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Educational Programs For K-12 Students

SENSITIVE SANTA PHOTO SESSIONS Christmas Festivities for Special Needs Children

Anthony KaDarrell Thigpen


AUTISM ACADEMY FOR EDUCATION AND DEVELOPMENT –The Arizona Autism Network trimmed trees, decorated the courtyard, prepared prizes and set the stage for the main event.

Sensitive Santa swept through the East Valley. The all-day event took place at the AAED Chandler campus located at 2716 N Dobson Road.

Parents pre-registered students for $5.00 photo sessions with Sensitive Santa – other activities were free.

Arizona Autism Network, Autism Society of Greater Phoenix, Team 4 Kids, and AAED team together to welcome the magic of Christmas for children with special needs.

The festivities marked the 4th annual Sensitive Santa event. The jolly season often creates a sense of anxiety for children with autism, with long lines to see Santa in a shopping mall, loud noises and bright lights. As a result, the Sensitive Santa event provides a unique and supportive sensory inspired day of activities, games, prizes, and holiday fun – without triggering sensory sensitivities.

Each child, accompanied by a parent, took advantage of a one-on-one experience and photo session with Santa in a decorated private setting. This year, Mrs. Claus made a special appearance, helping to add an extra spice to the holiday cheer.

Sensitive Santa drew a crowd of more than 700 supporters. Vendors also participated. Kevin and Ashley Morin are business owners with a special needs son – they own Nails and Chaos. The creative fingernail vendor supported the event along with a host of others.

Special needs mom, Michele Thorne, is set to launch her a new business in 2019, Differently Abled Mothers Empowerment Society (DAMES). During the recent event, she promoted her holistic approach of creating connections, providing education, and promoting meditation. Supporters, volunteers, parents and participants filled the festive event with lots of fun.

“With playground activities, support for families, sponsors, pictures and raffles it has been an honor to host the event,” said AAED Chandler principal Derrick Jamerson. “The 2018 Sensitive Santa has been a tremendous success.”