'Sensitive Santa' offers calm visits for children with autism

For a child with autism, paying a visit to Santa at the local mall is no easy endeavour. The bright lights, loud noises and bustling crowds can trigger feelings of intense anxiety, ruining what might otherwise be a happy encounter with Saint Nick.

See Full Article

But a shopping mall in North Bay, Ont. is taking extra steps to make Santa available to children with autism, by offering parents the opportunity to book a one-on-one appointment with the jolly old elf in a quiet and non-threatening setting.

"Sensitive Santa" meets with children for 10 minutes before the Northgate Shopping Centre opens, when the lights are dimmed and the crowds are non-existent, so children with autism can share in a Christmas tradition many other kids take for granted.

The Sensitive Santa program is run by Autism Ontario North East every year, and has been growing in popularity. Twenty-four families have visited Sensitive Santa this year, up from 16 visits last year.

Creedance Sarazin, 7, got a chance to meet with Santa this week, thanks to the autism-friendly initiative.

"It's so nice," his mother, Tasheena Sarazin, told CTV Northern Ontario. Sarazin said she's glad Creedance can "experience things that other children get to." She said her son hasn't been able to visit Santa in four years, because the mall is "just too much for him."

"I don't know how many times we've walked past Santa because I know there's no way he's going to be able to wait in line, so the appointment part of this morning is absolutely perfect," she said.

Autism is a life-long disorder with symptoms ranging from mild to severe. However, most individuals with the disorder experience difficulty with communicating, forming relationships and navigating social situations.

Behaviour therapist Erin Emon says those with autism are also particularly sensitive to overstimulation from their environment. "For a lot of these children it is loud noises, bright lights. It can be large crowds, so bringing them in before all of the activities of the mall get going can really help with that."

Tasheena Sarazin was overcome with emotion upon seeing her son with Santa, and had to wipe tears from her eyes while speaking about the visit. "Everyone's so wonderful here," she said.

With files from CTV Northern Ontario



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • France backs Italy in vaccine ban as EU defends mechanism

    World News CTV News
    BRUSSELS -- Europe's vaccine solidarity got a boost on Friday after France said it could emulate Italy's move to block coronavirus vaccine exports outside the European Union if that's what is needed to enforce the bloc's own contracts with drugs manufacturers. Source
  • Swiss mull 'burqa ban' in vote centring on security, rights

    World News CTV News
    GENEVA -- At a time when seemingly everyone in Europe is wearing masks to battle COVID-19, the Swiss go to the polls Sunday to vote on a long-laid proposal to ban face-coverings, both the niqabs and burqas worn by a few Muslim women in the country and the ski masks and bandannas used by protesters. Source
  • How approval of Johnson & Johnson's 'one and done' COVID-19 vaccine could change Canada's vaccination game

    Canada News CBC News
    A one-dose COVID-19 vaccine is now approved for use in Canada — and vaccine experts say the shot from Johnson & Johnson could give a major boost to countrywide vaccination efforts while offering a "real solution" to hasten the end of the pandemic. Source
  • Ontario reports surge in new COVID-19 infections with more than 1,200 cases added

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- Ontario is reporting a spike in new COVID-19 infections with more than 1,200 cases logged Friday. The 1,250 new infections mark an increase over Thursday’s report when 994 cases were logged. This is the first time in three consecutive days that the province has added more than 1,000 new cases of the novel coronavirus. Source
  • Teen convicted in Slender Man stabbing to ask for release

    World News CTV News
    WAUKESHA, WIS. -- One of the teens convicted of stabbing a classmate to please the fictional internet horror character Slender Man is expected to ask for release from a Wisconsin mental health facility. Anissa Weier, 19, is scheduled to appear Wednesday before the Waukesha County Circuit Court judge who earlier sentenced her to 25 years in a mental health institution and ask for her conditional release. Source
  • Mississippi moves one step closer to banning transgender athletes from women's sports

    World News CTV News
    Mississippi moved one step closer to banning transgender athletes from participating in women's sports after the state House approved a bill on Wednesday that could make the state the first in the country to add anti-transgender legislation to its books this year. Source
  • After record COVID-19 deaths, Bolsonaro tells Brazilians to stop 'whining'

    World News CTV News
    BRASILIA -- After two straight days of record COVID-19 deaths in Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro on Thursday told Brazilians to stop "whining" and move on, in his latest remarks attacking distancing measures and downplaying the gravity of the pandemic. Source
  • Minassian decision opens door for verdict of not criminally responsible due to autism

    Canada News CTV News
    TORONTO -- The judge who found Alek Minassian guilty of murder and attempted murder in the Toronto van attack set Canadian precedent Wednesday by considering autism a "mental disorder" under the Criminal Code. Justice Anne Molloy ruled that autism spectrum disorder did not leave the 28-year-old not criminally responsible for killing 10 people and injuring 16 others, but her decision to consider that possibility means the argument could be made in future cases. Source
  • Health Canada approves Johnson and Johnson vaccine

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- Health Canada is to announce approval of the COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson and Johnson this morning, according to multiple sources aware of the decision but not authorized to discuss it publicly. The federal regulator has found the evidence shows the vaccine is both safe and effective against the virus that causes COVID-19. Source
  • Canada authorizes one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson

    Canada News CTV News
    OTTAWA -- The first one-shot COVID-19 vaccine from Johnson & Johnson has been authorized by Health Canada, making it the fourth vaccine that can be administered to Canadians. Health Canada is now the first major regulator to have approved four different COVID-19 vaccines for use, said chief medical adviser at Health Canada Dr. Source