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Utah mall brings in “Quiet Santa” for kids with special needs

OREM — University Place mall is bringing in a special Santa this year, trained to help kids with autism feel comfortable while they get their own chance to meet with the man in the red suit.

Nichell Jenson, event planner with University Place, said they reached out to the Autism Academy for ideas and learned malls at Christmas time can be incredibly difficult for some kids on the spectrum.

“Gave me some feedback on the lack of that traditional experience. A lot of kids at that school haven’t had a chance to be a part of it,” Jenson said. “What we tried to do is go for the highest needs and meet that mark. Just do a really low sensory experience.”

She said the mall set aside a room close to the entrance that kids can visit with their families. They will have toys, rugs, comfortable furniture and a Santa trained to help children with autism.

“The experience with Santa is structured more like a family visit,” Jenson said. “They have a time slot and can make it whatever they want.”

Registration for the experience opened Monday and quickly filled. Jenson said they plan to release more at midnight and will find slots for as many children as it takes.

You can register here: