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UM’s Hill Program Presents ‘Sensory Sensitive Santa’ Event

By Anna Grace Usery

As many children enjoy eating sugary snacks, listening to jingle bells and accompanying their parents to the hustle and bustle of holiday shopping, there are those who need a more inclusive environment to relish in the joys of Christmas. 

The University of Mississippi Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is hosting its inaugural “Sensory Sensitive Santa” event for children who have sensitivities to the stress of crowds, noise and various foods to come enjoy a day with Santa Saturday, Dec. 1 at George Hall. The event begins at 9 a.m. and concludes at 1 p.m. Pictures with Santa—or a holiday scene if children are sensitive to Santa’s character—are available with a suggested donation of $25.

Photo provided.

The event will feature gluten-free snacks and a quiet, stress-free, line-free experience for all children. 

Jeanne Lippincott with Oxford’s local chapter of Kindermusik, an international curriculum that works to enhance children’s knowledge, confidence and enthusiasm for learning through the power of music-making, said she has worked with many special needs children in her classes.

“I know how easy it is for some children to get overwhelmed with lights, crowds, waiting in line and being rushed,” she said. “This event exemplifies the values of family and community connection that are so a part of Kindermusik. We would like to help all families that have trouble managing in a normal, public setting.”

Amy Livingston, a Hill program certified speech pathologist and instructor, said they will have set appointment times to avoid waiting in lines. There will also be various sensory items, like crash pads, trampolines, weighted blankets and fidget toys available for those who need to access them. 

All proceeds of the Santa event go to the Hill Program, a grant-funded program that serves children with moderate to severe receptive and expressive language disorders. 

“We are welcoming donations, but we really wanted this to be a community outreach program,” Livingston said. “The money raised would go to funding scholarships to those who need assistance attending the Hill Program, classroom materials, art supplies, field trips and snacks for the year.”

Livingston said the program serves 10 students during the semester, but is able to accommodate 16-18 during the summer. 

“I’ve heard of events like this taking place in other cities, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time anything like this has ever happened in Oxford,” she said.

To make an appointment to attend the Sensory Sensitive Santa event, please follow this link. 

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