After Erin Deely learned of her three-year-old son’s autism diagnosis, she knew that there would be a number of “normal” things that he’d never be able to experience — and right near the top of the list was meeting Santa. Because of the noise, lights, and people, it simply would probably be too much for him to handle, and it broke her heart to know Brayden wouldn’t be able to experience this childhood rite of passage.
Until she heard about the Caring Santa program, that is. This annual program — brought to families by Autism Speaks — brings special Santas to malls around the country each year who know how to make children with autism comfortable and happy. Jumping at the chance, Erin brought Brayden to the event in Charlotte, North Carolina, and captured a moment that she’ll never forget.
“I thought we would never get those holiday pictures with him because it’s something he can’t handle — the noise and the pressure. He gets anxious if you ask him to smile. It’s all too much for him,” said Erin.
“Brayden was shy and inched his way over slowly, and then Santa just slowly got out of his seat and got on the ground. He began playing with the toys that my son brought.”
The result was something truly adorable, and forever memorable. “Oh my gosh, to be able to do something that other families do was wonderful. Normally, a lot of things are harder for us as a family, and we got to do the same tradition as everyone else. We just did it on the floor,” she laughed.
Want to learn more about this amazing program? Check out the video below:
In the end, Brayden got the Christmas experience that he and his family had always wanted. “I just want to hug this man. He’s so wonderful!” she said. We do, too!