OREM (ABC4 Utah News) – For some kids a visit with Santa Claus can be a sensory overload that ends in tears but one local mall has a “Quiet Santa” for children on the autism spectrum.
“Ho ho ho” can be more like “no no no” for children with sensory processing disorders like 9 year old J.D. Mauss of Pleasant Grove.
“J.D. was born with Periventricular Leukomalacia so he’s got brain damage,” his mother Bobbie explained. “He’s got autism and he’s got epilepsy.”
Last year his parents took him to the regular mall Santa, thinking: “Let’s go do Santa like everyone else and it was one of the longest nights of our life,” Bobbie told ABC4 Utah News. “By the time we got to see Santa he had worked himself into such a frenzy it was about 2 seconds of a screaming picture and not so much Holly Jolly Christmas.”
So this year they came to a calm corner of University Place Mall to see a specially trained Quiet Santa.
“I have to be really quiet, just kind of play some games and some toys myself and try to invite them in,” Quiet Santa said. “Usually, 90 percent of the time they warm up and get closer to me and then we have some fun together….They don’t have to be so scared of Santa.”
“We got to play and I got to tell him what I wanted for Christmas,” J.D. said.
“J.D.’s an amazing kid and he overcomes a lot of challenges,” Bobbie said. “but as a parent getting to see him participate in something everyone else gets to do, a little bit adapted but still everyone else gets to go see Santa and now he can go to school and say ‘I saw Santa’ so he gets to do that as well without having it create chaos in his head and still have it be a fun experience for him.”
The Quiet Santa is available from 8 to 10 a.m. Nov. 30th and Dec. 1st to 4th in 15 minute increments by reservation only.
To reserve a time with the Quiet Santa visit the mall’s website at www.universityplaceorem.com/events