UPDATED FOR 2018:
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. We encourage you to call ahead if you need more details; most events also require registration.
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.
Kent Sensitive Santa
Santa at Kent Station – This is not listed for 2018 yet, we will update you as soon as the info becomes available.
This information is from 2017: 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.
Federal Way Sensitive Santa
December 9th at We Rock the Spectrum
Auburn Sensitive Santa
December 2nd 9a.m.-11a.m. The Outlet Collection in Auburn offers a free, more comfortable Santa experience. The mall is closed and light and noise levels are lowered during this time to reduce sensory triggers. Crafts and treats available while waiting. Photo packages are sold separately and prices vary. RSVP here.
Sumner Sensitive Santa
From their fb page
For years, we set aside one special day to take a little bit of time to focus on families that require a little something more. On that day, we turned our big bustling Santa Land into a dim, quiet, calm place for Santa and his elves. The environment change is crucial to families with little ones on the autism spectrum and with sensory processing disorders. We have also been blessed with little ones undergoing chemotherapy treatments that leave them with weak immune systems.
Due to an overwhelming response, we will be offering Sensory Sensitive Santa on 3 special days this year! We will be taking appointments in the week prior to each event. Please follow us to make sure we get you booked. Event days will be 12/1, 12/8, & 12/15 from 9am-11am. We will open at 11am for our standard photos.
Note from SFM: These are by appointment. I’m not sure the best way to make those; we’ll update you when we confirm with the friendly Old Cannery folks, or feel free to leave a comment if you find out first!
Puyallup-South Hill Mall Sensitive Santa
Sensitive Santa at the South Hill Mall No dates for 2018 yet
Tacoma Sensitive Santa
Sensational Santa Tacoma
November 17th and 12/1 10a.m.-4p.m. at Church of Saint Rita of Casica.
Tacoma Mall Sensitive Santa
A Caring Santa event will be at the Tacoma Mall December 2 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.
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 2018 are TBA, but appointment booking will begin on black Friday. 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 and resources for folks with special needs
From the Metro Parks site
Join us for this year’s Holiday Cruise. Ride around the Sound with your friends and family, dance off the cold and make crafts full of holiday cheer.
Meet at the Thea Foss Seaport Museum for fun, food, and a chance to see a special guest. Many of the boats are open air so make sure to wear warm clothes, bring a scarf and some mittens. There will be warm drinks waiting for you when you get back from your boat ride.
$10 per participant; caregiver: $5
To sign up, volunteer or get more information: Call 253-404-3950
The Sensory Friendly Film program is available on the second and fourth Saturday (family-friendly) of every month. The lights are up and the sound is down. Please check your local theater listings for specific showtimes. Note from SFM: This is offered at Kent Station. I know they also showed them at Lakewood as of quite recently, but they’re not on the AMC site, so I need to double check. Leave a comment if you know!
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 email@example.com or 253.627.6031 ext. 221.
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 autism or other special needs.
Special Morning of Play dates coming up: December 9, 9-11 a.m. January 13, 9-11 a.m.
Special Program Rate!
Members: FREE Admission
Non-members: $7 per person, ages 2 & older
Babies are free.
No pre-registration required