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Santa's magic.

During Christmas, I was shopping with my six-year-old son, who is autistic, when he spotted Santa Claus. He conveyed to me his urgent, all-absorbing need to sit on Santa's lap. We had never attempted such a feat because of his unpredictable, bizarre and often violent behavior.

I assessed the long line, the risk of over-stimulation and the difficulty of maneuvering out of line once committed. Success was improbable. Then I glanced at my child's intent face. I saw his body tremble with inner excitement. His focus was on Santa. There simply was no alternative. I firmly gripped his hand and joined the line.

After a short interval, his ominous, repetitive speech emerged. I tried to distract him, quiet him, calm him. Waiting in line was meaningless to him. Waiting was clearly an obstruction of his passionate intention. His voice pitched upward, and his agitated body rocked with displeasure. People eyed him cautiously They sensed something deviant, unearthly, menacing. I could see the discomfort spreading.

His speech converted to howls. A mother abruptly turned to stare. Instantly, he flailed out at her. When I grabbed his arms, he shrieked and bucked, kicking wildly. I was aware of the thunderous background silence as attention converged on us. Recognizing defeat, I lifted him to my chest and began to retreat.

Suddenly, someone shouted, "Stop!"

Confused, I hesitated. I noticed Santa standing up on his platform, waving us forward. Some mixture of dread and excitement swept through me. I locked eyes with Santa. Then, with deliberate steps, I carried my child to the front.

Santa helped him out of my arms. There, in Santa's lap, my son reflected absolute joy, the pleasure of pure sensation.

Hi, Santa!" he cried out. His hands flapped as his body quivered. Santa's protective warmth enveloped him.

Below us, a bewildered crowd watched with deference. It was an eyewitness experience of the influence of kindness, the sequel to acceptance, and the yield of understanding.

As I hoarsely whispered, Thanks," Santa gave us his direct smile, a smile which left his signature on our lives.

Kathy Swackhamer lives in Hereford, Ariz. with her husband Ron and her three sons, Jay T, 8, Jarrod, 5, and David, 3. She is a freelance writer and housewife with a master's in psychology from the University of the Americas.
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Title Annotation:9th Annual Computer Technology Directory: 1992; autism
Author:Swackhamer, Kathy
Publication:The Exceptional Parent
Date:Nov 1, 1991
Words:385
Previous Article:A sibling born without disabilities: a special kind of challenge.
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