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Last evening we went to the annual Christmas party for a support group we are involved with called PACT ( Parents of Autistic Children Together). It  is always great fun and a chance to reconnect with families who share the same path, that of raising a child with autism. The most anticipated arrival of the evening was, of course, a jolly old soul called Saint Nick, otherwise known as Santa Claus, Kris Kringle, and Father Christmas.

Sitting on Santa's Lap

We love the above photo of our daughter Danielle with Santa.  We know he was the real one because he had real whiskers! Danielle is 17 years old but still enjoys having her photo taken each year with the guy in the red suit. She and many of her friends at the party waited their turn in line with great excitement and anticipation.

As we were watching the children go up to visit Santa we remembered with fondness through the years snapping photos of our four kids doing the same.

FullSizeRender (1) Christmas Past: Dave, Mercedes, Brendan, Colin, Danielle & Santa

Some years we had tears; others pure joy. Many parents experience a tearful toddler sitting on Santa's lap at some point. This is usually when the child is very young.

However, sometimes children with autism can be frightened by people wearing costumes, the social demands of sitting on Santa's lap, and the overall busyness of a party atmosphere. They may have a much harder time of it. Through the years we have learned to ease Danielle's fears by going up to see Santa as a family, posing for a photo with a grandparent or sibling, and preparing her ahead of time by reading a story or showing her pictures of what she could expect.

Our sons Brendan & Colin with their grandmother and Santa Our sons Brendan & Colin with their grandmother and Santa

Innocence and Joy

Last night we were struck by the innocence and joy of those who sat on Santa's lap no matter what their ages. We hope this Christmas you'll be able to capture some new family memories and relive old ones. We will bring out our Christmas photo albums and remember the tears and the joy as we celebrate this season of light and holiness.

Danielle trying to get away from the man in red Danielle trying to get away from the man in red

Copyright 2015 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Photos courtesy of David and Mercedes Rizzo. All rights reserved.