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David and Mercedes Rizzo celebrate the creative work that allowed young people with special needs to continue a Christmas tradition.

A visit with Santa is almost always magical. That is, once your child is not a frightened baby sitting on St. Nicholas’ lap in tears. Through the years. little kids look forward to visiting Santa, taking a photo with him, and getting the chance to share what presents they would like him to put under the tree.

For many years, our family enjoyed seeing Santa at an annual party for people with autism. Many of the individuals attending have been eagerly anticipating Santa’s arrival, including our older daughter, who has autism. This year, with the corona virus, the party and Santa’s visit was held virtually. What an innovative idea — truly epic!

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So it was arranged that Santa would visit on a Zoom call. When we first heard this we wondered if our daughter Danielle would find it confusing. She has attended many such virtual events this year but frequently she has found them difficult to follow. Who can blame her, seeing an array of people positioned in a grid like a chess board, all speaking at once while the moderator tells folks to mute their mics? Sometimes she would end up frustrated.

Fortunately, the Zoom visit was set up as a one on one between Santa and each individual with special needs. And Santa knew what to talk about because he had been briefed by email beforehand about special interests, family relationships, and Christmas presents. This way Santa could steer the conversation so that it would flow naturally.

Danielle saw Santa Claus on her computer screen and was happy that he spoke directly to her about her brothers and sister, and then asked her what she wanted for Christmas. Danielle uses an iPad to communicate with pictures, but Santa waited patiently for her responses. She smiled and called Santa by name. All in all, the visit with Santa went well.

This year, Santa’s sleigh was a Zoom call. #catholicmom

This year has been a year like no other, that’s for sure. Thanks to some very creative people in our local autism support group and the latest technology, Santa was able to brighten the faces of Danielle and her friends. This year, Santa’s sleigh was a Zoom call.

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Copyright 2020 David and Mercedes Rizzo
Images copyright 2020 David and Mercedes Rizzo, all rights reserved.