Sensory Santa brings holiday cheer for special needs children

Posted at 12:16 PM, Dec 20, 2016
and last updated 2017-03-02 17:38:10-05

Sensory Santa visited Central Texas, so that children with special needs could see old Saint Nick. 

Elite Therapy Center hosted Sensory Santa at both their Waco and Temple locations. Kari McKown, who is a co-owner of the therapy center said they've been wanting to do something like this for a long time.

"We've dreamed of having a sensory-friendly Santa for many years, and we're so excited to offer it," McKown said.  "I think every child should have the opportunity to see Santa."

Sensory Santa is different from your typical Old Saint Nick, because children with special needs get to visit with him one on one. The set up makes it easier for children who may not be comfortable in large crowds because of a disability, or children in wheelchairs.

"Some of our kiddos cannot go to the mall because they over-stimulate there," McKown said. "Some of them [the parents], it's something that they gave up on a long time ago -- the idea of getting the traditional picture with Santa."

So Sensory Santa came to visit those families who may not be able to see Santa Clause otherwise.

 "At first it made me a little nervous that I would be a good Santa for them," Sensory Santa said. "It's been really special to me, to see these kids' reactions, and to be able to do something for them that they've never had before," he added.

Kathy Pleasant's grandchild is one of the many kids who got to see Sensory Santa. She said going to a Santa in the mall is tough for the family.

"It's kind of difficult because if it's crowded -- well then, he'll kind of get jittery," Pleasant said.

The grandmother said the experience with Sensory Santa has been totally different.

"After he finds out that Santa is really friendly, then he's good," she said. "Just to see the smile on my grand kid's face -- and I got that -- and I'm thankful for it.

McKown said she believes at least 200 kids at each of their locations visited with Sensory Santa.

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