Tips for visiting Santa for children with special needs

Tips and Alternatives for Visiting Santa with Your Child with Autism

Nov 27, 2021

For many children it’s an exciting time of year – lights, holiday concerts, big parties, and that all important visit with Santa. For children with autism, the above list alone may be overwhelming. If your kiddo has decided that this is the year to meet the big guy in red, we’d love to share some tips and alternatives to help you and your child enjoy the moment.

Tips for Visiting Santa with Your Child with Autism 

As you prepare for this exciting, time-honored tradition, here are a few suggestions to help make the whole experience magical for you and your kiddo with special needs.

Plan Ahead

As a parent or caregiver of a child with autism, you probably know better than anyone the value of a little preparation. Before taking your kiddo to see Santa, review social stories and consider role playing and practicing at home. If possible, visit the location ahead of time to show your child where Santa will be and what the place will look like. Depending on the timing, your child may even get to see other kids with Santa, too!

Talking about the experience ahead of time and practicing the behaviors needed for the visit will make your child more comfortable and better able to enjoy the magical moment.

Time Your Visit

Crowds and loud noises can be overwhelming and uncomfortable for children with autism. If possible, choose a less popular day and time to visit Santa to avoid crowds and the extra noise and pressure they can create. A visit first thing in the morning (when your child is best rested and crowds are lightest) or a trip on a less popular weekday may help.

Some places offer sensory friendly Santa events, too!

Don’t Force It

As parents, we want our kids to experience and enjoy every magical moment they possibly can! But if a visit with Santa isn’t feeling like fun for your child, don’t sweat it. When you arrive, don’t be afraid to let the staff know that your kiddo has autism and may need some extra time or help. If you child wants to stand next to Santa instead of sit on his lap, go with it! And if they just aren’t into it that day, that’s ok, too! Consider one of the alternatives below.

Alternative Ways to See Santa with You Child with Autism

For some children, sitting on Santa’s lap isn’t a fun and exciting holiday tradition. And that’s ok! Here are a few ideas for kiddos who want to visit with Santa on their own terms.

Visit From a Distance

It’s ok to simply watch other children sit on Santa’s lap and wave at him from a distance. If you talk with the staff ahead of time, you may be able to take a picture with Santa in the background.

Schedule a Call

There are organizations that can set up a personalized video message from the big guy in red that your child can watch over and over again. This is a great option for children who want to see Santa but aren’t quite comfortable meeting him in person.

Write a Letter

This is for the kiddos who know what they want and want to make sure Santa does, too! Writing a letter to Santa can be a great family tradition! There are several ways to deliver the letter that will get a response back, too!

From our ABA therapy team in Innovative Behavior Options, we want to wish you and your family and very happy holiday season!


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