-key “sensitive Santa” time.
“A lot of children with autism aren’t able to have the experience of seeing Santa,” said Northtown’s marketing director Linda Sell, describing the typical bright lights, loud music and long line. “This is our way of helping.”
The mall dimmed the lights and lowered the music volume to make autistic children more comfortable. And instead of waiting in line, kids colored or walked around with their families.
“It’s something very small on our end but it means so much to families, ” said Sell.
An illustrated pamphlet showed families what to expect during their visit — a helpful aid for kids with autism who often rely on routines. And a form filled out by parents in advance gave Sensitive Santa the scoop on their wish lists.
“Its’ such a wonderful event,” said Sell. “It’s heartwarming to see the joy in the kids’ faces, and in the parents.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that one in 10 children is on the autism spectrum.
The event is emotional for parents, some of whom thought they’d never see their kids on Santa’s knee.
“You have things you look forward to with your child,” mom Gena Elverhoytold ABC News affiliate KSTP with a shaky voice. “It’s different, this way, to be able to still have these experiences that you want to have.”


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