Sssh its Silent Santa time again! Children with autism are getting to experience a magical visit to Santa thanks to the National Autistic Society NI and Bloomfield Shopping Centre, Bangor.
For children with autism a visit to Santa can be anything but merry and for some it can be a terrifying experience, with long queues, large crowds, bright lights and deafening noise. Unfortunately many families with a child with autism forego the traditional visit to Santa’s grotto and miss out on an experience that so many families take for granted. This means that many families with a child with autism miss the opportunity to capture elusive Christmas photos and memories which so many other children take for granted and which is so much part of the build- up and excitement of Christmas.
For the last two years the National Autistic Society NI has worked with Bloomfield Shopping Centre to host Silent Santa visits for children with autism. This year 35 families got to experience the magic of Christmas. One very happy parent said,
“We attended the Silent Santa at Bloomfields, and I just wanted to thank you for organising this. It was the first time my 6 year old son Jack sat with Santa, it was completely stress free and Jack really enjoyed sitting beside Santa and having his photo taken. Santa was brilliant, very quiet and unassuming. This made such a difference! The staff were so lovely too. Please run this in future years, as we finally have a lovely Christmas photo of our two children.”
Silent Santa visits entail the shopping centre opening an hour earlier to allow children with autism to avoid noise and queues. The music is lowered as are the lights and we have the most sensitive autism aware Santa!
Shirelle Stewart Director of the National Autistic Society NI says: “We want to thank Bloomfield Shopping Centre for working with us once again to make Christmas really special for children with autism and their families. Santa was amazing, kind, patient and understanding just what you expect the big man to be!”