Maryville special needs family asks for compassion, shares advice when visiting Santa

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A "no go" situation turned into a possibility for one Maryville family. Their little boy got to visit with Santa and have his picture made. That experience is something many families take for granted, but for families whose children have special needs, this Christmas tradition isn't always an option.

The Adcox family drove from Maryville to Sevierville last weekend. A picture of their visit with Santa is now resting on their mantle.

"It just makes my heart melt every time," said mom Michelle Adcox.

Her 11-year old son Nicholas has autism and they don't have too many pictures with Santa because it can be stressful and overwhelming.

"He would be in line. He would be screaming. He would be on the floor," said Adcox.\

For the second year in a row they made it a point to visit Santa at Bass Pro Shop. The family says they talk with employees either beforehand or once they get there so they can avoid painfully long lines and outbursts.

The Adcoxes say each time they've been treated with kindness. 

"It was absolutely a dream for us because when you to go a place like that that's busy, you don't know what you're expecting."

Employees like Chrisy Awtonomow say moments like that are ones she cherishes. 

"We want to make sure they have a special experience as well. There tends to be long lines or large crowds, especially on the weekends, and so we want to make sure if they have any kind of sensory issues or have any special requests that we address them. We make sure it's a comfortable environment," she said.

The Adcox family is asking others waiting in line behind them to be compassionate and not judge. They also ask for fellow special needs families to make it a point and visit Santa.

"You can't stop living. You can't, because you can't hide in your house because you've got a special needs kid. You've got to get out there and be with everybody else and not have to worry about who it's going to agitate," said Adcox.

Fellow special needs families say, to help your child not be overwhelmed, you can schedule time with Santa before you get there. That way you can get a pass to move to the front of the line. It's suggested to let staff know about sensory issues, so they can turn music down or make the area less overwhelming, as well as how to interact with your little one.

Autism advocacy groups suggest if you see a child who may be having an outburst, give the family and the child time and calmly ask if they're okay and if they need help. Also, make space as a way to lower the sensory overload.


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