VIENNA - Grand Central Mall is inviting children with Autism and other sensory processing disorders to celebrate with Sensitive Santa this Sunday.
The mall event allows these special children to enjoy a visit with Santa Claus this holiday season.
The special Santa event will be 8-10 a.m. Sunday. Santa is located on the north end of Grand Central Mall, midway between Sears and Center Court. Families are encouraged to use Entrance C, on the front side of the mall, to gain access to the event.
Photo by Pamela Brust
There will be a special visitation and photo session with Santa Claus offered Sunday from 8-10 a.m. for children with Autism and other sensory processing disorders.
"I think it's wonderful the mall is offering this opportunity for the children to enjoy the holiday, to be able to visit with Santa, which they may not have been able to do otherwise under other circumstances. This allows them to enjoy seeing all the decorations in the mall and visit Santa like others enjoy," said Jane Stephens, executive director with the Wood County Society that serves local children and adults with disabilities.
It can be difficult for families of children with such disorders to enjoy some of the holiday celebrations and traditions most people take for granted including simple things like sitting on Santa's lap in a busy shopping mall. According to the Sensory Processing Disorder Foundation, sensory processing refers to the ability to take in information through the senses (touch, movement, smell, taste, vision and hearing), organize and interpret that information and make a meaningful response. For most people, this process is automatic. Children who have sensory processing disorder do not process information the same way, affecting how they respond to that information with emotional, motor and other reactions.
For the event, the Santa area will become "sensory friendly." Lights and music will be turned down, staff will be instructed to avoid loud, distracting movements and the mall will be closed to shoppers. Grand Central Mall in partnership with Worldwide Photography to provide each family that attends a free 4-by-6 photo keepsake to commemorate the holiday season.
"We wanted to create an event that celebrates the spirit of the holiday season and brings a small, but memorable part of the holiday season to families with autism," said Katrina Stephens, mall marketing director. "Sensitive Santa will allow these children to experience the same enjoyment with Santa, but in a much calmer, less intimidating environment."
This is the third year the mall has been able to hold this event. In the first two years, families have offered their appreciation to the mall staff for this event, often saying it is the first time their child has been able to visit with Santa, Stephens said.
"These stories are exactly why we have this event. We are looking forward to being able to touch the lives of even more families in our community this year," Stephens said.
Families do not need to register to attend this free event.