As moms in general, we always look for ways to create great experiences for our children.
As a mom with a child on the spectrum, I find that I work harder, perhaps more selectively, to find activities for Mayor Bee. Whether seeking something in sports, music, art…whatever, I aim to get the best outcome possible.
Ok, so sometimes it’s a colossal failure…or even just “meh, it was ok”. But, then there are times where it seems to click.
Sunday was another “Magic Moment”.
As you may have noticed (pimping myself out here again) – I was featured on the SPD Bloggers Network on 12/11/11 for my holiday post. Uh, see below. I wrote an all-too-familiar post about wanting your kids to enjoy the holidays but struggling to overcome sensory overload. I also mentioned in the post an “Autism Friendly Santa” (or “Sensory Friendly Santa”, depending on how the event words it) event that I found out about online.
God, the Interwebz is an AWESOME place.
I became interested because going to see Santa is not only a harrowing experience for B, but for me as well. For B, the lights, the loud music, the jostling and kid craziness makes him overstimulated. Then he melts down into a puddle – and it’s hard to watch him go through the steps. Of course, that makes me twitchy and anxious…and so we have never been to a “Mall Santa”. It was one of those things that I just picked my battle and that was not it. We tried Santa in other settings but it was still difficult.
I took to the Information Superhighway and learned more about these “Autism Friendly Santas”. Essentially, it’s a special time carved out for those families with children on the spectrum. It is scheduled in advance, and you reserve a spot (it’s also a limited number, as to allow more intimacy and of course less waiting). Some events you sign up for a specific time, others you just sign up and show up. The music is either turned down or eliminated all together, and the lights are dimmed. Even Santa is quieter and makes more deliberate movements.
The idea is that by minimizing distractions, children will be able to experience Santa without fear. Also that parents have the chance to possibly experience the magic of their child climbing into Santa’s lap, and even maybe get a picture to cherish.
I found out that the was in fact doing another “Autism Friendly Santa” event. Of course, I hurriedly called and signed us up. It was on Sunday from 9:00AM-11:00AM. The mall did not open until 11:00AM so I knew that there would not be a lot of people there. Besides the mall walkers that is.
It was a little frantic that morning getting ready (it is about an hour drive from our house with little traffic) but we got there around 9:30AM. The drive was serene, the mall parking lot was empty – truly a relief for me. We unloaded everyone (double the kids, double the crap) and strolled into the mall. I was struck with how QUIET it was. We immediately saw the setup and there was nobody there – which freaked me out a little (what if no one else signed up?) but as we got closer I noticed one kid was visiting Santa. Whew.
A lovely woman (really wished I knew her name, but let’s call her J) greeted us and checked us in. We got a number (we were next) and were welcome to color or walk around while waiting. She was extremely nice and took the time to find out B’s name.
Within five minutes it was our turn. Husband walked up with B, who seemed a little dubious of this guy in red. But he quite warmed up to him and was able to get into his lap without any silliness.
B was able to tell Santa that he wanted a “house”. Um, really? Not liking the house we have now? Santa says, “maybe he wants a bigger house”. Yeah, like THAT’S gonna happen. He also asked for a pickup truck. lol
B was able to sit still for a few seconds while both the photographer and myself took some pictures – mine all sucked, so I was delighted to see that one of the other poses was very good. He did get a bit distracted here and there but it was ok. No meltdowns, no sensory seeking behavior…it was all good.
Next, we plopped Mayita on his lap with B. She was all sorts of confused as to this big man with…ooooh, soft white fluffy stuff. And yes, she did yank it a little bit. So, she was very good but boy was she ever confused.
And while I waited for the pictures to print (because I was totally a sucker and got pictures, along with the copyright release for said photos), Husband oversaw B running around with a couple of other boys in the
Fashion Santa’s Court. It was so cute because they were having so much fun chasing each other, and we didn’t have to worry about dirty looks from bystanders or concerned parents. Because we all had a mutual understanding, being that we all signed up for this with the same purpose – to make this a wonderful experience for our kids.
We finally *had* to leave (alas no shopping since the stores were still closed) and drive back home, exhausted but pretty darn proud of ourselves.
I am definitely glad we did it. It was a wonderful experience for all of us.