During an Autism Speaks “Caring Santa” event at a mall in North Carolina, a young boy with autism couldn’t be convinced to sit on Santa’s lap. So Santa decided to go to him: he got down on the floor next to the boy.
Maeghan Pawley, a member of Autism Speaks’ Family Services team provided the photo to the organization. They explained that when it came time for the boy to get in Santa’s lap for a picture, he couldn’t be convinced. So the kind “not so young” Santa joined him on the floor. “The whole staff (Santa included) was overly accommodating for all of our kids, really trying to get the best picture and create the best experience possible, regardless of how much time or patience was needed to do so,” said Pawley.
The Caring Santa Program provides a “more controlled and welcoming environment” for families that have children with autism and other special needs. The second installment of the program is taking place on December 6, at malls across the country. You can find a list of participating malls by state here.
As for this Santa, it surely wasn’t part of his job description to get on the floor. It’s beautiful to see someone putting in a little extra time and patience to reach a child. That’s all it took — a little extra. It’s reminiscent of the story of the hairdresser who did the same for a young client with autism: he lay beside him on the floor and the boy allowed him to cut his hair. Can you imagine the change we could bring to the world if we all took just a little extra time to be patient, kind, and meet people where they are?
What can we collectively do to make the world a kinder place for families dealing with autism and other special needs? It’s a question we should continually remember to ask ourselves. Raising a child with special needs wouldn’t be nearly as daunting if more people practiced patience.