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Sensitive Santa event caters to children with autism


Glimcher Realty Trust, based in Columbus, Ohio, is launching its Sensitive Santa program again this year, a sensory-friendly event that caters to children with autism.

With approximately three to six children out of every 1,000 diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), it can be difficult for families of children with autism to enjoy some of the holiday celebrations and traditions most people take for granted, including simple things like sitting on Santa’s lap in a busy shopping mall.

For Glimcher’s Sensitive Santa event, held at 20 Glimcher malls on a Sunday morning during the holiday season, the Santa area becomes “sensory friendly,” meaning the lights and music are turned down, staff are instructed to avoid loud, distracting movements, and the mall is closed to shoppers. Working in partnership with Worldwide Photography, each family that attends receive a free 4 x 6 photo keepsake to commemorate the holiday season.

“We decided to launch Sensitive Santa across the portfolio last year to reach as many children and families that are affected by autism as possible,” said Michael Glimcher, CEO, Glimcher Realty Trust. “Our biggest hope is to see this program grow so that all families can enjoy this special and memorable part of the holiday season.”

Sensitive Santa started three years ago at Dayton (Ohio) Mall as part of the shopping center’s annual Magical Season of Giving, out of a partnership with the Autism Society, Dayton Chapter. Because of the success and impact of the event, Glimcher has rolled the program out portfolio-wide, and hopes to inspire other partners and mall developers in the future to provide this unique experience to families across the country.

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