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'Silent Santa' to welcome children with autism, other special needs at Bridgeport Village

PHOTO COURTESY OF CENTERCAL PROPERTIES - For two hours Sunday morning, children with autism and other disabilities that can make the holidays a stressful and difficult time will have a chance to meet jolly old Santa Claus in a quieter, less bright environment before the Bridgeport Village shopping mall opens.A shopping mall at Christmastime can be an experience, to say the least.

With the excitement of the holidays, the tumult of shopping for gifts, the bright lights, the decorations, and the Christmas music, the senses can be overwhelmed. And for children with autism or other special needs and sensitivities, that sensory overload can be distressing and debilitating.

For that reason, Bridgeport Village is offering a special “Silent Santa” photo opportunity this Sunday especially for families of autistic children and others with disabilities or special sensitivities.

Instead of a bright, noisy environment, children can visit with a costumed Santa Claus and tell him their Christmas wishes in a more serene environment. The lights in Santa's Cozy Cottage, located at Bridgeport Village's center court, will be dimmed and the music will be turned off.

Silent Santa will run from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday, before the mall opens. Space is limited, so attendees must call ahead at 503-968-1704 to reserve a time.

Bridgeport Village is also hosting a Santa Pajama Party on Saturday morning, the day before the Silent Santa event, to wake Santa up in time to begin the holiday shopping season.