Turtle Creek Mall host event for Autistic children

Faith Castro
December 5, 2017

Sunday seeing Santa Claus was a bit easier for children with Autism as Autism Speaks hosted a special event at the Woodland Mall in Grand Rapids.

Many families who attended the event say they don't often go to the mall because of the crowds and loud noises, but this event let them get the experience of Christmas shopping without the chaos. But, for families with special needs children, it's even more complicated. To accommodate them, the mall put on low lights, turned off all music and other sounds to keep the set quiet. She said, "What a lot of people don't understand is special needs children, some of them have never visited Santa, sat with Santa".

Northlake Mall held a special event called "Soothing Santa" that allows children living with autism to take pictures with Santa and pass along their wish list before the mall opened.

Breanne Hartfield, a parent, says she found out about the event through Facebook and couldn't pass up the opportunity.

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"Having a special needs child, we don't really get out with him a whole lot, especially this time of year. So, just to be able to get this one-on-one time without the crowd is a blessing for us". "This was just a good way to bring him and also the siblings in", Breanne said.

"We were able to pick a time, come down, and they had stuff for them to do while they were waiting".

"It's very important", said Santa "I mean, that's what Christmas is all about".

Woodard says this is the first year the mall has had the event on their property and they plan to do it again next year.

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