Malls Are Giving Kids With Autism Some Quality Time With Santa (Or “Santa’s Helper,” If They Start Asking Questions)

For a lot of people, all the shiny decorations and bouncy music of the holiday season make for a magical time of year. But, for children with autism and other sensory disabilities, all that hustle and bustle can be a bit too much to handle. That’s why malls all around America will open early for kids with special needs.

These “Santa Cares” days are being organized by Autism Speaks and Cherry Hill Programs in order to give children a more soothing experience to meet Santa Claus. During these days, the lights and music in the mall will be lowered. Santa himself will either sit on the floor or stand behind his chair in order to make sure the kids are comfortable and not overwhelmed.

“Our goal is to create a more inclusive world for people with autism, and events like this make such a meaningful impact in helping families feel comfortable, understood and accepted,” said Valerie Paradiz, the Vice President of Services and Supports at Autism Speaks.

A similar event is held in the spring for children to meet the Easter Bunny. Not only do these events help children celebrate the holidays, but they also benefit autism research and advocacy. These events have raised more than $733, 318 for Autism Speaks since 2015, according to CBS News.

Families can reserve times through the Autism Speaks website. This year, 747 Santa Cares events will be held in 582 shopping centers in the U.S. and Canada. Hopefully, that means children everywhere will get to experience the magic of Christmas in an environment that is comfortable for them.

Sarah Halle Corey

Written by Sarah Halle Corey