A Sheffield mum has called on Meadowhall to be more inclusive of children with special needs for its ‘Wish Upon a Star with Santa’ event.
Stacey Mitchell was left disappointed when she realised that the Quiet Hour for Meadowhall’s Wish Upon a Star would run every Tuesday between 10am and 11am.
The event is designed for children with Sensory Educational Needs to allow them to visit Santa in a less stressful environment.
However, Stacey said that her seven-year-old son Mitchell will be at school during the Quiet Hour as would most other children over five.
She said: “My son has special needs and attends a special need school and we were very excited to hear about Meadowhall’s Quiet Hour.
“But, sadly, the idea is obviously useless for children like Mithcell who will be in school. It basically excludes any special needs children over the age of five.
“Mitchell doesn’t like loud noises or big crowds so taking him to Meadowhall in the past has always been very difficult.
“But special needs schools can’t let children out of school early; they have to follow the same rules as every other school so it’s of no use to anyone over five-years-old.”
Meadowhall originally launched an autism-friendly weekend for children in the area back in April for families to visit an hour earlier on Saturday and Sunday.
Families were invited to shop between 8am and 9am on both days to allow the children to familiarise themselves with the shopping centre at a time when the organisers say it will be virtually empty.
The music and lighting will be turned down in the shopping centre during this period, while a new sensory zone was opened in the The Lanes area.
A similar approach has been taken with Wish Upon a Star Quiet Hour with the music reduced and session times with Santa extended to accomodate the time needed to get through the experience.
Stacey said that her son suffers with global developmental delay and, despite being seven-years-old, has a mental age of three.
“Meadowhall have done their Quiet Hour on a weekend before but it seems like they’re not as interested with including everyone now,” Stacey said.
“They should be able to do the same with the Santa experience.
“It would mean so much to Mitchell. Because he has a lower mental age he has only just started to experience Christmas properly and would love to take part in this.”
Following Stacey’s complaint, Meadowhall has confirmed that they will introduce quiet sessions at more accessible times for children in school.
A Meadowhall spokesperson, said: “We’ve received a fantastic response to our Wish Upon A Star Christmas experience and its dedicated quiet sessions.
“In order for us to support customer demand for this experience, we’re introducing two further quiet performances on Tuesday, December 11 at 4:10pm and Sunday, December 16 at 5pm.
“By extending this area of our programme, we hope to open up the experience for more families in the region, providing a little extra time in a calmer environment for children to enjoy.
“We are working to make our environment as inclusive as possible for all our customers and we’d encourage anyone with feedback or suggestions that help us achieve this to come forward and share their thoughts.”