A Sister’s Sacrifice
Scottish Mental Health Services In Collapse Because Of Rise In Autism And ADHD

Ho Ho Help. Autism and Sensitive Santa

Santas listBy Anne Dachel

I often think back to when, at age six, my son John (now 30) was first diagnosed with AUTISM.

John had definite issues involving speech and social interaction. Back in 1992, there was no one locally here in Chippewa Falls, WI to diagnose his condition. The school district actually got a psychologist from Minneapolis (90 miles away) to figure out what was wrong with him.

I will never forget when my husband and I were told John had autism. The psychologist who diagnosed him said that she had no idea how John’s life would turn out because AUTISM WAS SO RARE.

I still remember her saying, “I don’t know if he’ll ever hold down a job or live independently.” (That was a pretty harsh prediction for a six year old with, we were told, a condition that only  affected one or two other children in our town. We were told that only one in 5,000 or 10,000 children had autism.)

Times changed.

Of course I tried to find out as much as I could about autism.  The movie Rain Man was the recommended source back then.  Throughout the 1990s I kept hearing more and more about autism. It seemed they were finding a lot more kids with autism than they previously thought were out there.

I continued to think that we’d get answers. Why was my son like this? Why didn’t he have speech as a toddler? Why couldn’t he interact with his peers?

If more and more kids really have autism, certainly expects would be able to tell us.

That didn’t happen.

A debilitating condition affecting more and more children should have set off alarms everywhere. Kids who could speak, make eye contact, and interact normally, and who suddenly lost all those skills and ended up dependent and disabled should have been the focus of a massive study.  It never happened.


I remember when I first heard about the link between vaccines and autism, back about 20 years ago. I couldn’t believe it was possible. I was vaccinated. I never knew autistic kids growing up. But the claim that vaccinations were connected to autism didn’t go away.

And I clearly remember the first time I heard about mercury being used in vaccines. I was absolutely stunned. Why would anyone put any amount of a poison in kids’ shots? (At the time thimerosal, AKA “safe mercury,” was the main focus of the autism controversy in the U.S., while in Britain it was the MMR vaccine and autism.)

What experts and health officials turned their attention to was proving that vaccines don’t cause autism. With lots of pharma-funded studies in hand, they declared the issue settled, and the “anti-vaccine” community was born, you know, those parents who are unwilling to accept that all the science is in on vaccines and whose irrational position threatens the health of all children in America.

Controlling the message

This is when we woke up to autism as a fact of life in the U.S., because of course it’s a little hard to ignore something that keeps increasing for reasons unknown.

1995 1:500

2001 1:250

2004 1:166

2007 1:150

2009 1:110

2012 1:88

2014 1:68

There were lots of guesses about autism, most of which are still regularly in the news: better diagnosing, expanded spectrum, genetics, pesticides, and lots of parental factors like age and lifestyle.

STILL, no one ever declared autism a crisis despite the numbers.

No U.S. health official has every used the word crisis in connection with autism. (“Serious public health concern” is the strongest language any official has ever used when speaking about autism.) Autism, instead, was normalized. It was celebrated. Doctors were to be congratulated for recognizing the disorder.

Autism has never been something to worry about.

Regularly there have been announcements about autism treatments. Programs like Applied Behavioral Analysis and speech therapy have been promoted as effective.

The fact that this recently discovered condition wasn’t being found in comparable numbers in adults was universally ignored. (It seems that pediatricians were the only branch of medicine to recognize the symptoms of autism.)

 Enter Autism Speaks

In 2005 Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a boy with autism, founded Autism Speaks, which became the internationally recognized advocacy group for autism. And while Autism Speaks raised lots of money and had lots of study grants, they gave us no answers. They did however promote autism acceptance. Puzzle pieces, money-raising walks, and blue lights, a whole month every April to focus on autism did the trick. Autism happens. It’s here to stay. We don’t ask why.

Actually the message of Autism Speaks, acceptance and accommodation, was brilliant. Since we can’t ignore a disability affecting so many children, often quite severely, it’s time to normalize it.

Yes, there are lots and lots of kids with special needs, but there’s lots being done to help them.

And if you are sincerely interested in covering up what an out-of-control-vaccine schedule is doing to children, there are several things that have to be done.

