About one in 68 children have Autism Spectrum Disorder, according to the CDC. The good news is that there’s more than one Santa in the world (don’t tell the tiny humans that), and many of them are working organizations like Caring Santa, Santa Cares, and Sensitive Santa to bring autistic kids the same Holiday joy as everyone else. Autism Speaks has been working with all of them to bring families specially trained, sensory-friendly Santas … and they not in it for the cookies and milk.
For parents like Anna Bourdon, the tradition of sitting on St. Nick’s lap is often too overwhelming for her son Aiden. “We might not be able to participate in a regular Santa Claus picture, so coming early in the morning before the hectic Christmas season, it’s nice,” she told NBC News after attending a recent event. And she’s not alone. Erin Deely and her husband had almost given up on getting a picture of their son Brayden. Thanks to a Caring Santa and their local mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, they didn’t just get a picture. In 2015 they got a photo of Santa on the floor with Brayden the resonated with so much, it’s basically the unofficial image of the entire cause. And you’re damn right he came back for more this year.
Michigan mom Naomi Johnson’s has a similar experience last year when a Facebook post about her son Landon went viral. In it she recounts Landon telling Mr. Kringle that he was worried that his autism would land him on the naughty list. The visit helped clear that up. In a more recent post, his mother says that Landon doesn’t want to see Santa again this year because he’s not sure he’s real. Alas, sensory-friendly Santa can’t stop your kid from growing up.
While the over 180 malls have already participated in the nationwide event on December 4, you can still make an appointment through Caring Santa’s website (and mark your advent calendar for next year). All 3 organizations working with Autism Speaks offer options for contacting the them directly, as well as links to potential employment — if you’re open to being the Santa you you wish to see in the world. But probably not for your kid, they’ll totally be able to tell it’s you.
[H/T] The Mighty