From dimmed lights to smaller crowds, sensory-friendly Santas are giving kids with autism a more soothing holiday

From dimmed lights to smaller crowds, sensory-friendly Santas are giving kids with autism a more soothing holiday

Sensory-friendly events with Santa are giving kids with autism and special needs a chance to enjoy the holiday season. (Photo: Courtesy of Cherry Hill Programs)

Santa Cares visits, a collaboration between autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs, the experiential photography company specializing in the festive backdrops that populate malls each holiday season.’ data-reactid=”32″>That’s why she and other parents are turning to events that celebrate the season while being sensitive to kids with sensory disorders, with limited stimulation, wait time and noise ensuring a more subdued and calm atmosphere. Since 2015, shopping centers across the country have been offering sensory-friendly Santa Cares visits, a collaboration between autism advocacy organization Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs, the experiential photography company specializing in the festive backdrops that populate malls each holiday season.

From Rapid City, South Dakota, to Orlando, Florida, Santa Cares is designed to be inclusive and accommodating to those with special needs, while also raising awareness and making families “feel comfortable, understood and accepted,” says Valerie Paradiz, PhD, vice president of services and supports at Autism Speaks.

“Families can expect to meet a specially trained Santa, who understands how to interact with children with special needs, taking cues from a parent or caregiver who knows the child’s preferences,” Paradiz tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “Because Santa visits are by reservation, families can avoid waiting in lines, which can be one of the more challenging aspects of these types of experiences.”

Keeping lights low during the Santa visit can help avoid overstimulating a child. (Photo: Courtesy of Cherry Hill Programs)

For Moulton and her son, the sensory-friendly holiday experience has been a game-changer.

“In a regular setting, visits with Santa would be next to impossible due to the chaos and crowds,” she says. “[But] sensory-friendly Santa visits are done when the mall is closed, keeping crowds to a minimum. They turn off all the music, and rather than waiting in a long line, you’re issued a number and a time to come back, reducing the time you have to stand around waiting. Therapeutic dogs are brought in to create a calming distraction for the children.”

As always, Santa plays a crucial role. Paradiz says the Santas who participate are trained to “remain flexible,” adding, “Not every child has the same abilities, so Santa can move around behind his chair, or even kneel to connect with a child.”

According to Moulton, being able to give specific instructions to Santa — such as waving rather than hugging a child with an aversion to touch, or speaking softly to someone sensitive to sound — paves the way for a more pleasant experience.

“George is always delighted when Santa knows his name, and I think it makes him feel welcome and comfort in an unfamiliar environment,” she says. “Sensory-friendly activities allow us to enjoy a bit of normalcy during the holidays — like visits with Santa — that we otherwise wouldn’t get to experience.”

Santas are trained to accommodate a child’s specific needs. (Photo: Cherry Hill Programs)

While Santa is currently in high demand — with 747 Santa Cares events running at 582 shopping destinations across the U.S. and Canada this year — other holidays aren’t excluded. Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs also run Bunny Cares, a sensory-friendly experience come Easter.

Paradiz also says it’s “important to remember those with sensory sensitivities are impacted year-round,” whether they are in a shopping mall or not.

“Always be mindful of noise and lights and be understanding of the mechanisms people with autism may use to feel more comfortable, like headphones,” she says. “Additionally, it is equally useful for the public to understand hyposensitivity and how people with autism sometimes seek out sensory input to remain calm. For some, awareness of body space may appear different from general norms, or they may appear to be impulsive as they seek out input. Patience, understanding and an open mind are key.”

#gallery-1 { margin: auto; } #gallery-1 .gallery-item { float: left; margin-top: 10px; text-align: center; width: 33%; } #gallery-1 img { border: 2px solid #cfcfcf; } #gallery-1 .gallery-caption { margin-left: 0; } /* see gallery_shortcode() in wp-includes/media.php */


Source : Link

Follow 3-www.NET
Follow
e-News.US
  
Share
e-News.Us

Category Latest Posts