  1. You have to acknowledge the obvious: there are lots of sick and disabled children. (It’s impossible to ignore the condition of our kids everywhere, but the key is to sound concerned, but not alarmed.)
  2. You have to do something. Pretending that autism has always been here, albeit, misdiagnosed, seems ridiculous in a world where we’re constantly hearing about autism training for police, doctors, teachers, airline personnel, and anyone else dealing with children. So you have an organization (Autism Speaks) created that champions the rights of autistic individuals, calls for awareness and funding, but basically does nothing to address the impact of autism on our children. You waste millions of dollars on autism busy work—dead-end studies that show associations, but never causation.
  3. Most of all, you look concerned, while you make autism a household word in America.
  4. You use the media to promote your agenda. Lots of “feel-good” stories about autism will ensure that in another 10 or 20 years, no one will remember a world where a significant percentage of the population was “on the spectrum.”

Even the national lexicon is changing.  Words like “meltdown,” “spectrum,” and “nonverbal” are everyday talk.

Every April, during “autism awareness month” a massive effort is made to acclimatize us to autism. Every Christmas it happens too.


Dec 20, 2016, Boston Globe: Parents don’t want to tell autistic boys that Santa missed their home this year.

Parents, relatives, and friends of children with autism know well how difficult it can be sometimes to ascertain how a child is taking in information and dealing with it internally. A mother and father waiting on Christmas in a town on the North Shore know the feeling.

“This year has been a struggle for us financially and emotionally,” the mother wrote. “We have learned that our beautiful boys have autism, although on the mild end of the spectrum. . . . it gets stressful and all we want to do is hug them and make it better, but sometimes for a small kid who lacks knowledge of ‘the real world’ that is simply not enough. . . . Children as small as they are can sense what you are feeling sometimes.

Dec 19, 2016, CBS8, San Diego: Santa Claus With Autism Creates Special Holiday Experience for Children With Autism The holidays can be overwhelming for children with autism, but this Santa Claus is an expert at making the experience suitable for kids of all needs — because he, too, has autism….

"Autism doesn't stop in December. It doesn't stop at Christmas," Magro said in an interview with CBS News.

Magro was non-verbal when he was 2 years old, and diagnosed with autism when he was 4.

Understanding that children with autism experience their senses differently, he wanted to put together an accessible event for kids that would otherwise not be able to participate in the holiday experience.

"We dim the lights, we turn down the sound and try to help them as much as we can," Magro said. "This event is more inclusive."

Sarah Callighy, 8, was one of the nearly 200 children Magro visited with this year. She was diagnosed with autism, and is also non-verbal.

Dec 19, 2016, WCAX Burlington, VT: Tailoring the holiday experience for kids with autism

The sights and sounds of the holiday season can be overwhelming for children with autism, but now some kids on the spectrum are getting a Christmas experience tailored to their specific needs. 

Sara Callighy had a one-of a kind meeting with Santa.

The 8-year-old has autism and is non-verbal. Her father, Brian Callighy, brought her to this event because this Santa understands the challenges of autism firsthand. "Santa also has autism.  It's a special connection, special bond," Callighy said.

Dec 19, 2016, WFTV9 Orlando, FL: Sensory Santa' helps children with autism, other special needs

The families of children who stop by Liberty Center on early Sunday mornings this holiday season aren’t just after a visit with Santa, but a respite from the cacophonous chaos that sometimes is the holiday season. …

For parents Aldo and Thalita Albieri of West Chester Township, that means a meltdown-free experience for 3-year-old son Anthony, who was diagnosed in 2015 with sensory processing disorder, as well as a good time for younger son Eric.

“This is fantastic,” Aldo Albieri said during a Liberty Center visit last Sunday. “My son, with a lot of people, noise and lights usually has a very out-of-normal behavior and now, here, being in a calm environment, he’s behaving well. It’s offering an opportunity for us to have a good time with our kids for Christmas.”

Dec 19, 2016, CBS New York: Children With Autism Receive Special Visits With A Santa On The Spectrum

The sights and sounds of the holiday season can be overwhelming with kids for autism, but now one of Santa’s helpers in North Jersey happens to be on the spectrum himself.


