Children and youth on the autism spectrum had the chance to take pictures with Santa Claus during a special shoot at the Cornwall Centre on Saturday morning.
The session, billed as being sensory-friendly, took place before regular mall hours, before the commotion of shoppers.
No crowds, no flash photography and a lot less noise for those who have sensory sensitivities.
“Some of our kids have a really tough time tuning it out. It can be really overwhelming and stressful for them,” said Keely Wight, executive director of the Autism Resource Centre, which partnered with RNC Imagery and the mall for the first time they’ve held the shoot.
“It’s really our hope that families have that chance to create memories with Santa, that maybe they wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to do.
Tina Baker’s family booked one of thirteen 10-minute slots that morning so her brothers, Avery and Jayden, could spend some time with Santa.
Baker said her brothers don’t handle long lineups well. She found that the shoot accommodated their need for a lower volume.
She said it also helped them feel included.
“This is really nice because it helps a lot of parents out,” Baker said.
It was also a good experience for Santa to see kids he wouldn’t always meet.
“I see so many really good parents — the extra challenges that they face,” he said.
“The doubts and fears that every parent has, they have double or triple. And they don’t buckle under that stress. They’re my new heroes.”