The Easton Centre in Toronto offers a “Sensitive Santa” program for autistic children. They are private sessions described as “sensory-friendly.”
Autism, which is sometimes called autism spectrum disorder (ASD), is a developmental disorder that affects behavior. Social interactions tend to be difficult for autistic people, who also often show repetitive behavior such as rocking. Symptoms range from mild to severe.
The usual visits to Santa Claus can be hard on autistic children, as they involve standing in line, sometimes for a very long time. To someone with autism, the stimuli, like the noise of other people, can be overwhelming, and that can lead to meltdowns. A meltdown superficially resembles a tantrum, but is triggered by fear and confusion, while a tantrum is caused by anger or frustration.
The “Sensitive Santa” program avoids these problems by giving autistic kids a quiet, calm place to visit Santa Claus. Dave and Brit Morin absolutely love this setup. “Sensitive Santa” and his helpers have all been trained by members of Autism Speaks Canada. There are no professional photographers, no bells, and no loud noises. The children don’t have to climb onto Santa’s lap unless they want to, and they are given cookies.