‘Patient Santa’ brings holiday cheer to kids with Autism

CLARENCE, N.Y. (WIVB) – Telling the big guy in red what’s on your Christmas list is a pretty important part of the holidays.

So imagine not being able to?

For kids with Autism, the long lines and loud sounds at many Santa meet and greets can make it almost impossible.

“They have a hard time, a difficult time seeing Santa within the public when the surroundings aren’t quiet and a little darker than normal,” Mrs. Claus told WIVB-TV.

She and Santa do what they can to make it easier, and for the fourth year, Eastern Hills Mall helped too.

“Patient Santa” allows kids to meet Santa with no lines, no rushing, and plenty quality of face time with Ole Saint Nick.

“It takes the pressure off of us as parents. Because waiting in line is something that kids with Autism just can’t do,” said Amherst mom Karrie Daniels.

Rachele Dorfman of Buffalo brought her two sons, Carter and Jacob.

Jacob has Autism, and enjoyed the personal time Mr. and Mrs. Claus were able to spend with him.

“They asked does he like Paw Patrol, they brought out Paw Patrol toys, they brought out different lighted toys that might catch his eye, they were blowing bubbles. Those are things that you’re not going to see every time when you come to see Santa,” Dorfman said.

Kids don’t have a time limit with Patient Santa. They can hang with Santa as long as they’d like, and instead of line, they can wait in a special sensory room with toys and activities before seeing him.

But some kids are still a little shy, so Santa brings in his four-legged helpers to make the kids feel more confident.

Labradoodle Leo helped a lot of kids get to know Santa at Eastern Hills.

“Sometimes we walk him actually, to Santa, if the kids are a little scared. They pretend they’re walking him. He’s just very calming to the children,” said Elaine Cannon of Therapy Dogs International.

The day wouldn’t complete with a photo of Mr. and Mrs. Claus with the kids. And of course, they’re happy to take it twice.

“It is a relief to know that there are people out there that support Autism in our community,” Daniels said.

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