'Santa on their terms’: Sensory-sensitive Santa visits helping kids on autism spectrum nationwide

A trip to see Santa can be the highlight of the season, and parents of children on the autism spectrum have finally found a way to minimize sensory overload where the Jolly Old Elf is concerned.

From malls to churches, “sensitive Santa” events are popping up to help ease the holiday visits with the Big Guy for any child with sensory sensitivities, multiple news outlets reported.

Jeannine Morrissey, the organizer of just such an event in Pittston, Pennsylvania, told WNEP to imagine amplifying traditional holiday mall settings by 10. That's why she helped launch "sensitive Santa" events alongside a host of volunteers at Pittston's First Baptist Church.

“They’re drawing with Santa, and Santa is moving around. It’s Santa on their terms,” Morrissey said.

On a larger scale, the Santa Cares program supplies "authentic, real-bearded Santas" to more than 900 locations in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, the Rockland/Westchester Journal News reported.

The partnership between Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs offers amenities such as dimmed lighting, soft music and early hours to avoid holiday shoppers. And because families can reserve a time slot, lines can actually be skipped entirely, the newspaper reported.

Meanwhile, participating Santas are trained with techniques to work directly with special needs children.

Read more here and here.

About the Author