Here Comes Santa Claus for Kids with Special Needs

Picture this: You have a child who is deaf. Santa says “Merry Christmas” to him, and he does not smile back. And then Santa signs “Merry Christams” and suddenly, your son is beaming, and then walking with Santa around Santaland.

This is what happened last year at a Caring Santa event, taking place again this December at 87 malls throughout the country and two military exchanges, courtesy of Simon Malls, AbilityPath and a handful of individual malls. In its third year, the program lets kids with special needs and their siblings hang with Santa and take photos with him in a private, sensory-friendly, physically accessible setting—great for kids with autism, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or other special needs.

• Caring Santa visits are hosted during off-hours—way to beat the crowds.

• Muzak is turned off; some malls dim the lights down low.

• Visits are held in a setting with complete wheelchair accessibility.

• Families are handed numbers so they don’t have to wait in line.

• There are waiting areas, with coloring sheets, crayons and even social stories that help kids understand what to expect. There may also be juice boxes, water or snacks provided.

• Santas are trained to be aware that some children might find the feeling of his beard or suit irritating, and that some may want to stand to take a photo.

Gotta love inclusionary Santas! Click here to find a local mall with a Caring Santa.

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  1. by Cathy

    On December 2, 2012 at 9:59 am

    My son visited Caring Santa today and it was terrific! Thank you for this great opportunity.

  2. by Sandy Troupe

    On December 12, 2012 at 10:39 am

    This is a fantastic idea!! This makes my heart smile :) Now every child can experience Santa and have Santa relate to their needs.