The moment a little girl from Holland climbs on the lap of Santa Claus in Miracle on 34th Street and Kris Kringle starts speaking to her in Dutch may be one of the top five best holiday movie scenes of all time. The moment the girl realizes Santa can relate to her is pure magic, and I can't help but wonder: is that what it's like for the kids with autism who are going to see "Quiet Santa" at malls across the US this holiday season? Pure magic?
Somehow I think it would make me cry harder to see these kids getting their Santa cuddles than that movie ever did.
Now it's not because I have pity for kids with autism or some ridiculous old notion about what it means to be on the spectrum. Being autistic isn't a bad thing, folks. But it does mean these kids may have different needs from their neurotypical peers, and that means they sometimes miss out some of the simple pleasures of childhood. Like climbing on Santa's lap and telling him what you want for the holiday.
For many kids on the spectrum, the noise and long lines that many moms and dads accept as part and parcel of the Santa experience just prove too overwhelming. Quiet Santa gives these kids what they want -- the one-on-one time with the big guy -- without all that. It's a special time for special kids.
As a mom, the whole Santa thing is so fraught with issues -- the lies, the stress over expensive requests -- but everything goes by the wayside that one day in December when I see my daughter's face as she climbs onto Kris Kringle's lap and snuggles into his beard for a hug.
It's a bit of magic kids only get to experience for a short period in their lives. Nothing should keep it away from them ... surely not autism.
Do you have an autistic child in your life? How do you handle the big Santa visit?
Image by Jeanne Sager