NILES, Ohio (WKBN) – The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley hosted their ninth annual inclusive meet-and-greet with Santa.
The event was held at Eastwood Mall Sunday before the mall opened to the public.
Getting into the holiday spirit is for everyone, and at Eastwood Mall, families with special needs children were able to do just that.
The ASMV hosted their annual sensory-sensitive special Santa visit.
Families with special needs children were able to get photos with Santa, without having to stress.
“It gives us a way to do it that is not overwhelming for them,” said one mother named Melissa Krashoff.
The private event was held before the mall opened.
Lights were dimmed and other accommodations were put in place.
“We try to ask the parents, ‘Hey, how can we get the best picture of your child and Santa?'” said Robin Suzelis, director of The Autism Society of Mahoning Valley.
There were about 60 families in attendance, who were required to sign up ahead of time.
Many families have children with and without special needs. They say events like this help them make sure no one is left out of the fun.
“If we didn’t have a setting like this, we would have to bring the average children without them and then they’re missing out on that experience with their siblings,” Krashoff said. “So they might get to do it, but they’re going to ask why their brothers aren’t here.”
Also at the event, kids could color, pet a therapy bunny and enjoy free train rides.
“We are not going to have our kids waiting in a hour-long line,” Suzelis said. “We want them to be able to do other things and then, ‘Oh, it’s our turn with Santa.'”
The ASMV hosts inclusive events throughout the year.