The holidays can be overwhelming for anyone. There's the bright, twinkling lights engulfing every store and street corner. There's the music blaring all around, the decorative cups at Starbucks, the pressure to find the perfect gift for your loved ones. And then, of course, there's meeting Santa Claus and sitting on his lap. For 29-year-old Kerry Magro, this was always an extremely stressful time.
At the age of 4, Magro was diagnosed with PDD-NOS or pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified, a form of autism.
Magro recently told Huffington Post, “Growing up with autism, I had challenges in meeting Santa in public places because I dealt with a lot of sensory challenges, so giant malls were never really an option for me.”
There were all sorts of things that made places like busy shopping centers difficult for a child with autism; the harsh lights and loud music just being a few of them.
Magro's own childhood experience visiting Santa Claus has prompted him to create "sensory-friendly" visits.
And because Magro is truly a wonderful person, he plays Santa Claus himself! Magro started the event three years ago with his nonprofit, KFM Making a Difference.
Since creating the sensory-friendly visits, Magro said that they've welcomed over 500 children with autism.
Margo continued to explain how a sensory-friendly visit with Santa Claus works. First, parents sign their children up for a 30-minute slot, so no one feels rushed.
Then, the lights and music are turned down to not overwhelm any of the children.
Magro only allows eight children too sign up for a visit at a time. Not only can they visit with Santa, but they can do arts and crafts as well.
Magro explained that they don't want the kids to feel overwhelmed at any point during their visit.
“We don’t want them to feel rushed. We don’t want them to feel overloaded,” Magro said. “We just want to make it a labor of love.”
There are also a speech therapist, occupational therapist, and physical therapist on site. Magro has taken great care and detail into planning this experience.
There’s a reason why this is so important to him…