Calm Santa events planned for children with special needs

Lights, music can cause stress for some kids

For children with autism, holiday staples like carolers, twinkling lights and big crowds can be overwhelming, so going to visit Santa at a local mall could be out of the question.

Many malls nationwide have begun offering alternative events for children with special needs to have their picture taken with Santa.

"Our son, Jackson, is severely affected by autism and is nonverbal with multiple other special needs," J-Jaye Hurley, who lives in Atlanta, told ABC News . "We had not been able to get a picture with Santa since he was 2."

When Hurley learned about Simon Property Group's Caring Santa program near her home, "for the first time, our family was able to visit Santa, get a great pic, and Jackson really was relaxed and happy to be there," she said.

The Caring Santa program and similar programs, such as Silent Santa or Sensitive Santa, simplify the meet and greet with Santa, so it's a more peaceful experience.

"Extra care has been taken to support the sensory, physical and other developmental needs of children so they can enjoy this wonderful holiday tradition," according to the description on the Caring Santa program's website.

Caring Santa is planned at six Indiana malls: Fashion Mall at Keystone, Greenwood Park Mall, Markland Mall in Kokomo, Tippecanoe Mall in Lafayette, University Park Mall in Mishawaka, and Washington Square Mall in Indianapolis.

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