As CBS2’s Kristine Johnson reported, the Santa’s helper aids in tailoring a Christmas experience that any child can enjoy.

Sara Callighy had a one-of-a-kind meeting with Santa. The 8-year-old has autism and is nonverbal.

Sara’s fahter brought her to the event because the Santa’s helper she met understands the challenges of autism firsthand.

“Santa also has autism,” said Brian Callighy. “It’s a special connection; special bond.”

The man dressed as Santa at the event was Kerry Magro, 28. Diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, his sensory challenges prevented him from visiting Santa as a kid.

Magro created the event so others like him did not miss out.

“This event is more inclusive,” Magro said. “We dim the lights, we turn down the sound, and try to help them as much as we can.”

“He just does a great job,” Brian Callighy said. “He takes his time. There’s no rush.”

Most of the elves, and Mrs. Claus, are occupational therapists and special education teachers. The team visited with 181 special needs families.

With one in 68 children diagnosed with autism, Magro hopes to inspire more sensory-friendly events all year round.

“Autism doesn’t stop in December,” Magro said. “It doesn’t stop at Christmas.”

Dec 19, 2016, Hernando, MS DeSoto Times-Tribune: Cookies with Santa for DeSoto County special needs children Typically, children living with autism and other developmental or intellectual challenges can be overwhelmed with the noise surrounding Santa’s visits to stores and other places to hear what the kids on his “Nice” list want for Christmas. These youngsters also find having to wait in long lines just to talk to him more than their internal sensory systems can handle.

Some shopping malls across the country have realized the importance of sensory-friendly visits with Santa and hold similar events in their mall each year….

“Children with developmental and intellectual disabilities often need extra considerations when they come to events such as this,” Treadway said. “If we don’t have this event, then many, many children will not have a picture with Santa Claus at all, or get to visit Santa, because they can’t manage the lines and the waiting.”

Treadway said the three-hour morning visit by Santa gave the youngsters their chance to do something that’s especially important for them to feel more like a “normal” child.

Dec 19, 2016, NJ.com: Autistic kids get a chance to meet Santa in Jersey City Around this time of the year, parents often line up to get photos of their children with Santa in crowded, festive places with bright lights and loud music.

But that's not possible for many children with autism, who experience sensory stimuli differently from other children and can be overwhelmed in those situations.

Enter "Autism and Sensory-Friendly Santa Comes to Jersey City," an annual event spearheaded by nonprofit KFM Making a Difference that gives autistic children and their families a chance to comfortably meet Santa for free.


Dec 19, 2016, KJZZ Tempe AZ: Santa Claus Visits Special-Needs Children

…But for some children with special needs, seeing Santa in a noisy, crowded mall is more of an emotional nightmare. 

"A lot of kids that have behavioral, emotional or social needs struggle with large crowds, struggle with being in noises that are really loud that may cause them to feel really upset or long lines for kids that may not understand why they have to wait their turn," said Vanessa Monroe, a special-needs kindergarten teacher at Ironwood Elementary School.

So, if the children can't make it see Santa, Santa makes a special trip to see them.

Dec 18, 2016, Tribune-Democrat Johnstown, PA: Santa Claus impersonator takes hobby seriously

…Gable also does “Sensitive Santa” events that are specifically for autistic children and children with disabilities.

“We did two years of ‘Sensitive Santa’ at the Lebanon Farmers Market,” he said. “We set up in an empty space in what is now the Visit Lebanon Valley office, and there would be no music or bells or other distractions.”

This eventually led to Gable’s working directly with the Developmental and Disability Services of Lebanon Valley for “Sensitive Santa” events held at their office at 1126 Walnut St., Lebanon.

“This is the second year I’m doing it with them,” Gable said. “Children who have trouble walking or who have trouble with sensory overload at the mall can come to a ‘Sensitive Santa’ event to get a picture. We have a photographer there who specializes in photos with autistic children.”

Dec 18, 2016, GOOD4UTAH: A gentle visit with Santa for sensory challenged kids

…It’s called ‘Quiet Santa’. Kids with special needs like autism or ADHD, get to approach Santa and Mrs. Claus at whatever level they feel comfortable.  It's a calm, quiet atmosphere where the children take their time getting used to the environment.

