Sign Up for Sensory-Friendly Santa Time at a Mall Near You

Malls across the nation are opening early on December 4, 2016 so kids with sensory issues and special needs can meet Santa.

caring santa
Photo: Courtesy Autism Speaks

The holidays can be tough on kids with sensitive sensory systems, and nothing triggers my autistic 8-year-old into a meltdown faster than a trip to the mall during this busy season. (Watch this video for a look at how such a trip can escalate for a child with autism).

Some malls, however, recognize what a stressful time this can be, and they're working to accommodate kids with special needs while still encouraging them to participate in holiday moments, like photos with Santa. This year, Autism Speaks has paired up with more than 180 malls across the country to offer a day where kids can have a sensory-friendly Santa experience. On December 4, the malls will open two hours early, just for kids with special needs and their families. Registration is required, and you can click here to see a list of participating malls across the nation and to save your spot.

Although there's not a participating mall in my area, I love this idea! Kids with special needs should be included in favorite holiday traditions—and such a small change can have tremendous impact. If you do have a participating mall in your area, we'd love to see your Santa or other holiday photos! Share them in the comments and tell us how you're making this time of year a little bit easier for your kids with sensory issues and special needs.

Jamie Pacton lives near Lake Michigan, where she drinks loads of coffee, dreams of sailing, and enjoys each day with her husband and two sons. Find her at, Facebook, and Twitter @jamiepacton.

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