The Golden Toga Flap: Sensitive Santas

[Note to audience: According to Wikipedia, citizens of ancient Rome used to wave their toga flaps to express approval for public performances. In the style of the Golden Globes, the Golden Raspberries, the Golden Goggles, and other alchemical plaudits, the Golden Toga Flap affirms people working to improve the world. Anyone is eligible: A-list actors, small children, teachers in rural Illinois, frat guys behind me in line at Grocery Outlet. I’m not writing these blurbs for any sort of commission; I just want to spread the word about great people doing lovely things. If you have nominations for the Golden Toga Flap, please feel free to leave them in the comments or send me a private message.]

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There’s no time of year quite like Christmas. It’s got its own foods, its own music, its own decorations and stationery and scents and greetings and movies and literature. It’s quite an egalitarian holiday, in a way. You’re not excluded if you’re blind or deaf or illiterate or allergic to a lot of foods; you’ll still be able to enjoy the holiday spirit in other ways.

But for many people, the sensory stimulation of the season isn’t a gift — it’s painful. And if your child is part of that population, it can be difficult to find holiday activities that he or she can participate in comfortably.

Enter the Sensitive Santas, who take the traditional shopping mall feature and give it a new spin. While the program varies from location to location, common features include dimmed lights, minimal decorations, low music (or no music), no crowds, crafts and snacks for the waiting children, and a Santa who moves slowly and speaks quietly. The end result? Kids with an autism spectrum disorder or a sensory processing disorder can interact with Santa in a way that is comfortable for them — and their parents can breathe a little easier with this reminder that their community has their backs and wants to help their children thrive.

If you’d like to set up a Sensitive Santa program in your community next year, AbilityPath has a guide to doing that. But no matter what this season has held for you so far, no matter how you’re feeling on this longest night of the year, here’s hoping that your Christmas Day will make some memories in all the right ways.

Many thanks to Cyn from That Cynking Feeling for bringing this topic to my attention.

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Photo credit: Santa from skeeze on Pixabay.

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