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Making the hectic holidays quieter for those with autism

December 3, 2013
by Shannon Brys, Associate Editor
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Picture this—you’re in a retail store or shopping mall during the month of December.

What you’re probably picturing is Christmas music, long lines, cranky and pushy people, bright colors, and flashing lights… am I close? The holiday season can be stressful and although there are various fun activities for children to partake in including shopping with parents, crafting, and meeting Santa Claus, some children cannot mentally handle the sometimes overwhelming holiday retail atmosphere. So, what happens when a child with a mental disorder such as autism wants to experience a visit with Santa Claus but has a difficult time being around loud noises and large groups of people?

According to recent news stories, many malls have addressed these children with special needs and are having “quiet” Santa visits to offer a calm atmosphere. Most of the participating malls are in Canada, but there are a few in the U.S. that have also started to make these special arrangements for children with autism. For example, one mall in Virginia Beach – Lynnhaven Mall – offers these quiet visits with Santa before the mall opens.

This time of year as we hear about people leaving their families on Thanksgiving to go out shopping and save some money, or people pushing each other down to get that last “Tickle Me Elmo,” iPad, Xbox One, or whatever it is that is popular this year, it’s so refreshing to hear that something like this is happening. There are many people out there with big hearts who truly care for others. And although they aren’t in the behavioral healthcare field, many individuals understand and want to address the needs of those with mental disabilities to help make their lives and holidays just as special as ours.

Have you heard of malls near you doing something like this or doing other things to cater to those with special needs? I’d love to hear about it!



Shannon Brys

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