Northpark Mall Joins Autism Speaks for a Santa Photo Experience

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Cherryvale Mall set out to make a sensory friendly and calming environment for families with special needs children - all in an effort to make for a smooth trip to see the big man.

"When there is a lot more people, they get a lot more nervous".

"For him to be able to come and have a time specific for Santa where they take the time for him even though he may have a moment, you know but they make it special for him here", Ogletree said. Especially for those families who have children with special needs.

"The children's families are able to make an appointment so the children don't have to wait in line quite as long, and it generally makes for a much more positive meaningful experience with Santa", Pinsky said. "To be able to share that with fellow Autism families, a director of Autism support group in Hattiesburg, so we were very excited to see that they had thought of us, and allotted the time for us to see Santa", Stephanie said. There was not a lot of traffic in the mall. Those who attended say it couldn't have been more ideal.

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"It's very important", said Santa "I mean, that's what Christmas is all about".

This was the second year that the Belisles have attended Silent Santa. Parents say it helps.

"Also, we don't have to worry about if he has a meltdown, people are going to freak out because they're used to this, this is the life they live every day".

Santa's team says making children of all ages smile is part of the magic of the season. "Because that's what Christmas is all about...is giving".

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