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Kids with autism get to meet Santa in calm setting

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - Sunday morning families made sure their kids on the autism spectrum wouldn't miss out on a holiday tradition.

Parkway Place Mall and the Riley Behavioral and Educational Center teamed up for a Santa meet and greet in a setting that wouldn't be a sensory overload for kids.

"It's kind of the only way to get her out in public," said Elena Sierakowski about her seven-year old daughter.

The mall on a weekend before Christmas isn't empty like it was this morning, but it's exactly what some kids need for their chance to see Santa.

"She doesn't do well with crowds and loud noises and lots of people and long lines," Sierakowski said.

You don't have to check any list twice to know the mall before Christmas has all of those things. So this sensory-friendly Santa time means a lot to Sierakowski's daughter, Lily, who has autism. 

"We love Santa in our house," Sierakowski said.

The Santa Cares event cut the music, dimmed the lights, and had calming play stations for the kids.

"We've tried it before the normal way and it wasn't good at all," said Sierakowski.

But in this setting...

"She did really well today," said WZDX News reporter Renata Di Gregorio.

"She did, yeah!" Sierakowski agreed. "No screaming or anything. 'Cause there's nobody here."

And Lily loves the holiday tradition.

"It's pretty awesome. It's something that she usually talks about for a few weeks afterwards," added Sierakowski. "She was, they were both, pretty pumped. Like, 'let's see Santa!' all morning."

Find more resources at the Riley Center here.


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