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Lindale Mall hosts Sensitive Santa for Sensory-Friendly environment

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) - The Cedar Rapids Lindale Mall set up photos with Santa Claus, but the big man in red is handling these pictures a little differently.

A sensory-friendly Santa experience for children and their families, allowed picture-goers with a quiet, no crowd atmosphere. The normal busy mall crowds can sometimes be overwhelming for kids. The event allows for a more calm and controlled environment.

"Those families that have special needs make it a little difficult to come in with all those extra people," says Lindale Mall Marketing Director Lia Pontarelli. "We open up so they are still able to come in and have that special moment with Santa Claus."

It doesn't matter, naughty or nice, all kids are welcome to spend some time with Santa. Besides the crowds, sounds and other distractions were kept to a minimum.

"It's never a calm smooth picture taking process," says Pontarelli. "However, we do unplug some of the games that are near by that may make loud noises, and keep the lights turned down."

Along with the pictures were sensory-friendly Christmas crafts for families.

"They can make a gingerbread house magnet, and all they have to do is peel the pieces and stick them together," says Pontarelli. "There's no glue or tying or any of that tricky stuff. There's just simple things, but they are still able to enjoy those fun elements, but not be too tricky."

A little boy named Will came to the mall with his family. The family says before these special sessions with a more sensitive side of Santa, the crowds posed a problem for Will.

"It was a little overwhelming for Will," says Stephanie Rimmer. "We had kind of backed off a little bit so it was really great to see this opportunity come up."

Austism Speaks helps bring Sensitive Santa to the Lindale Mall in Cedar Rapids. Kids also went home with their own bear after a picture with Santa Claus.

Vinny Lowerre

Producer & Multimedia Journalist

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