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‘Sensory Santa’ event planned at newspaper office in Lowville

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LOWVILLE — A Sensory Santa event this weekend is geared toward children on the autism spectrum or with sensory issues.

The free session will take place from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday in the Journal and Republican office, 7567 S. State St.

“We’ll take it at the child’s pace,” said Jeremy W. Earl, a physical therapist and associate vice president for therapy services at Upstate Cerebral Palsy, Utica.

Mr. Earl, a Constableville native who plans to don the red suit for the inaugural event here, over the past couple of years has been holding Sensory Santa events at Sangertown Square mall in New Hartford and is planning sessions there again in early December.

“It’s all about getting that photo with Santa,” he said.

The events offer quieter surroundings than a typical Santa Claus photo setup and no standing in line, with children seen on a first-come, first-served basis and allowed to walk around until their turn comes up.

With some autistic children being sensitive to things such as flashing lights, loud sounds or even simple touches, sitting on Santa Claus’s lap in a traditional setting is simply not an option, Mr. Earl said.

“I think a lot of people take that for granted,” he said.

While participating children are excited about the event, Mr. Earl said he is especially gratified with the emotional response from parents seeing their children get a picture with Santa, often for the first time.

“It’s definitely rewarding overall,” he said.

The event here is being sponsored by the Northern Regional Center for Independent Living, Upstate Cerebral Palsy and the Kelberman Center, the Journal and Republican and the Lewis County Chamber of Commerce.

Refreshments, including gluten-free offerings, will be provided by the chamber.

Parents are invited to bring their own cameras, but a photographer will be on hand to take pictures, if desired, at no cost.

This year’s Sensory Santa event at Sangertown mall will take place from 8 to 9 a.m. Dec. 7 and 8. Professionally taken photographs from those sessions will be available for purchase.

“It’s certainly been bigger each year,” Mr. Earl said.

The Town Hall Theater on Shady Avenue also is planning a sensory-friendly showing of “Frozen” at 4:30 p.m. Jan. 4. The first 50 attendees will be admitted for free to the event, also sponsored by NRCIL.

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