Kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder meet Santa in a sensory friendly environment

(WXYZ) -

It's a busy time of year with long lines to see Santa, but that alone can be an overwhelming experience for kids with Autism Spectrum Disorder. That's why there was a tailor made morning just for them to enjoy that magical moment.

On Sunday morning, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and their families, got to meet Santa in a safe and sensory-friendly environment. It was a free event that took place at the Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. before the mall opened. It was hosted by Centria Autism Services.

Jessica Blanchard brought her 4 year-old daughter to the event. She says going to the mall during regular hours with the big crowds and long lines isn't an option.

Blanchard said her daughter "was very happy .. she hugged Santa probably 30 times."

At the event, Santa made sure to avoid loud noises and sudden movements. The winter wonderland was also adjusted so there was no loud music or flashing lights.

Elise Beard brought her son there, too. "The noise and lights sometimes bother him .. It makes a difference to have a calmer effect for him," she says.
 
Lauren Mehringer is with Centria Autism Services. She says the special morning really made an impact.
 
"A couple of families said this is first time successful trip with Santa. I know of one boy .. it was his first time to sit on Santa's lap. It was really special for that family," says Mehringer.
 
This is the 3rd time Centria Autism Services has held this special event in Michigan. The company plans to do it again next year.
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