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Vicar Lane Shopping Centre in Chesterfield have this year been putting on autism friendly sessions at their Santa’s Grotto, and the response to them has been fantastic. The first two autism friendly sessions (Sunday 2 and Thursday 6 December)were a huge success; each session saw around 15 children attend both experiences, the Santa’s Grotto and Santa’s Post Office.

Each child/booking is allocated a 10 minute slot with Santa, which has worked really well. Most children are only in there for 5 minutes, however with the 10 minute system, the child and their parents can take their time and it helps remove any issues with queueing. Any families booking slots for 2 or more children are given a little bit more time in order to prevent any issues.

One mother, who attended Santa’s Grotto explained that her husband wouldn’t normally bring their two autistic children into the town centre, or to anything like this (the grotto) as it’s just too stressful as the children can become overexcited. Both her and her two children really enjoyed their time with Santa, with absolutely no issues.

Another father was almost reduced to tears when he saw his non-verbal autistic son high-fived Santa. The heart touching moment was something he’d never seen his son do before, as he was usually very reserved and shy.

Following the wonderful response to the first two sessions the team at Vicar Lane Shopping Centre have announced two further autism friendly sessions, on the 12th and 16th December. For more information on Santa’s Grotto or to book your place then please visit the event Facebook Page.