The Dedicated Mall Santa, And The Autistic Boy Whose Christmas He Saved

Autism Speaks, an organization to benefit autistic children, is running an interesting program around the country in which it gets shopping malls to set aside time for autistic kids to have semi-private interaction with the Christmas Santas those malls employ. For autistic kids the stress of hyper-social situations like waiting in line to see Santa Claus in a loud, crowded mall can be too much.

And the Caring Santa program had a defining moment this year at a mall in North Carolina…

After Erin Deely learned of her three-year-old son’s autism diagnosis, she knew that there would be a number of “normal” things that he’d never be able to experience — and right near the top of the list was meeting Santa. Because of the noise, lights, and people, it simply would probably be too much for him to handle, and it broke her heart to know Brayden wouldn’t be able to experience this childhood rite of passage.

Until she heard about the Caring Santa program, that is. This annual program — brought to families by Autism Speaks — brings special Santas to malls around the country each year who know how to make children with autism comfortable and happy.

Jumping at the chance, Erin brought Brayden to the event in Charlotte, North Carolina, and captured a moment that she’ll never forget.

“I thought we would never get those holiday pictures with him because it’s something he can’t handle — the noise and the pressure. He gets anxious if you ask him to smile. It’s all too much for him,” said Erin.

Here’s a video of little Brayden’s big day…

And here’s a video about the Caring Santa program…

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