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Chasing the Sensory Friendly Easter Bunny

Jamie Sumner
Special needs mom, author and blogger
03/28/18  11:53 AM PST
sensory friendly

Chasing the Sensory Friendly Easter Bunny

When imaginary things appear in real life, they are exciting and terrifying in equal measure. It’s why every family has a picture of their child screaming on Santa’s lap. It’s a strange thing to have fantasy become reality.

But for my son, it’s more than that. The world is often too loud or too bright or too crowded. As a six-year-old with a sensory processing disorder, we have a laundry list of situations and objects to avoid: Scissors. Hairdryers. Vacuums. Fireworks. Crowds. Splashing water. The pneumatic tube at the ATM. The rinse cycle on the washing machine. And yes, Santa and the Easter Bunny.

sensory friendly

The goal, however, for any child with special needs is to bring the world’s experiences into their sphere. Seclusion is not the answer.

I want to be a buffer, to bubble wrap his sensitivities, but I do not want to hide him away from the things that could make his life bigger. And so we dip our toes in as gently and slowly as possible. We go to a sensory friendly hairdresser. We splash in the quieter and shadier end of the pool on July afternoons. And this Easter, we are going to visit the Caring Bunny.

The Caring Bunny exists because of the collaborative efforts of Autism Speaks and its sponsors. With the aim to provide a calmer and more welcoming environment for children with autism and other special needs, the Caring Bunny will be in malls across America throughout the month of March. The objective, of course, is to create an experience that any kid would enjoy without the anxiety that accompanies too much noise or crowds. It eases the stimulus a bit.

There is a downloadable book provided by Autism Speaks that I plan to read with my son before we visit. It explains who the Caring Bunny is, what will happen at the visit, and most importantly, how my son can decide what he does and does not want to do. No one wants to be forced to smile for a picture or sit on a life-sized rabbit’s lap. That sounds frightening even to my own adult sensibilities. But perhaps a wave or a high five would make his day. He is the master of his fate at this outing and perhaps that is the most enticing thing about the Caring Bunny. It allows the kids to determine the parameters of their own experience.

sensory friendly

Parenting is a lifelong experiment in giving your child the correct ratio of support to freedom.

It is a burgeoning of independence for them and trust for us. When my son first came home from the NICU, medically fragile and wholly unpredictable in both health and disposition, I was treading water the majority of the time. It was a long few years of feeling our way towards safety. Now that he is older, more stable, more expressive in his wants, I find myself ready to try the things that stretch him. A visit to the Caring Bunny is a way to hand him that control, to ease him into the festivities without the fear that new situations often bring.

We will try it. We will drive to our nearest mall and we will take a number and wait our turn at the craft tables. We will stick stickers and draw pictures and do whatever else we need to do to pass the time, because visiting the Easter Bunny, much like any childhood experience, should be inclusive. And hopefully he will leave happy and a touch braver than he was before.


child with special needs

Jamie Sumner is a special needs mom, author and blogger.

Discover her new book, Unbound: Finding Freedom from Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood.

Read her blog, The Mom Gene.

Follow her on Facebook.



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