Despite all we know about autism, those who live with this disorder are still misunderstood. This can be particularly challenging for children because they might believe there is something wrong with them. Those who aren’t educated about autism might treat them differently. Other children can be unkind and cruel because no one has taken the time to explain how unique their friends with autism are.
Continuous education about autism, or Autism Spectrum Disorder, (ASD), will bridge the gap between myth and fact.
The organization Autism Speaks defines autism as someone having difficulty in social situations, repeating behaviors, speaking and nonverbal communication. There are more than one forms of the disorder, hence the term ‘Spectrum.’ Autism is caused by both genetic and environmental factors.
The Center for Disease Control And Prevention, (CDC), released the results from a study done in 2014 about the prevalence of ASD in the United States. 1 in 68 children (1 in 42 boys and 1 in 189 girls) as having autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
One little boy named Landon lives with autism. Thanks to the kindness and understanding of a Santa Claus at a local Michigan mall, he no longer feels he is different from his friends. And thanks to social media, Landon’s interaction with Santa has generated a positive response while at the same time serving as an educational tool for how we can make those with ASD feel loved and accepted.
Landon went to the Rivertown Crossings Mall with his cousins to see Santa. After the little boy sat on Santa’s lap, he asked if he could return and tell St. Nick something about himself.
Landon’s mom, Naomi Johnson, took to Facebook after her son went back to Santa: “He was flapping his hands, all excited to let Santa know that he has autism.
“Santa sat him next to him and took L’s hands in his and started rubbing them, calming them down. Santa asked L if it bothered him, having Autism? L said yes, sometimes. Then Santa told him it shouldn’t. It shouldn’t bother him to be who he is. L told Santa that sometimes he gets in trouble at school and it’s hard for people to understand that he has autism and that he’s not a naughty boy. Santa told L not to worry and that he has been a very good boy being who he is. They sat and chatted for at least five mins. Santa paid close attention and listened to him.”
Landon’s mom said how Santa’s kindness touched her. She wrote on the mall’s social media page how, because of Santa’s affection and attention to her son made him feel good about himself. Santa gave Landon the confidence to talk about himself.
“He was Landon, sitting with Santa and being told that it was ok to be himself.
This just melts this momma’s heart! He was Landon, sitting with Santa and being told that it was ok to be himself. Mommy tells him all the time that he’s special and I love him the way he was made, but it’s always nice to hear it from others. To be told that it’s ok to be who he is.
“Shout out to the Santa at the Rivertown Crossings Mall. You.are.AMAZING!.”
Johnson’s post has generated over 13,000 likes, over 3,000 shares, and over 500 comments.
This man with the beard at the Rivertown Crossings Mall has affected the lives of others with special needs. Other parents shared their stories and interactions with Santa and how beautiful, accepting and giving he was to everyone who crossed his path.
I love when we see total strangers embrace the differences around them. This Santa went above and beyond his duty to just entertain and amuse the children in line to see him. He gave them one of the most precious gifts of all. Confidence and self-acceptance.