You’ve probably heard of autism-friendly Santa programs, but another favorite character of children around the world is getting a makeover in the name of sensory friendliness. And we’re definitely there for it.
This Easter Bunny, who resides at the Deptford Mall, in Deptford Township, New Jersey, is specially trained not to make loud noises or sudden movements, and he’s always careful to ask direct questions rather than open-ended ones, which can help children with autism know how to answer him better.
In the days before Easter, the mall has been opening earlier than usual to some of their favorite young guests. That way, children with autism and sensory issues can visit the Easter Bunny without navigating the crowds and dealing with the regular day-to-day noises of a busy mall.
“When Damon was three, coming in here, walking past Spencer’s, it was so loud that he would drop to his knees and scream,” says Christina Dallas, whose son has autism. “I love [this program] because he gets to experience more stuff that he didn’t when he was younger.”
The event is hosted by Centria Autism, a leading provider of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy for individuals on the autism spectrum. Along with their Easter Bunny and Easter display, they also set up an information table to help parents better understand the resources and options they have to help their children.
It was recently announced that New Jersey has the highest rate of preschoolers with autism in the United States, with one in 35 children being diagnosed before their fourth birthday. That makes this the perfect place for the special Easter Bunny program to start. But we hope it will catch on in more places too, because kids on the spectrum deserve to be able to participate in fun events like this one, just like neurotypical kids can.
“They are beautiful children, and it’s a great situation when you can provide this for them,” says Allen Willis, Outreach Specialist for Centria Autism in New Jersey. “There’s definitely a need in New Jersey.”
Check out the video below to watch some amazing kids meet this awesome Easter Bunny.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?