30-year-old Kerry Magro makes a special connection with children with autism as probably the only Santa Clause who has got the condition himself.
According to Today, Magro has a harsh memory from his own childhood of visiting the Santa during the holiday season. He was only six years of age when a flash on the camera threw him into sensory overload turning his visit to Santa into a nightmare.
His parents concluded that crowded mall was not a good place for their son to be, so they stop taking him for Santa visits. He recalls feeling like he had let himself down, and worse, he had “let Santa down.”
This inspired him to use his knowledge as an autistic person to give the best experience for other autistic children coming to visit Santa during Christmas time.
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Earlier this month, Magro enlisted his family and friends as well as his occupational therapists and special education teachers as “elves” to prove an ‘autism-friendly’ Santa experience for children.
Magro even suggested turning the lights low and the music down so that children with autism are not overloaded with stimulations. He also ensured that each child would get a 30-minute window so that they don’t feel rushed.
Using his own experience with autism, Magro meets with each child as per their level of comfort. Whether they prefer to cuddle on his lap or sit at an arm’s length, it is all decided by the children.
Sara Calligy is a 10-year-old girl, who has been visiting Santa Kerry for the past five years. Sara has a non-verbal autism and Kerry understands it well.
So when she touched his mouth after he laughed with Santa’s iconic “Ho, ho, ho,” Kerry knew instinctively that Sara loved it. He repeated it and the little girl was delighted beyond words.
Usually, Sara’s parents require to explain to the Santa why their daughter had just touched his mouth, but there’s no such need for Kerry.
Today further explained that there are more and more Santa, who are sensible toward children with special needs. However, Kerry might be the only Santa who has actually lived with the condition.
He had non-verbal autism until he was nearly three years old. Today, he has used his experience to become an inspirational speaker, author, consultant to parents of children with autism, and has built a successful life for himself.
However, one does not need to have autism to empathize with other children living with this condition, as was demonstrated by a kindhearted police officer, Ryan Miller.
He made headlines a few months ago after he jumped in to help a 16-year-old boy with autism after his Halloween decoration was stolen from his home.