Northern Virginia Mall offers sensory-friendly visit with Santa for kids with special needs


Sunday morning at Springfield Town Center Santa welcomed children with special needs for a special sensory-friendly event.


Some of those changes are shutting off the mall music, turning down the lights and having activities and snacks available for them to enjoy while they're waiting for their visit with Santa.


Organizers say accommodations were made to support the sensory, physical and developmental needs of these young people.

"We know that taking a photo with Santa is a valued holiday tradition and we wanted to make that inclusive for all families," says Springfield Town Center Marketing Director Kimberly Baldy.

The opportunity offered young people with all special needs spectrums to meet Santa.

"My son Joe really loves Santa and would want to see Santa but when there's a lot of people around, he just wants to crawl under a table and he can't engage with Santa.," says Phyllis Zelnis.


"In an environment like this, where there's not very many people and it's not very loud, he can come in and see Santa and sit on Santa's lap and Santa can talk to him and he can have a more normalized experience," she says.


The goal of the gathering was to ease sensory triggers and create a more welcoming environment for children with special needs.


This is the first year Springfield Town Center has hosted this type of event, but likely not the last.


While special accommodations were made for children with special needs, their siblings and family were also welcome.

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