Sensory-friendly Santa experiences for children with autism and special educational needs

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‘A Relaxed Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Wishes’ have been organised for children with autism and special educational needs as part of this year’s ‘Discover Your Christmas’ events extravaganza in the borough. Lord Mayor Mealla Campbell is pictured with the North Star Elf and friends who will feature in ‘A Relaxed Christmas’ at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown

As part of this year’s bumper festive programme, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council is hosting free events to make sure that the most magical and memorable of Christmas experiences – visiting Santa in his grotto – are accessible to children with autism and special educational needs.

‘A Relaxed Christmas’ and ‘Christmas Wishes’ will allow children with sensory processing challenges to have a magical experience with their families meeting Santa and Mrs Claus in a more relaxed and calmer setting.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell, welcomed the return of events designed entirely around the needs of children with autism and special educational needs, saying:

For children with autism and special educational needs, the traditional grotto setting, with flashing lights, big crowds, long queues and loud noise, can be challenging.

I am delighted to see that we are once again offering an inclusive festive events programme, and giving every child in the borough the opportunity to experience the joy of visiting Santa and creating everlasting memories with their families at this wonderful time of year.”

‘Christmas Wishes’ will include a more relaxed Santa’s Magical Workshop which will return to McCrum’s Court in Armagh City on the following dates and times: Saturday 7th December (4pm to 5pm), Sunday 8th December (4pm to 5pm), Friday 13th December (6pm to 7pm), Sunday 15th December (4pm to 5pm), Wednesday 18th December (4pm to 5pm) and Thursday 19th December (4pm to 5pm).

This event will allow your child to experience Santa’s Magical Workshop in a cosy, calm setting away from the hustle and bustle of the town centre.

Registration for ‘Christmas Wishes’ relaxed hours is essential and can be booked by calling 028 8776 9157 or email .

‘A Relaxed Christmas’ will be hosted at Millennium Court Arts Centre, Portadown on Friday 13th December (5pm to 8pm), Saturday 14th December (5pm to 8pm) and Sunday 15th December (12 noon to 7pm).

Upon arrival, families will be warmly greeted by the North Star elf who will guide them to Santa’s grotto on the first stop of their journey where they will receive a gift and have their photograph taken as a keepsake of this precious memory.

After this, families will be invited to enter a sensory room to enjoy a range of activities including arts and crafts, multi-sensory installations, virtual reality headsets and storytelling with Mrs Claus.

Children will be able to write and post their own letter to Santa through the North Star mailbox, and make reindeer food while enjoying complimentary hot chocolate and sweet treats.

Tickets can be booked online at www.millenniumcourt.org/relaxedchristmas or by calling 028 3833 2636 from 12 noon on Friday 8th November. Spaces are limited.

To find out about the council’s full programme of festive events taking place across the borough, visit www.DiscoverYourChristmas.com

If you attend these events, share your pictures and videos using the hashtag #DiscoverYourChristmas