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‘Quiet Santa’ helps children with special needs

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by Kevin Randall

SALT LAKE CITY — Seeing Santa is a memorable moment many parents want to provide their kids. But for parents of autistic children, a crowded and noisy mall can be a nightmare in the making.

Now, there's a quieter option for visiting Santa for children with special needs. Local radio personalities Tod and Erin Collard said they can relate to parents who fear this annual tradition may not be the magical experience they were hoping for.

"When you have a child with special needs and you try to take them to a mall, you’re going to get all kinds of light glaring in their eyes, water features …everyone’s freaking out," said Erin Collard, who organized the "Quiet Santa" opportunity.

For Alyson Eddie, the mother of an autistic son who almost never talks to strangers, a normal visit with Santa was exactly what she feared would never happen.

“I don’t know if we could have had a visit with Santa without something like this, where Holden could come in at his own pace, where Santa can get down on the floor with him," Eddie said. "It made Holden feel comfortable and safe.”

"Quiet Santa" allows parents to make an appointment, sit down with their kids and start on a craft at The Leonardo. Rather than waiting in line, the kids can see Santa when they are ready.

For Eddie, it was a chance to get the photo she always wanted: a picture of her son with Santa.

"I absolutely believe that he felt comfortable talking to Santa," Eddie said.  "Santa got down on his level to talk to him. That’s why he decided to talk to Santa today. "

If you would like to take your child to see "Quiet Santa," there’s still time. You can sign up to see him Friday the 23rd at The Leonardo in Salt Lake City. Click here for signup information.