When Santa makes everything right in the world

As it’s almost that time of year again when Christmas Day is upon us, I thought I would share a heartwarming example of Santa interacting with a little boy on the spectrum. Some, perhaps even many, kids on the autistic spectrum struggle with Santas Grotto visits due to the overwhelming sensory stimuli most grottos contain. They may reach the man himself and be unable to communicate with him either because they are pre verbal or because anxiety and anticipation has rendered them mute. Having an understanding Santa Claus makes all the difference!

This story centres around a six year old boy with autism who, having seen Santa in his grotto in Grandville, Michigan, turned back and, hands shaking with anxiety, told Santa that he was worried about being put on the infamous Naughty list because of his autism and the effects it has on his behaviour, particularly at his school where his diagnosis is poorly understood. Santa calmed him down and reassured him that he was a good boy and that he shouldn’t be afraid to keep being himself. The full story can be found at http://www.today.com having been published on the 9th of December 2015. This story made me smile but also made me sad that, at such a young age, this boy is already experiencing low self esteem and anxiety about how other people see him. Sadly, these are emotions and feelings that most people on the spectrum struggle with throughout their lives. Kindness can so often make all the difference and it clearly helped this boy feel that autism does not equal naughty. I hope that he takes that lesson forward with him through life and can recall it whenever he hits a down day. Santa Claus in that mall did more for that boy’s self belief in one brief conversation than his school appears to have ever done.

Of course there are countless other Santas in grottos throughout the world who also make every child’s visit special and memorable, including those with autism and other disabilities. The above news story has perhaps been played out several times over the years in different locations with different Santas and different children. My point is that experiencing such understanding and compassion can make such a huge difference to children on the autistic spectrum who so often feel an intense guilt purely for being themselves (I know this view may not be popular with some people who play down the negatives of living with an autistic spectrum condition but, based on my own past and through conversations with other people on the spectrum, it is a common occurrence). Finding someone who can look past the diagnosis and appreciate them for every aspect of their personality is what can make the difference between isolation and deciding to join in, in my opinion. Santa gave this boy the confidence to be himself, something which at such a tender age, he felt guilt for.

I will not be blogging now until closer to New Year so I want to take this opportunity to wish all of my readers a merry Christmas. I hope the festive season, for those that celebrate it, is filled with fun, family, happiness and laughter and I will be back just before New Year!


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