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Silent Santa helps Saskatoon children with autism for holidays

WATCH: Many children are lining up in malls to see Santa, but the lights and sounds can make it an overwhelming experience for children with autism.

This time of year many families with children are lining up in malls to meet a legendary figure.

But the lights, noises and crowds of a mall, said Erin Richard, can be difficult for her son Mason, who is autistic.

“Waiting in line with an autistic child, waiting for anything with an autistic child, is a challenge,” she said.

But Richard still wanted Mason to meet Santa, so she made an appointment on Sunday morning at the Midtown Mall — before the mall was open to the public. Mason, and his two siblings, were able to meet the legendary figure together. They all even received a small gift.

READ MORE: Halloween both challenging and rewarding for people with autism

“A lot of the time people are just uncomfortable… around someone with autism because they don’t know what to do or say,” Richard said.

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“Whereas this Santa was really comfortable with our son.”

Mason’s Christmas experience, and that of 15 other children, was made possible by Autism Services Saskatoon, which organized “Silent Santa.”

The name refers to the event setting. In an almost deserted mall, without many of the lights from stores and noises from patrons, Mason and children like him are more comfortable.

Santa isn’t silent. He interacts with all the children, even those who don’t speak.

“It gives me a chance to find out what they would like and what they’re thinking. And it gives them the experience of dealing with Santa Claus ” he told Global News.

“And that’s what’s important — to see the joy in the children.”

READ MORE: Secret Santa campaign begins in Saskatoon

Richard said that Christmas morning was also difficult for her family. She has two children who don’t have autism and the excitement can be a lot for Mason to handle. She said he usually doesn’t acknowledge it.

“It can be very challenging. Opening presents he doesn’t come around, [he] doesn’t want to be part of the family.”

Richard said that meeting Santa meant a lot to her and to Mason. She said most people are uncomfortable around her son and that Santa’s patience made a big difference.

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She brought him to meet Santa because this is the first year Mason is excited about the holidays.

“Having a Christmas where Mason will actually enjoy being with us all will be probably the best present we can ask for,” she said.