EDMONTON, CA: Santa season is here at last; the year long wait for carols and decorations, mistletoe and gift-shopping is finally coming to an end. The malls are, undoubtedly, exceptionally full, decorated with bright lights, glittering christmas tree and Santa waiting for visits.
Unfortunately, these are the very things that a person with autism may want to avoid. Loud noises, bright lights, and crowds are typically the things that cause anxiety for a person living with autism.
Standing on a long queue, waiting for Santa is difficult for children within the spectrum. They have short attention span and prefer predictability. A busy mall is hardly a predictable scenario.
Keeping them in mind, the popular Londonderry Mall in Edmonton has organised Silent Santa on Sunday, Nov 27 and Dec 4.
Especially meant for children with autism, Silent Santa promises to cutdown on the sensory overload. Families who want to avoid queues can book in for a specific time, prior to the opening of the Mall. The organisers plan to dim the lights, tone down the carols and Santa is trained to understand the needs of autistic children.
The Manager of support services – Lauren Rollett, from Autism Edmonton, from Autism Edmonton, has worked with the actors who play Santa and Mrs Clause, keeping in mind that the occasion is meant for the enjoyment of the families.
They are aware, that this may not be a typical Santa experience, that it may not be possible for a child with autism to be comfortable taking a photo on Santa’s lap.
This is the first time Londonderry Mall is hosting a program of this kind. The response is “overwhelmingly positive” says Nancy Jarnevic, Marketing Director of the mall. Their Facebook page is full of encouraging comments and happy parents
, she said.
The mall has already been booked for the first two days and the team is hoping to extend the program for an additional third day too.
This shows there is a great demand in the autism community for such events, and the team plans to make it special in the best way possible.
With rising numbers of people under the spectrum, it is heartening to notice that society is coming together to include people with autism and attempting to create programs and situations suitable for them. Most areas in Canada and North America has at least one participating mall in the program.