News / Edmonton

Silent Santa event tailored to Edmonton kids with autism

Mall holds special event just for kids with sensory issues.

A couple of kids visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at a Silent Santa event.

Supplied

A couple of kids visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus at a Silent Santa event.

For some kids with autism, bells jingling and sleigh bells ringing aren't so much festive as they are overwhelming.

To make the holiday season a bit easier for them, Londonderry Mall is hosting a series of Silent Santa events this year, tailored to kids with sensory issues.

At the first event last weekend, the lights were dimmed, music was off and Santa was given a little bit more time to interact with each child. The event was held before the mall opened to minimize shopping traffic.

“The holiday season can be so stressful for our community, because there’s so much going on,” said Lauren McGuinness, manager of programs and services with Autism Edmonton.

“It can be tough for anyone, but for someone with extra needs or sensitivities to things it can be too much.”

She said that for many of the kids who attended the event it was the first time they’d been able to meet Santa.

“For parents to walk out with that photo and that memory, we’re just so happy they got to have a really positive one.”  
Kingsway Mall has held events for kids with autism for the last couple of years, but this year was Londonderry's first.

Vanessa Julio, the mall’s marketing coordinator, said they started with two events, but added a third on Dec. 11because of the demand.

“We got an insane outpouring of calls,” she said, adding that the appointments booked up with days of the event being announced.

McGuinness said she’s “thrilled” the mall came up with the idea themselves before reaching out to Autism Edmonton.

“It really is a sign that awareness and acceptance is starting to trickle through.”

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