Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sensitive Santa 2012

For the past several years, we have participated in Dayton Mall's Sensitive Santa.  This year, we debated about whether we were going to do it.  In the end, we let the boys decide if they wanted to go.  They were enthusiastic about it.  Blake decided he was going to tell Santa he wants a bike for Christmas.

I made a picture schedule for them yesterday and we went over it.  Both boys knew the plan.  They woke up happy and excited to see Santa. 

We got to the mall and went to the sign up table.  Drew wanted to stay with Eric and wait, so I took Blake to the play area.  Integration Stations had brought some of their therapy/sensory equipment.  They had a Steamroller, bounce boards, and several visual sensory pieces.  I tried to get Blake to go through the Steamroller, but he needed to hide for awhile.  He found himself a quiet(ish) spot and took cover. 

It was very cool to see the bounce boards being used.  Kids jumped from one to another.  At one point, all four bounce boards were in use. 

Here's a boy making use of the Steamroller (or squeeze machine, as Blake refers to it)

Eric and Drew joined us and mostly Drew just wanted to hold his free bag of goodies and didn't explore the area much.  We were numbers 12 and 13.  When it was our turn, they wrote our numbers on the dry erase board so they weren't yelling and scaring kids.  Blake was nervous and didn't want to leave his safe perch.  We did get him to follow along, until he stalled out about halfway there.  Eric picked him up and carried him for a little bit. 

I told Eric to get in line.  There were a couple people ahead of us and I thought I could coax the boys to get in line while Eric held our place.  That didn't work so well.  They weren't having any of it.  They both stayed back and didn't want to come near Santa.  Blake went and his behind the Dippin' Dots stand.  We decided in the end that it wasn't worth it to make them visit Santa. 

There was a young man named Matt, who was twenty years old.  He had thoroughly enjoyed talking with Santa.  I had spoken with his grandma for awhile and soon Matt and his mom came over.  Matt was very concerned with Blake not being able to see Santa.  He went over to Blake, rocked back and forth, flicked his hands and told Blake that it was fun to see Santa and he should give it a try.  Blake put his head between his knees and wouldn't budge.  Matt came back and reported it didn't work.  A minute later, Matt said, "I got it!  Why don't we bring Santa to your kid?!"  I told him that was an excellent idea, but Santa was so busy holding other kids that I didn't want to bother him.  I thanked him for thinking of the idea and caring about Blake.  His mom said he is a very kind-hearted fella.  I believe it. 

We decided that the boys had had enough and asked if they were ready to go.  They didn't have to be asked twice.  They headed out without regard for whether or not Eric and I were following behind.

I had decided to try using a question mark on our schedule for after our Santa visit.  Marcia Braden or Tracy Stackhouse (I forget!) suggested it for after kids get used to using a picture schedule.  The kids are quite comfortable with using a picture schedule, so I thought we could try it.  We drove down the road to look for the Integration Stations building and came to a Tim Hortons.  Eric asked if we wanted donuts.  Blake said yes and Drew said no.  Well, knowing how much Drew loved donuts, we thought he'd change his mind when we got there.  He did not.  In hindsight, we should have gone to the drive-thru and brought our donuts home.  Drew and I left early and waited in the van for Eric and Blake to finish up.  Not the most successful day, but it was definitely worth the try.

We are very impressed with the people who put on Sensitive Santa.  They have improved their operation every year.  This one was the best ever.  They had plenty of sensory equipment, a relatively quiet environment and a plan of action that didn't require long waits in line. They had even made a visual schedule for every child.   Many kids with autism and other related disorders got to enjoy a visit with Santa Claus when it would otherwise be too overstimulating.