Photos with Santa Claus create ‘sensory-friendly’ environment for kids with autism

East Towne Mall in Madison hosted a sensory friendly photo opportunity with Santa Claus on Sunday, that allowed children with autism to get a picture with Santa in a safe space.

The mall partnered with Cherry Hill Programs and Autism Speaks to host the annual event, called Santa Cares. East and West Towne Mall marketing manager Michala Meyerhofer said the event is hosted in the morning in an effort to keep distractions, such as loud music or bright lights, at a minimum for the children.

“Sometimes it’s just about making it a little more comfortable for the kids that do need a little more time, or a little less stuff going on in the background,” Meyerhofer said.

From 9 to 11 a.m., children and their families were able to tell Santa their holiday wish lists, ask questions about the North Pole, or make elf hats with the help of Santa.

Photos were available for purchase in a variety of sizes and also with digital add-ons.

“Every family deserves a photo with Santa and a chance to visit him,” Meyerhofer said.

At the event and throughout the rest of the holiday season, families can round up their photo purchases to the next dollar. All money raised from those donations will be given to autism research.

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