'Sensory Santa' brings out the smiles

- If you've ever taken a child to see Santa at the mall, you know the wait isn't always pleasant.  The line is long and boring; kids are screaming and crying.

Then, of course, the big guy himself can be intimidating.  That's why Westfield Citrus Park Mall held a very special event this weekend.

The mall invited children with autism and special needs for some one-on-one time with the big man in red.

'Sensory Santa' allowed children and their families to enjoy a holiday tradition, while in a quiet, calm, and controlled environment.

According to one mother, the extra time and patience helped make a day her son will not forget anytime soon.

"It's quieter. He can spend his time with Santa, he can take as much time as he needs," Lysia Gillis explained.  "A lot of time, with autism, change is rather difficult. So to be able to be calm and reserved is a good thing."

If you missed out on the event, you still have another chance to see a sensory friendly Santa.  The Lawyers Autism Awareness Foundation is holding its Sensory Santa event on December 17 at the Chester H. Ferguson Law Center in downtown Tampa.

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