This week we had our obligatory Santa visit and, probably like most visits to Santa where it’s all new and strange and exciting and overwhelming, it wasn’t totally what I expected.
And I say ‘obligatory’ like it’s no big deal, but really it is! Visiting Santa always felt a bit out of reach – the noise, the crowds – we put it off until we finally heard about Sensory Santa for the first time last year. Sensory Santa is an opportunity provided by shopping centres with a Santa set up, where they open the centre early when it’s still quiet and provide 10 minute allocated time slots for a child and their family to visit with Santa. This is a game changer for kids who, for various reasons, wouldn’t be able to handle the noise, stress and chaos that can come with visiting Santa during regular hours.
I booked us in for our visit and began the Santa chats with H so that I could pre-programme his talker to make it quick and easy for him to talk with Santa. Last year he asked for a basketball hoop and luckily Santa was listening, I wondered what it would be this year…
H📱: Mrs E (his school teacher for next year)
Right, so he pretty much he wants to go to school for Christmas! We chatted more, I modelled a bit and H agreed that a school uniform is what he wants (well, isn’t that convenient as I believe that Santa is all over that request).
I programmed his talker, we all hopped in the car and off we went to meet Santa…
It was magical – all shiny red presents and sparkling white Christmas trees. H’s face at seeing Santa was once again filled with wonder and excitement. He squealed with delight as he saw the big guy in red. He pointed to the presents, to the trees, to Santa. I modelled some words on his talker…
I then tried to prompt him to say the messages that we had prepared for Santa – he looked at his talker, then back to Santa and chose not to say anything with his talker.
Instead he chose to use his voice to express his excitement and pointed to all the fantastic Christmasy things to communicate his message.
We had our family photo, H’s face is the absolute portrait of a thrilled 5 year old boy, whilst T’s is that of a suspicious 2 year old. It’s a pretty amusing shot!
H chose not to use his talker once whilst we were there. In fact, T also barely managed to say a word to Santa even though there was plenty of prompting from us too.
But the interesting thing is that I felt much more aware of H not using his talker than of T not using her voice. As parents, I think we can put so much pressure on our expectations and hopes for how certain encounters might go for our children. It comes from a good place as we want the best for them, but the reality is that it’s not about us.
This was H’s visit to Santa, it wasn’t about whether I think he should use his talker (or not as the case may be). This is about a young boy having a chance. Our job is to give him that chance…
We will give him the chance to always have easy access to his talker – it’s his choice whether he chooses to use it or not at any given moment
We will keep modelling words and using his talker – it’s his choice to use those words when the time is right for him
We will give him the chance to use a wide range of communication tools – it’s his choice to use his voice, his talker or his signs and gestures
We gave him the chance to see Santa – and he absolutely LOVED it!