KATY, Texas - Photos with Santa are a Christmas tradition for so many families, but for children on the autism spectrum, the experience can be too much to bear - unless, you connect with a Caring Santa program.
“It’s epic! It’s huge,” said parent Pam Dore. “People who have kids who don’t have disabilities, they don’t understand what something so simple, as a picture with Santa, means to us.”
Dore’s 8-year old son Bodie walked up to a Santa Claus at Katy Mills Mall Sunday morning. This is Bodie’s second time sitting with Santa.
“He just couldn’t tolerate the lines and all the extra excitement, what’s going on at the mall,” said Dore. “So this gives kids with special needs just a great opportunity.”
The Caring Santa program is available, by appointment, for children and families about an hour and a half before a shopping mall opens. Mykah Hill was able to have Katy Mills all to himself.
“As a mom, it makes me so happy that he too can experience Santa, share his Santa story, tell Santa what he wants. He’s excited about it,” said mother Broquet Hill.
According to Cherry Hill, which organizes the program with the help of Autism Speaks, adjusting an experience for children living with autism doesn’t take much: Dim the lights. Turn off music. Avoid having the child wait in a line and accommodate the child’s needs and movements.
Santa’s that working with the Caring Santa program are trained to interact with children who have special needs and nearly 400 sensory-friendly Santa experiences will happen nationwide this year.
While it appears the Caring Santa events in Houston wrapped for the season, other locations across Texas and the country still have availability.