Santa Claus will be making time for a pair of sensory friendly photo sessions on Dec. 4 in Yarker and Dec. 11 in Napanee.
The first event will be hosted at the Yarker Public Library, the second at Rose Photography at 15 Market Sq. in Napanee. Both events are free, asking only for a donation to the local food bank, and will be running from 5-7 p.m.
“We’re hosting photos for neurodivergent children and children with sensory sensitivities,” explains organizer Meaghan Knapp. “What we’re hoping is that we’re able to give families an outlet to participate in Christmas and an opportunity to meet Santa in a way that’s manageable for their children.”
Knapp was inspired to create the event last year after her own experience, noting there were no options for parents of kids who would benefit from a less stimulating meeting with Santa.
“I personally have a son with autism and I understand how difficult it is to access normal everyday family routines when your children do things differently,” said Knapp. “They aren’t able to handle the noise of the mall. They’re not able to be regulated in a lineup for 30 minutes. The fluorescent lights overhead are very overwhelming for them. Not to mention there a lot of kids that are a flight risk. Parents can’t take them into a busy environment for fear of losing them. Those kids shouldn’t be missing out on Christmas just because they do things differently.”
Knapp made two phone calls-one to the North Pole where she spoke with Kevin Jackson of Santa Kev Presents, the second to local photographer Shandi Dawn. Both were onboard to make it happen.
“Last year was amazing,” said Knapp. “We had kids come visit Kevin that had never met Santa before because the parents had never found a venue or an event that was tailored to their children’s needs. Some of the kids were six and seven and in the seven years of their life span, they had never been able to go and meet Santa. To me that’s not something that I’m okay with. The world is changing and we are recognizing that neurodivergence is real and these kids should be able to participate in every aspect of life.”
To book an appointment for photos with Santa, email MeaghanKnapp@Outlook.com. Families will be given 10 minute time slots-with the understanding that no child will be rushed and they can take a little extra time if they need as they get accustomed to the room.
Knapp hopes this event not only provides families a chance to get Christmas photos, but also helps to start the conversation about having more sensory friendly events in the community.