Northern Ireland news

Kennedy Centre to run 'relaxed Santa sessions'

The sessions will be running every Sunday up until Christmas from 9am to 1pm
Andrew Madden

CHILDREN with special needs will be given an extra bit of care this Christmas at the Kennedy Centre, with 'relaxed Santa sessions'.

These sessions are specially designed to cater for children with autism spectrum disorders, physical disabilities and other needs by eliminating any stressors in the environment which may cause them distress, such as loud noises or crowds.

This service will run from 9am to 10am every Sunday until the big day, avoiding the hoards of Christmas shoppers, and no music will be played through the PA system – allowing children with special needs a relaxed meeting with Santa.

With health department figures showing a 67 per cent increase in the incidence rate for children on the autism spectrum in the last three years, services like the relaxed Santa sessions are sure to be popular.

The sessions are run in partnership with Enchanted Events and are in their second year at the centre.

Centre manager John Jones said that everyone at the centre was delighted to deliver the service.

"Kennedy Centre has always been a cornerstone of the community here in west Belfast," he said.

"We are a community-based shopping centre and with that comes the responsibility to ensure we take into consideration the additional needs and support members of the community within the catchment area require."

Angela Lamont, owner of Enchanted Events, said: "Visiting Santa should be a magical and memorable experience; one without mobility issues or anxiety. However, not all children are afforded this luxury.

"But, Kennedy Centre is leading the way forward by extending these sessions from 9am until centre opening hours of 1pm."

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Northern Ireland news