Sensitive Santa returns for another year at Orchard Park Mall photo: contributed

Sensitive Santa returns for another year

Visits with Santa will be by appointment only at Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna

Sensitive Santa is back again for another year

Who is not overwhelmed by the mall at Christmas? The mall is especially overwhelming for those children with Autism who have heightened sensitivities.

Back for a 4th year in a row, the Sensitive Santa event is one on one Santa visits in a controlled, sensory friendly environment for those families living with children on the Autism Spectrum.

Thanks to local Kelowna Realtors, Tracey and Quincy Vrecko who started the Sensitive Santa program with the help of Orchard Park Mall when they saw a need for these special Santa visits.

“Our son Paxton didn’t enjoy going to see Santa because it was too overwhelming for him.” said Quincy. “We could see it was hard on him”

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Tracey and Quincy Vrecko have an 8 year-old son diagnosed on the Autism Spectrum. When he was 4, they found he was too sensitive the noise, crowds and lights which made it very difficult to have a traditional Santa visit. The couple wanted to find a way for their son to enjoy this holiday tradition and started Sensitive Santa.

The Sensitive Santa program are one on one Santa visits in an environment that is calming to those children living with Autism. With the help of Orchard Park Mall, visits are after hours to avoid the crowds, the calming environment is achieved by dimming the mall lights and turning off the music. Meetings are by appointment only, which allows each family 5 private minutes with the big man himself.

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“Sensitive Santa has made it possible for our two boys to share in the tradition of meeting Santa. Before Sensitive Santa, between long lines, loud music, and large crowds, our boys would become so overwhelmed they could not make it to see Santa without major meltdowns. Now visiting Santa is one of our favourite Christmas traditions,” said Jeannine Dionne.

Autism Spectrum Disorder (known as ASD) is range of conditions characterized by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences. In Canada, 1 in 68 children are currently diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder.

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Tracey is the president for Autism Okanagan and recognizes that there is need for more programs like this in our community.

“With the growing number of children being diagnosed every year, it is important to find a way for children and adults to enjoy activities in the community” said Tracey.

Sensitive Santa will be at Orchard Park Mall in Kelowna on Nov. 25, Dec. 2, and Dec. 9 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and are by appointment only. To reserve your spot visit sensitivesantaokanagan.ca/register/

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