As a mother of three getting around shopping centres is not an easy task for Sarah. A few years ago she started to notice something else. That her middle child, Phoenix, now eight, was showing increasing frustration and irritable moods when out shopping.

“Initially I just thought we had to be quick when shopping for things like new shoes for Phoenix, I was always mindful we had to duck in and out so that he wouldn’t get upset, but didn’t think too much else of it’’.

Yet over time Sarah suspected that it wasn’t just boredom or tantrums causing the problem. She came to the realisation that the shopping centre itself was causing Phoenix’s intense frustration and soon discovered that he had unique sensory needs.

‘’I learnt it wasn’t that he just ‘didn’t like’ shopping centres. It was much more than that. The lights, the noises and the crowds were all overloading Phoenix’s senses and negatively affecting his mood. The whole experience would exhaust him’’.

As a regular client at healthAbility and Healthy Bite Dental for all three of her children, Sarah found out two years ago about Sensitive Santa. It sounded like the perfect solution for Santa photos that year. Christmas in particular is a heightened experience at shopping centres, with even more bright lights and blaring music amid the chaos of people gift shopping. Sarah jumped at the chance to avoid the spectacle.

After organising her Sensitive Santa booking online, she was contacted by the healthAbility team to talk about Phoenix’s sensory needs as well as what makes Christmas special for the family. She was asked to drop off a small wrapped gift for each child, to make sure that Santa ‘hit the mark’ with the individual presents from his sack on the day.

On arriving to their Sensitive Santa appointment, Phoenix’s older brother Byron, now ten, was dubious about the ‘special Santa’ visit. Yet this skepticism was quickly overcome when Byron, Phoenix and six-year-old Luka became enthralled by the experience.

‘’We walked in and everything felt so welcoming and calming. There was a bubble machine going and from the outset Santa was absolutely brilliant with all three of them. It felt like such a personal experience’’.

When Santa started talking about ‘Jingles’, the family’s name for their elf on the shelf, Byron, Phoenix and Luka were instantly captivated. It was these sorts of personal touches that meant that Sarah and the family returned the following year.

“The experience wasn’t just perfect for Phoenix – but it actually reawakened Byron’s excitement in Santa and Christmas time as well”.

Sarah goes on to explain how Christmas is a really important time of year for her and how having a unique Santa experience helps everyone in the family get excited for the season.

‘’I’ve recommended Sensitive Santa to several of my friends and family. It’s going to be a bit different this year with online delivery, yet we wouldn’t miss it. It’s a yearly family ritual now for Phoenix, Byron and Luka’’.