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Bringing holiday joy with sensitivity


Prior to this year’s Festival of Trees, the Autism Society of Manitoba hosted the annual Sensitive Santa event inside the Opasquia School gym. It was a time for the parents of sensory sensitive children in the community to bring their kids to see Santa Claus in a quiet, uncrowded environment.
In other locations in the provinces it is held as well, like Winnipeg or small towns like The Pas.
“It’s an event that is created for families that due to overwhelming sensory issues that at a different visit with Santa wouldn’t be able to go otherwise, a Sensitive Santa is quieter. We don’t have what traditionally is considered a visit with Santa with bright lights, Santa doesn’t jingle any bells, he’s very quiet,” explained Melanie Young, Board Member for the Autism Society of Manitoba and Volunteer.
According to Young each parent reserves a spot for their kids so that when the time comes to see Santa, they don’t have to worry about how their kids handle themselves in line, which is a very important caveat for kids who have autism as it can be overwhelming for them.
“There are children that take part in this that otherwise their families would not be able to take them to see Santa, they wouldn’t be able to take pictures with Santa, those kinds of things, it helps families do something traditional,” Young said.
It’s also something that Young enjoys doing, seeing that each of the kids with autism has a chance to enjoy the holidays just like kids without it can.
“It’s awesome, it’s so rewarding when you see that the kids are enjoying themselves, having a good time and you think they might not have had this opportunity if we didn’t have this event, it’s really rewarding,” she said.
Young also has kids with autism, and she added that she would have liked to see something like this when her kids were little, and that she is glad to help other parents give their kids something to enjoy.
“I would just tell them they are completely welcome to come and that this is an event that’s actually created for those children and they have plenty of time. If it takes a little while for that child to warm up, we’re ok with that, we don’t have any problems waiting a little while or waiting for that child to warm up,” said Young.
Young also thanked all the volunteers who took part in the event, as without them it would not have been possible.

Trevor Wright