On Sunday, Dec. 5, Susan Paige from Cloverdale arrived at the Willowbrook Shopping Centre in Langley when most of the stores were closed.
She was there to have a picture of her 15-year-old son Jacob taken with a soft-spoken Santa – while things were quiet.
It was a special sensory-adapted photo session for kids who can be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of Christmas, explained Old St. Nick.
Scheduled at Santa’s Cottage before the Langley shopping centre opens, the Sensory Santa sessions allow families to experience a quieter ambiance, with fewer shoppers.
“There’s less chaos in the mall,” Paige told the Langley Advance Times, “which can be a little overwhelming” for Jacob, who also has difficulty standing for too long in lineups.
“We do enjoy the sensory-friendly (event),” Paige remarked.
Another parent was explaining that it wasn’t the noise, but having to wait in line that bothered his autistic son.
“He’s like any other kid, only times a million,” the dad remarked. “He gets overwhelmed.”
The next sensory friendly photo sessions were set for Sunday, Dec. 12. starting at 10 a.m. before the centre opens at 11 a.m.
While reservations are fully booked, Willowbrook said parents can come by early and leave their name at Santa’s cottage, and they will be texted when an opening comes up between sessions.
All individuals 12 years and older are required to show a vaccine passport or proof of vaccination in order to visit Santa. Children aged five and older are required to wear masks for their visit.
More information can be found online at www.shopwillowbrook.com/willowwonderland/.
In B.C., one in 51 children age six to 18 have been identified as having Autism Spectrum Disorder, which is four to five times more common in boys than girls.
In addition to those with autism, people with Sensory Processing Disorder, concussions, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and ADHD can also be affected by lights and noise.
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