For kids with sensory issues or disabilities taking pictures with Santa around the holidays can be overwhelming and often lead to families avoiding mall Santa’s all together.
After hearing stories like this time and time again, Community Living Huntsville decided to implement a Sensitive Santa event in order to better support children who were have severe difficulty in the typical over-stimulating Santa environment.
In previous years they held the event at Huntsville Place Mall, but this year Community Living partnered with local toy store Minds Alive which closed their store for the November 24 event.
“We want to provide a space for children with sensory issues to go to visit with Santa where he is able to take one-on-one time with each kid,” said Victoria Lamont of Community Living Huntsville. “Most places where you see Santa are loud, crowded, have flashing lights and it’s just too much for many people with disabilities to process.”
There was no music playing, the lights were dimmed, Santa didn’t wear any bells or speak with a loud voice, and he approached the kids himself calmly in order to create a more relaxed environment. There were also various sensory-friendly activities. Each child received a gift from Santa and Community Living Huntsville brought in a photographer completely free of charge.
“Families really appreciate this event because now they will have Christmas photos with Santa they can put up. Every parent deserves those special memories,” said Caitlin Griffin of Community Living Huntsville.
With this event being so popular and needed in the community, as soon as Community Living sent out the flyers all available spots filled quickly. Many families at the event were returning attendees as their children have enjoyed it so much in the past.
“My son was scared to see Santa but once we were in the sensitive Santa atmosphere he made him feel really comfortable and relaxed. We really appreciated Santa’s patience,” said parent Shelby Loshaw.
Griffin said that Community Living looks forward to this event each holiday season and they are looking to do more sensory-friendly events over the next year.
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