UPDATED FOR 2017:
Holiday times can be stressful for children and adults with sensory issues or other special needs.
With that in mind, here is our list of South Sound area Santas with times just for children with special needs. Typically the lights are dimmed and the sounds are reduced during these times.
If you are wondering whether a particular event will be suitable for your child, I would encourage you to call ahead. Most of these opportunities also require registration and occur early in the holiday season.
We have also included other events designed to be inclusive for all. If you know of a good one we missed, please leave a comment or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Children love to sit on Santa’s lap, but for kids on the spectrum, holiday crowds, lights and noise can make visiting Santa an uncomfortable experience. Many stores offer a Sensitive Santa experience especially for children with autism or sensory processing disorders. The lights are dimmed and noise and crowds are kept to a minimum. Check out the opportunities for this year below.
Issaquah-Spring Free Trampoline
On December 3rd 12-4p.m., Spring Free Trampoline will offer an autism-friendly opportunity to visit with Santa and jump on trampolines!
Santa at Kent Station – The lovely folks at Kent Station have offered to make a special appointment for any children with special needs who are enrolled in a local early intervention program. Simply call the management office to make arrangements that are best for your family, 253.856.2301.
December 3rd, 9a.m.-11a.m. The Outlet Collection in Auburn offers a more comfortable Santa photo experience. The mall is closed and light and noise levels are lowered during this time to reduce sensory triggers. RSVP here.
Sensory Sensitive Santa at the Old Cannery – The Old Cannery will offer three Sensitive Santa dates this year! December 2nd, 9th and 16th by appointment. Watch the Facebook page for when appointments become available for booking. This is also open to children with weakened immune systems.
Puyallup-South Hill Mall
Sunday December 3, 2017 9am-11am *this is a new date!
Sensitive Santa at the South Hill Mall will be in Macy’s Court 9am-11am. The time of this event is when the stores in the mall are closed, and there are very few people inside. Mall music will be off during these times. Please enter through door located next to Gene Juarez. Every family will get a 15 minute time slot. Appointment required Space is limited. Photo Packages will be available for purchase.
Sign up today at Customer Service or by calling 253.840.2828 ext. 107.
Puyallup Area-Sensational Santa
This Santa just for children with special needs starts taking bookings in October. Puyallup sessions will be at Kids At Play Therapy on Sunday, November 26th between 10AM and 3. To check on availability email email@example.com to schedule/availability.
If you miss it, make a point of liking their fb page and getting this one on your radar for next year. A good way to do that is by joining the Exceptional Families Network (see the bottom of this post).
A Caring Santa event will be at the Tacoma Mall December 3, 8:00am-9:30am. Children with special needs and their families are invited to a special photo session with Caring Santa in an environment set up to support the sensory, physical and other development needs of kids with all abilities. Please use the entrance between Panera Bread and JCPenney. Be sure to RSVP online.
Tacoma area-Sensational Santa
This Santa just for children with special needs starts taking bookings in October. As of now, I see One time slot left. If you miss it, make a point of liking their fb page and getting this one on your radar for next year. A good way to do that is by joining the Exceptional Families Network (see the bottom of this post).
Your House (!) with Northwest Santa
Northwest Santa – Northwest Santa will come to your home, take a photo, hear children’s Christmas wishes, and even give a gift. You can read more about our description here! Details for 2017 are TBA, stay tuned to the Northwest Santa Facebook page for details. Note that Northwest Santa is open to ALL, but we think it’s a particularly good option for children who can’t attend a more traditional Santa event.
Other holiday events for folks with special needs
Saturday, December 2, 11:00am-3:00pm. Take a cruise through Foss Waterway Seaport in beautiful, privately owned boats. There will also be a post-cruise dance party and a visit from Santa Claus. Pre-registration is required by calling. 253.404.3950. Tickets are $10/per person.
AMC is proud to partner with the Autism Society to offer unique movie showings where we turn the lights up, and turn the sound down, so you can get up, dance, walk, shout or sing! Our Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) and Tuesday evenings (mature audiences) of every month. Please check your local theatre listings for specific showtimes, and don’t forget to share your family fun with #AMCSensoryFriendly.
Kent Station, Southcenter, and Lakewood are South Sound options for this awesome event. Check the website for participating theaters and movies.
Additionally, here are some other events and groups we think you should know about! If you know of others, let us know!
TUESDAY PLAY DAYS
Every Tuesday morning from 10 – 11:30 a.m.
The Museum is open every Tuesday morning* exclusively for families with children who have special needs. This family program is drop in, with no reservation required. Admission is Pay As You Will. For more information, contact Miranda Owen at firstname.lastname@example.org or 253.627.6031 ext. 221.
Join us this fall as we welcome staff from the Birth to Three Development Center on Tuesday mornings as they support the Tuesday Play Days program: engaging with families throughout the Museum, answering questions, and assisting children and families in having the best, playful experience throughout the Museum’s five playscape environments.
Learn more about the Birth to Three Developmental Center here.
While there are very limited spots left for their Santa, you should know this awesome, Lakewood based group offers fun social and support groups for kids with special needs and their families all year round. I really can’t say enough good things about them! Check ’em out!
Special Families of Puget Sound is a support group associated with EFN and also a great source for information and support.
The museum hosts private, less stimulating times to experience the museum with other families of children with austim or other special needs. The next dates are December 10 and January 14th 9-11a.m. No pre-registration required. It’s $5 per person age 2 and up for members and $7 per person age 2 and up for non-members. During regular museum hours, the museum also has brightly colored noise-muffling headphones you can borrow for free. Call 360.956.0818 x103 with questions.