Christmas is the season of twinkling lights and yuletide carols, of bright entertainment and cheery medleys. It is the norm for many. But for kids with autism, the “merry and bright” holiday season can be overwhelming.
“Christmas can be a stressful time for children on the spectrum—the crowds, the noise, the lights,” said Mona Magno-Veluz, national president of Autism Society Philippines
To make sure children with autism still get to experience the warmth and fun spirit of the holidays, SM Cares, the corporate social responsibility arm of SM Supermalls, hosted a special meet and greet for the kids at its several premier malls across the country. The event was held in partnership with Autism Society Philippines.
The event was sensory friendly in nature, as the participating malls opened as early as 8:00 a.m., and had dimmer lights and softer music than usual.
The kids, together with their parents, met Santa Claus without the stressful long lines of Christmas crowds. They were also able to interact, play, and have their photos taken with St. Nick together with their families, in a calmer and more mindful environment.
They were also given tokens of appreciation, which included SM Bears of Joy plushies. In some of the participating malls, the children were treated to free rides.
“This initiative from SM Supermalls to open their doors to our community so the kids can have these memorable Christmas experiences is testament to how they have genuinely embraced disability inclusion. We pray more retailers emulate this example,” enthused Magno-Veluz.
Engr. Bien Mateo, senior vice president for operations of SM Supermalls, and program head of SM Cares Program on PWDs, said, “Our goal is to create a barrier-free and more inclusive environment for families who have kids with special needs, so that everyone can enjoy and create wonderful memories in our malls. SM is a mall for all, and we do our best to make sure no one is left out.”