Let's face it, Santa Clause can be a pretty creepy looking guy. Even for neurotypical kids, the thought of going and sitting on the lap of a stranger who looks like that can cause plenty of anxiety. But throw in some sensory issues and other challenges that come with autism, and the experience can be a disaster for children.
That doesn't mean, however, that they should have to miss out on the experience either. There are plenty of ways children with autism can experience all of the magic of the big guy that are less overwhelming than the typical mall experience. Here are a few:
1. Special Time With Santa
Some malls offer times with Santa just for children with autism. For example, at Southcentre mall in Calgary, they hosted a special event in which children got to visit Santa before the mall opened. The lights were dimmed, the music turned down, and the drone of the crowds was severely diminished.
2. Talk to Santa Ahead of Time
If you don't have a special event in your area, you can always approach Santa and his helpers ahead of time and explain the concerns you may have. Maybe that means not asking your child to sit on his lap, or that you need to be there with him or her, but most will be more than happy to accommodate.
3. Santa Makes House Calls
If you know someone with an extra red suit, perhaps a stop at your house before the big day could be arranged.
4. Send a Letter Instead
Some kids won't want to visit the big guy under any circumstances, and that's okay. You can help them craft a special letter to send off to the North Pole.
5. Get a Video Message From Santa
Portable North Pole offers free, personalized video messages from Santa. That way children can still feel like Santa has heard them whether they actually visited him or not.
If you have a child with autism, how has his or her Santa experience been? Any tips to add?
Image via City of Marietta GA/Flickr