Local mall offers "Sensory Santa" event for children with Autism


Taking a picture with Santa is a holiday tradition for many families.

That's where the event "Santa Cares" comes in. The "Santa Cares" organization travels across the country to provide a sensory-friendly experience for children with all spectrums of special needs.

Parents register online to reserve a spot and avoid the hours long wait on line that's typical of other photo sessions with Santa.

Many events featuring Santa are at the mall during height of holiday shopping, which can be especially hard to handle for some kids with mental or physical disabilities.

"This event allowed us to really control some of those things, so we dimmed the lights, we had this event before the mall opened to keep the crowds down", said marketing director of CherryVale Mall Melissa Cavanagh.

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All three of Nicole Schulte's kids have special needs, so she couldn't wait to introduce them to St. Nick in the right environment.

The event is made possible because of a partnership between Simon Malls and Cherry Hill Programs. "Or sometimes Luke will just absolutely shut down and it's like he's not there - it's just too much for him".

Cavanagh adds most people don't realize how important it is for families to get these type of opportunities.

"We were able to pick a time, come down, and they had stuff for them to do while they were waiting". He was able to go up to Santa at his pace.