"Watching Claire and seeing her hands go up when she met Santa… that’s going to stay with me all year.”- Amanda, mother of a five-year old girl on the Autism Spectrum
Sitting for the annual Santa photo is a special tradition for many families. However, the music, lights, queues of people and general excitement that comes with this much-loved tradition can often leave children with sensory challenges feeling overwhelmed and reluctant to take part.
Recognising the need to curate a tailored experience for children with sensory challenges, in 2019 Westfield living centres across Australia and New Zealand are offering Sensitive Santa photo sessions before and after normal trading hours to extend the magical experience of Santa to more families.
Westfield Sensitive Santa sessions allow for people who need more time with Santa and take place with subdued lighting, no crowds and no background music.
“Sensitive Santa was initially introduced at Westfield Woden in response to a customer request, and the community response was overwhelmingly positive,” says Phil McAveety, Scentre Group’s Director Customer Experience.
“We want to ensure special festive moments such as meeting Santa are accessible to all our customers, so we’re pleased that Sensitive Santa photography will be available at all Westfield Centres in Australia and New Zealand this year.”
To raise awareness of the Sensitive Santa experience, Westfield filmed a documentary-style short film featuring Amanda and her daughter Claire, a five-year old girl from NSW South Coast who is on the autism spectrum and had the opportunity to meet Santa for the first time.
“The idea of taking Claire to a shopping centre for a Santa photo is really daunting to me, she might get really overwhelmed, so the idea of it being outside usual shopping hours when the crowds are gone really excited me,” says Amanda.
Families are able to book a spot for these calm and comfortable photography sessions for children with sensitive processing challenges, anxiety or disabilities. Best of all, Santa and his helpers are right on hand to accommodate any special requests as best they can.
Photo from left: Scentre Group employee Nicola Burgess, who was on the working group for the roll out of Sensitive Santa across our portfolio, her son Josh (3), partner Paul and son Riley (7), who is on the Autism Spectrum take advantage of a Sensitive Santa sessions at Westfield Warringah Mall.