SPRINGFIELD, VA. (WUSA9) - Meeting Santa and capturing the moment forever is a holiday tradition for most families, but for kids with autism, it’s no easy feat.
“Many have sensory issues,” said Fay Painter with Autism Speaks. “The crowds and the commotion of a normal visit to Santa and waiting in line and so forth can be totally overwhelming and very difficult for families.”
More than a hundred malls across the country opened their doors early this morning to provide a sensory friendly environment.
The lights are dimmed, families can pre-register to avoid busy lines, and kids get a one on one meet and greet with a specially trained Santa.
It’s all part of a program called Santa Cares through Autism speaks. Four-year-old Zoe Armantrout was diagnosed with autism two years ago.
Her father, Kevin Armantrout, said they’ve tried to meet with Santa in the past, but his daughter has always been too scared.
But on this day, Zoe was able to work up the courage to meet Santa and personally make her plea for a Princess Elsa doll.
“It was great, we’ve tried this several times before at other places, and it’s never been successful,” Armantrout said.
The Armantrout's drove two hours to the Springfield mall to take place in the event.
“This was a success and it means a lot," said Armantrout.
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