Sensory friendly malls

child-on-santas-lapMany kids with special needs have sensory issues. They may be extremely sensitive to sounds, lights, foods, certain fabrics on their skin, etc. Shopping at a mall or visiting Santa can be a harrowing experience for these children and their families. Yet, it is a shame for kids to miss out on the festivities of the season, such as having a photo taken with Santa, if that is something that they wish to do.

Fortunately, some malls in the United States offer “sensory friendly” times so that families can take their children with special needs to the mall to see Santa, without having a negative reaction to the noise, lights and commotion. Check with your mall to see if they are offering a “sensory friendly” day for children with special needs. Often, a visit with Santa is offered to children with special needs before the mall is open to the public, or at other specific times.

If your mall does not yet offer such a program, and if you participate in a support group for kids with special needs, perhaps you can have the group request a day/time for a sensory friendly visit with Santa. If your mall can not accommodate a sensory friendly visit, then try to make your visits to the mall at the least crowded times, (eg. when the mall first opens on a weekday.)

If all else fails, consider inviting “Santa” to your home for a personal visit with your child. It may be the least stressful option of all. Hopefully, with a little creativity and resourcefulness, your child will not miss out on the joyful aspects of the season – like visiting Santa!

Note: This post is part of the weekly series Delays and disabilities – how to get help for your child. It was started in January and appears every Wednesday. Go to News Moms Need and click on “Help for your child” on the menu on the right side to view all of the blog posts to date. As always, we welcome your comments and input.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.com.

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