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 Students with Special Needs Visit with Santa

More than 60 children with special needs got an opportunity recently that many families take for granted but that can be very difficult for them: they got a picture with Santa.

For almost 10 years, volunteers and employees with the East County Special Education Local Plan Area (SELPA) have held the SELPA Santa event, which allows the children more time to warm up to the jolly man in red and to avoid the lines and chaos at the malls that can make other opportunities for pictures very difficult.

This year, a local Girl Scout troop even volunteered to help out.

Families who have participated in the event say it means a lot to be able to get pictures with Santa because friends and family expect to see them around this time of the year.

The families were able to hang out for as long as they wanted and take their photographs with them when they left.

The idea for the event came from the SELPA’s Community Advisory Committee. Parents on the committee said they wanted a holiday activity that children with special needs could fully participate in.

The volunteers who help with it have the experience needed to help the children with special needs feel at ease. Sometimes it takes several visits over the years before they feel comfortable enough to interact with Santa.

The East County SELPA is made up of 11 school districts in the southeastern region of San Diego County. There are nearly 10,000 students in special education programs in those districts.