One of the highlights of the year for the families supported by AP Cymru is the Breakfast with Santa, held at The Holiday Inn, Tongwynlais. Our families have an opportunity to have breakfast together surrounded by our lovely team of peer support workers and wonderful mascots Cwtch and Cuddles. This year was no exception.
Following suggestions from families last year, our event was held in a private room and numbers carefully managed to avoid the autistic attendees being overwhelmed. We had a fantastic craft area to keep people entertained, and a photo-booth to provide an opportunity for our families to have a memento from the day.
Breakfast was extremely relaxed, and everyone could choose their food and eat at their own pace. Our mascots played with the children and made sure that everyone who wanted one had a great big Christmas cwtch.
Then came the pièce de résistance: every (willing) child received a visit and present from Santa, with the option of having a family photo taken with the main man himself. Santa received autism awareness training before meeting the children, so was led by them, meaning that all children felt comfortable and listened to.
For some families, this event is the only opportunity they will have to take their autistic child to visit Santa. The queues are usually too long, the noise can be overwhelming, and the grottos are generally enclosed, brightly coloured, and typically operate a one-way system. Timing issues can even mean that if you have booked a specific time slot, you still must queue, adding a layer of stress for the autistic person who cannot understand why they can’t enter the grotto at the time displayed on their ticket. The anxiety, sensory issues, and difference to a typical outing makes the activity prohibitive to far too many families. The relaxed, open, and considered environment provided by AP and The Holiday Inn means that these children and their families do not miss out. AP also operates a ‘stage not age’ approach, so older children are not excluded from this, or any other, activity.
The families which attended had a brilliant time – we can’t wait to do it again next year!