PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — The sounds, sights and smells of the holidays, while enjoyed by many, can also cause stress for those in society who have varying degrees of autism and other conditions, especially children. That’s why the Aroostook Autism Support Group spearheaded a project before Christmas to provide a more pleasurable gathering for those affected by certain festivities.
“On Saturday, Dec. 13, the Aroostook Autism Support Group held its first annual Christmas Celebration at the Nordic Heritage Center in Presque Isle. This event gave families of special needs children a chance to take part in sensory-based activities, as well as an opportunity to visit with Santa in a quieter and less-overwhelming environment,” said Maeghan Swanson, one of the organizers and mother of an autistic child.
Swanson said oftentimes families of special needs children feel the financial strains of the cost of medical care that is required, with the holidays adding pressure.
“Christmas can be a particularly hard time on them, with added stress and financial hardship. Realizing this, the group not only offered this event for free to special needs children and their families, but also each child walked away with a small gift bag from Santa — due to generous donations from various agencies in the county,” she said.
Dozens turned out to take part in the festivities.
“We had over 60 children in attendance at the event, which was a huge success with all those attending — largely due to the incredible volunteers from the Presque Isle-based Project One group and the extremely generous donations from County agencies and individuals that came in the form of items for gift bags, monetary donations and baked goods,” Swanson said.
Organizers were pleased with the outcome of their first-ever event designed to make Christmas enjoyable for children who are not considered disabled but rather “differently abled.”
“The event truly was a wonderful way to end a whirlwind year for us and the Aroostook Autism Support Group. We look forward to 2015,” said Swanson.
For more information, look for the group on Facebook.