By Christine Hennebury
Special to The Packet
CLARENVILLE, NL – Staff and volunteers at Clarenville’s eastern regional office of the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador have worked some Christmas magic to create a custom-designed Santa photo shoot for kids in their program this year.Most Santa photo sessions involve an unfamiliar location, bright lights and lots of noise – all of which can cause great stress for kids with autism.
Volunteer photographer Kaeleigh Fitzgerald, who has sensory issues herself, knew how to keep all those things out of this shoot.
“We avoided having too many stimulating props and distractions.” Fitzgerald said. “We didn't use any big bright lights or flashes, and we had some warm, stringed fairy lights behind a white backdrop that gave off a calming vibe.”
Aside from the careful set-up, Fitzgerald said the shoot itself was the same as any other.
“Kids will be kids, and I always try to capture those natural moments.”
In addition to Fitzgerald’s efforts, Santa – volunteer Scott Ivany, who has an adult son with autism – did his part to help keep the kids at ease.
Treshana Gosse, regional assistant manager, eastern region, said it was a wonderful experience for everyone involved.
“After the very first session you could feel the magic,” she said. “The images truly captured the absolute spirit of Christmas.”
Parent Shelley Stead agrees.
“As a parent of a person with ASD (autism spectrum disorder), the amount of pleasure that comes from this opportunity is immeasurable,” she said. “Every child deserves the opportunity to have a picture with Santa. This is every child’s magical moment that they all want to experience.”