By Jessica Anstice
Emerald, Pakenham, Hampton Park and Cranbourne libraries will play host to ‘Sensitive Santa’ in the lead up to Christmas.
Originally developed in the USA, the Sensitive Santa initiative is designed to make the annual Santa photo a more positive and peaceful experience for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other special sensory needs.
Children with ASD often feel stressed in the typical environment where traditional photos with Santa take place.
As a result, families with children with ASD often avoid the many triggers associated with shopping centres and other public places during the festive season.
Following a successful pilot run at Emerald Library last year, the program is also being run at the Cranbourne, Pakenham and Hampton Park branches of Casey Cardinia Libraries (CCL) this year.
A number of staff members have undertaken extra specialist training to deliver the Sensitive Santa project.
This year, the Sensitive Santa initiative at CCL is being run in partnership with local community organisation, Windermere.
Chief Executive Officer Chris Buckingham believes that the Sensitive Santa initiative demonstrates CCL’s commitment to equal access, social inclusion and innovation.
“It’s important that our libraries are responsive to community needs,” Mr Buckingham said.
“The Sensitive Santa Project came about because our staff identified a gap that meant many children were missing out or feeling stressed by a traditional festive activity.
“I love how our staff will not only identify the pressing needs, but also follow through with making the project a reality. It’s just another example of the way libraries really do change lives.”
The four libraries will be hosting Sensitive Santa from December 9 to 16.
Families with children with ASD and other sensitivities will be meeting and having their photo taken with Santa in a sensory-friendly environment.