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WESTMINSTER, Md. (WMAR) - The holiday season is here and that means kids everywhere want to tell Santa what they want for Christmas. But, for some families with special needs children, the trip to the mall or other crowded places to see Santa just isn't fun.
For a child with special needs that experience can be frustrating, overwhelming and even scary.
The leaders of Carroll Springs school in Westminster understands this and brought in a special sensory-friendly Santa.
"We just believe all children should have the same opportunities and not be singled out or isolated," said Mrs. Claus.
"An event like this provides children with certain disabilities the opportunity to get to see Santa in an environment that is fun and safe for them," parent volunteer, Jill Wagoner, told ABC2.
She's part of the Carroll County Family Support Network which meets once a month here Carroll Springs. Her son has Down's Syndrome and through the network she helped start, Wagoner and other parents are learning from each other.
"Families with children with special needs often find that they learn more from people who've walked in their shoes than we do from any book, course of seminar," she said.
Sometimes, children with certain disabilities don't do well in crowded, loud environments, like the classic mall Santa line. This way, kids get personal, tailored attention.
"We really need to make sure we are including everybody and teaching our siblings that its ok to be different and its ok to need other accommodations," said parent Kristen Spioch.
And those accommodations don't take the brightness away from the excitement and happiness every child feels when they see Santa.
The best gift for these parents? The chance to get that priceless Santa picture
"This is a time where the whole family can come together and really have a positive experience that a lot of people take for granted," said Wagoner.
The Carroll County Family Support Network meets once a month and is open to all Carroll County residents.