Tuesday, November 15, 2022 - For families with children on the autism spectrum or with other sensory issues, the holiday season can be overwhelming. The long lines to get just a few seconds with Santa can be frustrating for any child, but especially for those with a disability.
Luckily, a non-profit organization called the Pervasive Parenting Center is here to help! This year will mark the organization's 12th year of hosting Sensitive Santa. The event will take place at six locations throughout eastern Oklahoma starting on December 1.
Many people may be wondering what exactly is Sensitive Santa. Sensitive Santa is an alternative Santa for those with autism or families with children who have disabilities.
Pervasive Parenting Center Director Kodey Toney stated, "Any parent of a child on the spectrum or with a disability knows that waiting in those long, stressful lines is just an invitation for a meltdown. The sights, smells, and long delay can cause a sensory overload that will leave a bad impression of Christmas.
Sensitive Santa is soft spoken, unlike the boisterous, jolly soul that we see at the mall. The stereotypical reproduction of the real man from the north is usually too much for a neurotypical child to handle, much less someone who is easily upset by loud sounds."
Children attending the event are able to enjoy a quiet evening with Santa and won’t have to wait in long lines. Plus, everyone will be treated to milk and cookies.
"Santa won’t touch the children unless they come up to him, and they don’t have to sit in his lap unless they want to," Toney added.
All Sensitive Santa events are by "appointment only" and will begin at 6 p.m. each night. Toney said, "The only thing we ask is that you bring only your children with disabilities, not their siblings. Too many children can mean too many distractions."
Sensitive Santa has many planned stops for 2022. His first visit takes place at KIBOIS in Stigler on Dec. 1. He will then fly over to Cherokee County, stopping by Sequoyah High School's gym on Dec. 6. Santa’s next stop is Adair County at the Mid County Community Building on Dec. 8.
After taking a few days off to rest, Sensitive Santa will fly over to Latimer County and make an appearance at KIBOIS in Wilburton on Dec. 13. He will take off from there and head to Carl Albert State College (CASC) in Sallisaw on Dec. 15. Santa’s final flight will land him at CASC in Poteau on Dec. 20.
"This has been such a blessing for us to sponsor. Year after year, we sit back and watch children who wouldn't normally get the chance to interact with Santa, and Santa is so patient," Toney added.
If you would like to learn more about Sensitive Santa or would like to schedule an appointment, you can call 918-647-1255, text 918-658-9538, email firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit Pervasive Parenting Center’s Facebook page.
Lindsie Dyer, Staff Writer
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