Caring Santa schedules visits for children and families with special needs

Autism Society of Alaska hosts alternative to the overwhelming experience of sitting on Santa's lap

The event sold out quickly with forty families signing up to take pictures with Santa.

Santa's team says making children of all ages smile is part of the magic of the season.

The goal of the gathering was to ease sensory triggers and create a more welcoming environment for children with special needs.

"To keep him settled is the main thing, and [with] this we could get in and waited, like, two minutes or so.it was great, " he added.

That's where the event "Santa Cares" comes in.

"His attitude and his reaction right now the mood he's in is because of this", said attending parent Jan Smith.

"He doesn't like crowds", said parent Angie Flannery. "We've actually started very early this morning, so that we could see those children".




This year, Autism Speaks partnered with Oak Park Mall to make several changes to this classic holiday tradition. "It would just be something that we wouldn't do and we 'd miss out on".

Smith says she appreciates any events that specify time for her son Caleb and children like him.

"Families are so happy that they're here, because they can go see Santa, and it's sensory-friendly, so the lights are dim and the music is off as well", Kiara Peterson said.

"It makes it doable", said Smith".

"It could mean just not being able to cope at all - lots of screaming and yelling and not being physically able to be in that environment".

Clark was able to set up an appointment and get his son in to visit Santa within a couple of minutes, much different than a visit during regular mall hours.

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