Friday 18 October 2019

Special Santa visit for autistic children

Quiet time: Maurice Nolan and Emma Smith-Nolan with son Alex (6) at the event in the Mansion House. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Quiet time: Maurice Nolan and Emma Smith-Nolan with son Alex (6) at the event in the Mansion House. Photo: Doug O’Connor
Ian Begley

Ian Begley

Dublin's Mansion House was transformed into a sensory winter wonderland this weekend to give children with autism and special needs a chance to meet Santa Claus.

The free event, hosted by Dublin Lord Mayor Nial Ring, was praised by parents who said they could take their children away from the hustle and bustle of Santa grottos at busy shopping centres.

The ground floor was specially adapted to have a more sensory, open environment which enabled more than 300 children to meet Santa in their own way. The event was organised by autism group Adam and Friends. Santa Claus was even advised on how to best interact with the children.

"Visiting Santa can be a very daunting experience for children with special needs," said group founder Gemma O'Brien.

"We utilised the space we were given to ensure that visiting Santa would be a very positive, non-stressful experience. Through the careful use of colours, music and no queues we were able to create a very safe and friendly environment for these kids."

Dublin parent Emma Smith-Nolan said she was delighted her son Alex (6) had such a good time.

"Alex has Asperger's Syndrome, which makes it very difficult for him to cope in crowded places. To be able to come here in an autism-friendly environment means so much to us. He got along so well with Santa, which probably wouldn't have been possible if we were in a shopping centre," she said.

Cllr Ring said he hoped his successor would continue the initiative next year.

Irish Independent

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