Mall Santa eases nerves of boy with autism by playing on the floor with him

Six-year-old Brayden loves Santa but can be shy, according to his mom, so they had some trouble convincing him to meet Jolly Old Saint Nick at a recent event. But the mall Santa made sure that Brayden got the special attention he needed by getting on the floor to play with him.

Brayden, who has autism, was at an event for the Caring Santa Program, which allows children with special needs to meet Santa in a calmer, more controlled environment.

Santa plays with Brayden while sitting on the floor in front of his chair.

Courtesy of Autism Speaks and Maeghan Pawley

"Brayden doesn't like posing for photos and being told to smile for the camera," his mom, Erin Deely, told ABC News. "The anxiety, the waiting on the long lines . . . it would be too much for Brayden and for us."

Maeghan Pawley, who captured the sweet interaction on camera, said that the Santa was as accommodating as he could be to every child who attended the event, which was held at South Park Mall in Charlotte, N.C. Pawley works for Autism Speaks, one of the event's partners.

Santa plays with Brayden on the floor.

Courtesy of Autism Speaks and Maeghan Pawley

"The whole staff (Santa included) was overly accommodating for all of our kids," she told Autism Speaks, "really trying to get the best picture and create the best experience possible, regardless of how much time or patience was needed to do so."

Autism Speaks posted about the Santa encounter on its Facebook page, where it has more than 50,000 likes. People praised this Santa and shared similar experiences of when Old Saint Nick went the extra mile, including another sweet photo of Santa on the floor playing guitar.
Copyright © 2020 KABC-TV. All Rights Reserved.