MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) - A sensory-friendly Santa is coming to the Grand 14 movie theater to give families with children on the autism spectrum a chance to participate in the holiday tradition.
The Autism Community Awareness, or the ACE Program, is teaming up with SOS Healthcare to bring the holiday tradition to families with children on the autism spectrum.
Program Coordinator Becky Large explains that more than not, families with children living with autism won't be able to wait in long lines at the mall to see Santa, because their child becomes overwhelmed with the wait, loud noises, and everything going on around them.
Large says meeting Santa is something every parent wants to see their child do, and believes this event will provide families with that opportunity, without the stress factor.
"They can do it in an environment where you're not going through a cattle chute, and you get to see Santa, and then you're up on his lap and you've got to smile for the picture, and you know to just have the child really kind of settle into the experience, and the parents be able to settle down," Large said.
Large found a way to remove all of what she called "barriers" associated with going to see Santa at a shopping mall. She says this event will be low-key and laid back. There will be no line, and children will be able to approach Mr. and Mrs. Claus when they feel comfortable, and parents there will be understanding of one another. Large says there won't be a photographer, allowing parents to take their own pictures as many times as they would like.
Large says these events allow children "to do things that they've done with their family. Have a normal, family experience. Whether it's a sensory-friendly movie, or a sensory-friendly Santa, to do things that meant something to them as a child, and every parent wants to see their kid on Santa's lap."
The event will be Saturday, December 5, at 9 a.m., followed by a $5 sensory-friendly movie showing of The Good Dinosaur. Large says popcorn and refreshments will be reduced to $1, and there are free tickets available for first-time families.