U of M hosting 'sensory-friendly' Santa event for children on the autism spectrum

Families can also get involved in an autism genetics study

Sloane Martin
December 14, 2018 - 1:50 pm

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An opportunity for families with children on the autism spectrum to experience holiday fun in a "sensory-friendly" environment is Saturday -- and it allows families to take part in a nationwide study.

Christmas activities can unpredictable, making it unpleasant for some children on the autism spectrum. The University of Minnesota is holding a Santa picture event with those sensitivities in mind.

"Some of the behaviors of individuals are because they have differences in sensory processing, different motor needs," associate professor Dr. Suma Jacob said. "So it's difficult for them to wait in long lines or deal with a lot of noise."

She says more and more places are aware of the challenges for families and offering sensory-friendly events. Organizers with the U's Center for Neurobehavioral Development heard positive feedback in runthroughs last weekend. The children could quietly color until they're ready to greet Santa.

Families can also get involved with the nation's largest autism genetics study called SPARK by providing a saliva sample.

It takes place Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. at the U's Center for Neurobehavioral Development. RSVPs are required.