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Sensory Friendly Santa Gives Inclusive Christmas Cheer to Children with Autism

The Kern County Autism Networks holds the annual Sensory Friendly Santa Event to give children with autism an enjoyable visit with Saint Nick.
Posted at 8:58 PM, Dec 17, 2023

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. — While many kids love Christmas, not all kids would love meeting with Santa in a busy mall. That’s why the Kern Autism Networks puts on the Sensory Friendly Santa event every year which is designed so that kids with Autism can enjoy a meeting with Saint Nick himself in an environment that’s calm.

“It’s an environment that’s just very low-key,” said Ramona Puget, Director of the Kern Autism Network.

“The lights are dimmed very low, they are brought in one at a time. There is no loud noise, there is no loud music, nothing to distract them.”

Around 250 people signed up to be a part of the event, reflecting the demand for a Christmas event catered to those with autism.

“We’ve been to the mall, it’s not too good. My son likes to do smaller crowds, it can be overwhelming at times so something like this is really good for him, and it makes it easier for us parents too,” said Israel Estrada, who has an autistic son.

For attendee jaden, he’s glad he got the opportunity to make his case to Santa on why he deserves his desired gift.

“I’m excited to attempt to get a Razor Pocket Mod, not sponsored, a 24 voltage real style scooter that goes around 14 mph per hour, which is the speed I can go around on a general bike,” Jaden said.

While Jaden may have to wait for a scooter, all the children who attended the event received gifts donated to the Kern Autism Network by private donors, Outcast Car Club, Garces Memorial High Students and King Leo's pizza.

Kern Autism Network supports children with autism and their families all year round with a variety of services.

“Ramona has been amazing. Any information I could possibly get for my son, I’ve come to her. Even my family has come to get information so I can be a strong advocate for my son,” Estrada said.

Opening up the opportunities for all kids to enjoy a Santa visit, The Kern Autism Network wasn’t the only one at the event hoping families have a great Christmas.

“You, the viewer, have a Merry Christmas,” said Jaden.

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