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Unique Santa experience for children with autism

A Sensitive Santa experience is planned for Kelowna and Vernon children with autism starting Dec. 3, 2017.
Image Credit: Submitted

KELOWNA – The normally happy experience of having a picture taken with Santa can instead be terrifying for some children with autism.

That’s why Tracy Vrecko and her husband started Sensitive Santa. They have two sons, their youngest is autistic.

Autism is a neuro-developmental condition that manifests in many ways and leaves people with the condition at many different levels, from high-functioning to severely autistic.

“For my son it was the standing in line that was really tough,” Vrecko says. “Everyone loves Santa but for him it was difficult."

“We spent a few years with a lot of frustrating moments trying to get (our son) to see Santa. It’s busy already so going in there with a child who has sensitivity to lights, sounds, crowds, it’s overwhelming.”

The solution she and her husband came up with was to host individual sessions in an environment with reduced stimulation. Parents or caregivers are given a specific time to arrive and have five minutes each.

It’s gotten bigger every year.

“The first year we had 24 families in one night, the second year we doubled it and saw 48 over two nights,” she says. “This year we’ve actually added a third day at a second location.”

Sensitive Santa will be held in Orchard Park Shopping Centre after hours, so the environment can be controlled.

“There’s no music, low lights, and just Santa, Mrs. Claus and the photographer,” Vrecko says. “(The child) can relax, the family can relax. And everyone leaves with a photo.”

Sensitive Santa will be at Orchard Park Shopping Centre Dec. 3 and 17 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. It will also be set up at 1379 Ellis St. on Dec. 18 between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.

He will also be in Vernon at the Village Green Centre on Dec. 3 between 9 and 11 a.m.

To reserve a spot call Tracey Vrecko at 250-575-6448.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Adam Proskiw or call 250-718-0428 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2017

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