Children Enjoy Special Visit with Santa

Posted on December 4th, 2011 at 7:49 PM

Santa's list from good girls and boys got a lot longer as the first "Autism-Friendly" Time with Santa was held at the Millcreek Mall on Sunday, Dec. 4. The Barber National Institute sponsored the event to provide children with special needs with the opportunity for a low-key experience with St. Nick outside of regular mall hours.

"A visit with Santa is an experience that most children have as they are growing up. But for children with special needs, waiting in a long line in a loud, crowded environment can be especially stressful for both the child and parents," said Dr. Maureen Barber-Carey, executive vice president of he Barber National Institute. "We are so grateful to the Millcreek Mall for enabling us to provide this opportunity that was so special for families."

The holiday music was turned off during the event, and Barber National Institute staff gave numbers to families so that they could relax and enjoy other activities while they waited their turn to see Santa. Children could enjoy holiday crafts and face painting and information was available for parents. In addition, a waiting area was set up with a variety of toys for children to play with.

Many parents said that the event provided the first time for their children to experience a visit with Santa. "We were happy to see so many children with special needs and their siblings enjoy something that is a holiday tradition, and hope to provide this event again next year," said Dr. Barber-Carey.