Erin Collard tells us “When you have a child who has a processing, sensory processing disorder, it’s really hard to take them to a mall where you have escalators, water features, and there's loud music and really long lines. And by the time they get to see Santa, he's bellowing out ‘what do you want for Christmas little boy’. They flip, they freak out because it’s too much.”

Dec 18, 2016, The Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, CA: ‘Sensitive’ Santa in Santa Rosa soothes these kids’ concerns

Lesley Legakis typically dreaded taking her special-needs son, Abraham, to see Santa for the requisite holiday photos for family and friends.

What would be merely irritating for some kids — a snack, a bathroom trip and a long wait in line — would be a major ordeal for her 5-year-old autistic child given all the distractions and noises, she said….

But on Sunday the Windsor mom could relax as she and 24 other special-needs families from the region participated in the Sensitive Santa event sponsored by the Matrix Parent Network and Resource Center.


Dec 17, 2016, Little Falls, MN Morrison County Record: Sensory Santa to visit children in Little Falls, Dec. 17

Santa Claus will make a special trip to First United Church in Little Falls Saturday, Dec. 17, especially to visit with children with special needs in quiet setting.

Dec 17, 2016, Atlanta Journal Constitution: 'Sensory Santa' helps children with autism, other special needs

…They’re getting it via “Sensory Visits with Santa,” a two-hour program designed for children with sensory processing disorder, held each Sunday in December prior to opening hours at the $350 million mixed-use project.

“Sensory Visits” inside the Foundry, Liberty Center’s enclosed mall, feature lower lighting, no music and the opportunity to take part in the holiday tradition of visiting with Santa free from distractions.

For parents Aldo and Thalita Albieri of West Chester Township, that means a meltdown-free experience for 3-year-old son Anthony, who was diagnosed in 2015 with sensory processing disorder, as well as a good time for younger son Eric.

“This is fantastic,” Aldo Albieri said during a Liberty Center visit last Sunday. “My son, with a lot of people, noise and lights usually has a very out-of-normal behavior and now, here, being in a calm environment, he’s behaving well. It’s offering an opportunity for us to have a good time with our kids for Christmas.”

Dec 17, 2016, The Sacramento Bee: A special-needs Christmas service at St. James Episcopal A church in Lincoln conducted a pilot project of sorts Saturday, holding a small Christmas service for children with autism and other special needs.

About a half-dozen youngsters gathered on a rug in front of the altar at St. James Episcopal Church for the 20-minute service, which featured singalongs, a prayer of thanks and a telling of a simplified version of the Christmas story….

While churches have done a fine job of providing day care to those kids, the institutions “are not really finding ways to engage them in their faith,” Quinney said in an interview. “There hasn’t been a place for them, a good place for them, in church.”

Dec 16, 2016, Greenboro, NC, WFMY: Malls Find Place For Kids With Autism To See Santa

…Braydon is one of a growing number of children with special needs who are being catered to by mall operators and some retailers. In his case, a Santa at the South Park Mall in Charlotte went on the floor with the child after Braydon refused to sit on Santa’s lap. Erin said Braydon goes on the floor when he needs to feel safe. A photo of the 2015 encounter went viral.

“Because the traditional experience is loud and crowded, many kids with special needs and their families were simply doing without this beloved family tradition of meeting Santa and having a photo,” said Lindsay Dieckman, who oversees the Santa photo operations for Simon Properties.



Such a good article, Anne. As a 71 year old, I totally agree with your comments about autism being a complete 'unknown' until the advent of the increased vaccine schedule. It really worries me that it has now become the new 'normal' along with allergies, seizures, ear infections........the list goes on.

In UK we have the National Autistic Society which denies any link between autism and vaccines. Just as useless as Autism Speaks.

How can most people not ask the question 'why the increase?' I know it is because of propaganda put out by media, Health Authorities and Governments, but it really is the elephant in the room that no-one (apart from those with vaccine injured children) is seeing.


