Special Santa event caters to children with special needs - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Special Santa event caters to children with special needs

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The hustle and bustle of the holiday season can be too much to handle for children with some type of sensory disorder or sensitivity.  Summer Lovetro has a 10-year-old daughter who was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome.  Lovetro explains that the lights and noise in public settings would cause her daughter to put her hands over her ears and scream.

Margi MacDuff, Marketing Director with the Huntington Mall, says Special Santa was created for those children to have a special moment with Santa just like any other child, but it's on their terms.  She explains the music will be off, the lights on the tree will be off, and there's an area for children to play while they get up the nerve to see Santa.

Trained staff are aware of the sensory overload that can cause meltdowns.   Interaction is done by taking cues from the child.  Santa and staff will cautiously approach children while speaking in a quiet friendly manner and let the children direct the interaction.

A play area will be set up with hands-on quiet activities that can give kids a sense of control in this new environment.  Lovetro explains the play area is a distraction where children can do things that feel good and start associating Santa with fun.

Special Santa carters to any child with special needs or a child who simply prefers a calmer setting to visit Saint Nick.  Special Santa is in Center Court of the Huntington Mall Saturday from 9-10:30 a.m.  If you miss Saturday's event, there is another one planned for Dec. 7.  A similar event called Sensitive Santa is Sunday at the Ashland Town Center Mall in Kentucky.