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Autism-friendly Santas a hit at malls, parties
At malls and Christmas gatherings, sensitive Santas catering to needs of children with autism
By The Associated Press

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) ' For families with children who have autism, a visit to the mall to see Santa Claus at Christmas can be nearly impossible ' unless they're visiting one of the growing number of "sensitive" Santas.

Several shopping malls, community groups and other organizations nationwide are offering autism-friendly Santa visits for families whose children cannot tolerate the malls' noise, lights and crowds.

It's also a chance for parents, grandparents and others to capture elusive Christmas photos and memories that other families may take for granted.

About 1.5 million Americans are living with autism spectrum disorders, which can include disabilities in communication, behavior and socialization. The low-key Santas take their needs into consideration and tone down their behavior to fit the child's demeanor, and say it's a rewarding experience for them, too.

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