Many people brave the malls and other public places with their children to get that perfect family picture with Santa Claus.
However, for some families, the sights and the sounds of the season don't always paint the picture of the most wonderful time of the year.
“Imagine a meltdown of a 10-year-old kid in the middle of the mall,” said Drew Graham, an Oklahoma City father of four.
Graham’s oldest son, Connor, is hearing impaired and autistic.
“We’re kind of used to not doing things as a family because of Connor’s sensory overloads,” he said.
Graham and his wife, Missy, said because of Connor’s condition, he gets easily overwhelmed and overstimulated in crowds and when there’s too much noise.
“To look at him, he looks like everything's okay, and so when he does have a meltdown, you feel like all eyes are on you,” Missy Graham said. “He'll hit and he'll kick and he'll scream, anything that he feels like he can do to kind of get out of the situation.”
Shanda Twitty has an autistic child too and said she knows the pain these families feel.
“It's too much stimulation for kiddos and so this is more quiet and relaxed,” Twitty said.
So, for the past several years, she and other volunteers make sure families of special needs children get that visit with Santa through their “Sensory Santa” event.
“We just adjust to them,” she said.
Through 20 minute sessions, the children are welcomed by therapy dogs, then are lead back to do crafts, play with toys or have snacks as they make their way to see Santa, all at their own pace.
“He doesn't communicate a lot but his eyes just sparkle and they light up so you know that he is really enjoying himself,” Missy Graham said about her son Connor.
Through the event, the Graham family is able to do something special during the holidays with, as a family.
“The mementos, the keepsakes, the pictures with Santa are so important to us and something we will always have and those we want to have and we haven't always been able to do that in the past, so this allows us to have that,” Missy Graham said.