Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Malls Are Starting Autism-Friendly Santa Hours

'Tis the season of crazy shopping and decorating and preparing to send cards and gifts to extended family. The cards you send need to be on-point — it's probably the only photo of your kids these people will see all year — so you dress them in matching outfits and hit the mall. Kill two birds with one stone: get some awesome photos of the kids with Santa and take care of some of that Christmas shopping!

For some parents, this just isn't possible. As much as their kids would love photos with Santa, and they would love to have the Christmas go-to picture to share, the reality is that the whole experience is just too much.

That's why it's so amazing that Caring Santa exists. And what's even more amazing is that as it gains popularity, it's becoming more and more available to families across the U.S. 

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This holiday season, over 180 malls across the U.S. will be offering autism hours to take pictures with Santa Claus.

Located throughout the country, autism-friendly Santas will be available on select dates at select times to ensure that all kids have the same opportunity this holiday season.

Some malls are opening for these pictures before the mall itself opens.

This means that parents can bring their children before the mall is filled with noise and chaos. Other malls are offering up private rooms that only one family at a time will be in. Both of these options offer sensory-friendly experiences for children with autism.

Autism Speaks issued a press release about 2016 visits with the man in red.

"Ho Ho Ho! Autism Speaks is thrilled to be partnering with the Noerr Programs Corporation again this year on their Sensory-Friendly Santa programs! Caring Santa (a partnership with SIMON Malls), Santa Cares and Sensitive Santa (a partnership with Washington Prime Group Malls) all provide families that have children with autism and other special needs with the opportunity to connect with Santa in a special way this holiday season! The events provide a more controlled and welcoming environment to visit Noerr’s Santa Photo Experience," their website states.

While this program has been available for a few years, it's beginning to get the attention it deserves, and with more and more children eager to attend, it's only growing from here!

Special Santa training is involved.

"These special Santas will do whatever it takes to make the children comfortable, allowing parents to capture these moments on camera." Sometimes that means being silent, and that's okay.

Parents need to schedule an appointment time for their child to meet with Santa.

As opposed to the traditional line that wraps around "Santa's Village" and is full of bored, yelling kids who need to pee wearing over-starched clothes their moms want to be seen in the Christmas card.

Meeting with Santa is completely free, and parents have the opportunity to purchase pictures afterward.

"Programs like our sensitive Santa experience play an important role in providing families affected by autism with the opportunity to participate in an activity that may be difficult for some to attend," Lisa Goring told interviewers on behalf of Autism Speaks.

Judith Thompson, general manager of Sunnyside Mall, said that parents who bring their children to the mall during regular hours for photos with Santa are "helping different charities if they decide to buy a $5 photo with Santa." But when he's doing special photos for children with autism, the money will go specifically towards autism. It goes full circle.

Monica Edwards has brought her seven-year-old daughter, Kathleen, (pictured) for the past two years, and will again this year.

Parents are loving this option, "We used this program for the first time this morning and I’m so grateful it is available. My younger daughter would never have been able to enjoy a visit with Santa otherwise, with the lines and the crowds. Malls are just too much usually. But this made it so low stress. I usually dread the Santa visit because it means having a bad rest of the day, but my older daughter deserves a visit so we go. I’ll be doing this again, and thanks to everyone who made it possible."

Check out ABC's video on specially trained Santas.

Ensuring that parents everywhere can get that perfect picture, no matter what.

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Author: verified_user