Boy With Autism and Mall Santa Find Clever Way to Avoid Camera Flashes


Zaivier Hensley doesn’t like to stare directly at cameras because of the flashing lights.

So when the 5-year-old, who has autism, met Santa at the Fox Run Mall in Newington, New Hampshire, on Dec. 6, the pair came up with a clever way to take a photo:

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This Santa was part of Fox Run’s “Caring Santa” program, where a sensory-friendly environment is offered to any child who prefers one.

“For once we were not the people being stared at or whispered about. We weren’t being accused of ‘disrupting’ anyone else’s experience or told we should just go home and forget about it by the ever-present people with unwanted and less-than-helpful advice,” Zaivier’s mom, Catherine O’Meara, told The Mighty in an email. “We got to be ourselves in a place where no one batted an eyelash when we had to walk exactly seven laps around the village before we could go see Santa. It was OK that Zaivier was vocally stimming, jumping and spinning to calm himself while we waited for his turn. And it was OK that he needed extra time to warm up before he gained the courage to even come within arms length of this man.”

“It’s a little slice of the one holiday experience we ever had where the two of us were just enjoying a nice tradition,” O’Meara added. “We didn’t have to qualify why we went, or why it was important. We just had to enjoy ourselves.”

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