OK, I should peace out, however, my need to express gratitude to the GREAT Mrs Dachel exceeded the simpatico i wanted to express. This is take two, aaaand.......yeah, so and:

An open poem to Michael Moore:
You call Yourself Flint Michagan
I tell You what You beautiful ass
nothing beats the lead in her throat
like toxins that we mask

How many tots can walk then not
after a glass of water
How many tots can TALK then not
that WILL NOT be MY daughter

OK, in no way shape or form do i think the situation in Flint should be minimized, but COME ON!!! How many reports of injury do we have to sustain to reverse this tragedy?!
A tragedy among chldren! CHILDREN!
Any one of here could give Rachel Maddow a list of dozens of names of pediatricians who would gladly tell her that YES poisoning children with lead in Flint Michigan is horrific! ABSOLUTELY those responsible should be prosecuted to the Nth degree.

I think there is much bigger and more significant information to be disseminated. I think that before we quiet down Santa, we should talk about why it is we have to do that.

Again Thank You SO MUCH for all you do!!!!

Louis Conte

Great article.

Our history needs to be told here on AoA because main stream media lost their independence years ago.

Having met John, I must tell everyone that he is a fine young man who I hope my sons can emulate.

He has been blessed to have parents like you and Richard.


Thanks for writing that wonderful piece. The allergies at the mall always led to a meltdown as did the junk food at family dinners. I wish the same for Julie Gerberding and all the current executives at Merck. It's only a matter of time before it hits you.
We'll be celebrating an organic GFCF Christmas with the windows open. Thanks again for writing for those who cannot write.

Kristie Sepulveda-Burchit

We host a Caring Santa event here in Rancho Cucamonga, CA also. Educate. Advocate. educateadvocateca.com


Everyone once in a while following Vaxxed on periscope I would see a comment from @johndachel and always wondered if these comments were from your son. The comments are always thoughtful, and kind and it would always strike me that the apple does not fall far from the tree. Happiest of Holidays to you and your beautiful family and as always THANK YOU!!!!


Anne, my son also just turned 30 years old and I can't believe it. We never went to visit Santa at the mall because he could never have waited on the very long lines to see him plus he would not have been able to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas. We need research into reversing the vaccine damage that has caused so many to be diagnosed with autism-a disorder that was unheard of when we were all growing up.

Bob Moffit

"In 2005 Bob and Suzanne Wright, grandparents of a boy with autism, founded Autism Speaks, which became the internationally recognized advocacy group for autism."

Hard to believe .. but ... it has been eleven years since I first heard of Autism Speaks .. and .. how encouraged I was to see and hear their very first effort .. "AUTISM EVERYDAY" .. which showed the heart-breaking experience of families whose children had been diagnosed autistic .. at a time when autism had INEXPLICABLY increased from 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 168 ..


Unfortunately .. Autism Speaks film was heavily criticized for suggesting the need for a "cure .. treatment .. prevention" of the growing numbers of children being diagnosed EVERYDAY .. as those who consider autism a "gift" .. were given prominent seats at the Autism Speaks.

Eventually .. soon after .. Autism Speaks became the driving force for "awareness and acceptance" .. "raising lots of money and had lots of study grants, they gave us no answers. They did however promote autism acceptance. Puzzle pieces, money-raising walks, and blue lights, a whole month every April to focus on autism did the trick. Autism happens. It’s here to stay. We don’t ask why"

And so .. here I am .. eleven years later .. my nonverbal grandson now 14 years of age .. none the better .. for all the "awareness and acceptance" that Autism Speaks has given him.

Unfortunately ... Autism Speaks became just another "captured" organization .. having become more problem than solution.


I can't believe your son is 30. Mine turns 21 next month on the anniversary of Julie Gerberding going to Merck. She left the CDC and went to work for Merck. Of course doing the right thing and observing the mandatory one year wait period from leaving as director of the agency that "oversaw" vaccine induced "autism" explode to go to the company that gave us vaccine induced "autism" Merck.

Autism Speaks is the worst thing that ever happened to people living with autism.

I'm so sick of hearing about Sensitive Santa.

Merry Christmas everyone.

angus files

Thanks for that Anne . I had never heard of Sensory Santa great idea as I was just having that discussion with another set of parent`s on meeting Santa with their autistic son"no point he will just scream and run away" I looked on the internet after reaing your article and sure enough You tube had the video below plus others..



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