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Experts advise against holiday shopping with autistic children

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POSTED: Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 12:38pm

UPDATED: Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 7:28pm

Visiting Santa is a special tradition that many children look forward to each Christmas, but the hustle and bustle of a shopping mall can be overwhelming for some children with an autism spectrum disorder.

A child's first glimpse of Santa can be a magical moment, but for twins Aiden and Brendan, both diagnosed with autism, keeping the tradition hasn't been easy.

"It was just too much going on at the mall as you can imagine, kids are screaming and crying waiting for Santa Claus," says their mom. "It was bad."

Long lines, lights and loud music can be overstimulating for many children with an autism spectrum disorder.

The Georgia chapter of the Autism Society of America found a way to help.

They offer private visits with the big guy, in a calm environment tailored to the needs of autistic children.

No lines. No pressure.

The Stryker family makes a conscious effort to have their 4-year-old son Wyatt experience the same things other children do.

"If we didn't have an autistic child and he was typically developing we'd still go see Santa, and so I think those are things you do as a family," says Joe Stryker.

Siblings, parents, and Santa all pitch in to make sure the children feel the spirit of the season.

More than 50 children got to see Santa at the Atlanta event, which is just one of several organizations hosting private visits for kids with autism. 

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