December 5, 2018
Blinking lights, clanging sleigh bells, and crowded lines characterize numerous Santa-visit experiences, but for children with sensory sensitivities, including those on the autism spectrum, such an atmosphere can be anything but jolly. Understanding that every child deserves a special Santa moment, the West Chester University Alumni Association will host nearly 125 children with sensory-sensitivities ranging from three to 19 years of age and their parents during a special Sensory-Friendly Evening with Santa on Thursday, December 6, 4:30 – 7:20 p.m., at the WCU Alumni & Foundation Center, 202 Carter Drive, West Chester, PA. The event is open to members of the community and West Chester University alumni: adults, $15; and children, $5 (ages 2 and under are free). Reservations are required by registering at www.wcualumni.org/sensory.
The 1st Annual Sensory-Friendly Evening with Santa will feature a quiet room that will be available throughout the entire experience. Children and youth will have memorable moments and sensory-friendly pictures with Santa, tailored arts and crafts, a cookie decorating station, snacks, and goodie-bags. To decrease wait-times, three 50-minute sessions have been coordinated, and registrations have been limited to reduce crowds in order to provide a true sensory-friendly environment for all children and youth participating.
In addition to volunteers from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Autism Resource Center (SPARC), Santa will be assisted throughout the event by WCU student elves from the Dub-C Autism Program (D-CAP), which provides support to degree-seeking West Chester University students with Autism Spectrum Disorder, and the Golden Rams Society, a group of 30 student ambassadors from the University.
“Our crafts have been specifically selected with the help of our dedicated staff at D-CAP and SPARC, and feedback from parents. We have tailored the crafts to the fine motor abilities and sensory capacities of the children and youth attending, while also providing lots of options. Santa and his elves are looking forward to one-on-one time with those present and getting everyone into the holiday spirit before his big trip around the world,” says Brigid Gallagher, assistant director of alumni engagement.
Celebrating all diversity is at the heart of the holiday event. “We recognize that our alumni and children have a variety of needs. As the University’s D-CAP program continues to grow, we are looking forward to this partnership evolving to create an even more inclusive alumni association,” says Gallagher.
WCU Alumni Association President Lisa Wright Bryant ‘87 is looking forward to the event and bringing her 19 year-old daughter. “This is the type of family-friendly holiday event that all universities and businesses should consider adding to their more traditional offerings. None of us are one-size-fits-all and this event allows so many to enjoy the holiday without the bells and whistles that some just don’t need. My 19 year-old daughter has autism and benefits from low-key, low-stimulus environments. She and I are truly looking forward to this event. It’s all about the magic and giving everyone a chance to enjoy the special gifts of the season.”