Ontario ARC hosts sensory-friendly visit with St. Nick

Santa was ready and waiting Wednesday for children who struggle with noisy malls or long waits in wide-open spaces.

Ontario ARC’s Autism Center hosted its third annual Sensitive Santa Evening, geared specifically for children and teens with autism who are looking for a fun and sensory-friendly visit with Santa.

Autism and Wellness Manager Diane VanDerwater met families one by one and took them into a separate room with a twinkling Christmas tree, soothing music and low lighting. There they met Santa, known to some as Ontario ARC volunteer Brad Eldredge. Unlike some more gregarious chaps, this Santa was warm, gentle and flexible with each guest.

“It gives children an opportunity who may be fearful of going to see Santa or its sensory overload waiting in line at the mall,” said VanDerwater. “All of those things will cause some kids to have high anxiety and they can’t tolerate the long wait time.

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