I don’t even bother trying to get my son to sit down for a Santa photo anymore.
Not all kids like it, as we can tell from the countless Christmas photos featuring hysterical children trying to get off the lap of their local shopping centre Santa. As all mums of special needs children know, that hysteria isn’t worth the funny photo, because its not so easy to calm them down afterwards, not to mention the long term effects in terms of anxiety surrounding similarly confronting experiences.
I gave up a few years ago. It just wasn’t worth it.
Then I spotted a photo of a shopping centre Santa lying on the floor next to a boy. The Santa was carefully getting down on the little boy’s level, playing next to him, not pressuring him into doing anything and the boy was slowly but surely warming up and inching closer.
Tears sprang into my eyes because, without even reading a word, I immediately knew what was happening.
The little boy’s name is Brayden Deely. He’s just six and he has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Mum Erin Deely wouldn’t normally consider taking Brayden to see Santa but she heard of a local Caring Santa event being hosted by Autism Speaks at North Carolina’s South Park shopping mall in the U.S.
Autism Speaks told ABC News that the aim of Caring Santa was to give families of children with autism and other special needs a more “controlled and welcoming environment.”