As another Christmas approaches, I think back to one special meeting we had a few years ago. It was a visit with you that changed how my daughter (and myself) saw Christmas and helped her enjoy what can be a stressful time of year full of changes.
Back in 2012, we came to see you in your magical winter wonderland with Eliza who was three years old. It was extremely busy as every child on earth wants to meet Santa. Who can blame them? You rock!
We had to wait in line, which was something Eliza wasn’t very good at. The queue was in a very very VERY busy crowd of people; another thing Eliza wasn’t very good with.
Santa, autistic children struggle with crowds, noise, waiting, busy atmospheres and change but Eliza had only one goal in mind: To meet you.
“Merry Christmas to you all, you have a special little girl.”
We spent what felt like years in line trying to entertain her as best we could and eventually reached the front. One of your kind elves led us to a door which opened and there you were waiting for us.
The room was amazing and I was lost in the magic of Christmas as I admired the tree, the decorations, the smells and the lights. Eliza ignored you as you tried to ask her what she wanted for Christmas and whether she thought Mummy had been good that year (for the record Santa I am pretty good most of the time, honest).
I nervously stepped forward and said “I’m sorry, she can’t talk yet” and you looked at me, smiled and nodded. Eliza wandered around the room being nosy, looking at her face in shiny baubles and picking up things that caught her eye. I started to move in a bit of a panic but you touched my hand and said “Leave her be, she’s OK. Nothing in here that can hurt her.” A grumpy elf knocked and suggested time was ticking by but you kindly said we needed a little longer. Eliza carried on looking around and then she finally looked at you and came and sat by you.
You took this opportunity to greet her again and she smiled. She started to flap. It’s something she does when she is happy. Spontaneously Eliza leaned in towards your hand to give it a kiss at the same time you clicked a secret button to take her photo with you. I thanked you about a million times (probably at least ten in reality) because you made her visit so relaxed and comfortable. As we left the room you grabbed my hand and said “Merry Christmas to you all, you have a special little girl.”
The words you said to me have always stayed in my head. Every year we approach Christmas and I think of that one visit to see you.
You see, Santa, what you didn’t know was that three weeks before we met you, Eliza had received her diagnosis of Autism with moderate to severe learning difficulties. She could not speak other than two or three words.
The world overwhelmed her and she struggled to find her place in it. You made her feel at ease and she had a wonderful time seeing you. For me as a parent I am so grateful to how you treated her and for the kind things you said to me.
Thank you Santa for taking the time to let her anxiety drop, for letting her explore and just being understanding and kind.
Eliza’s mum xx
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