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Santa Claus Parades in Corner Brook, Deer Lake will have quiet zones for those with sensory issues

Santa Claus greets bystanders during the 2016 parade in Corner Brook.
Santa Claus greets bystanders during the 2016 parade in Corner Brook. - Star file photo

While most families take enjoying the annual Santa Claus Parade for granted, it’s something the Hancock family might now be able to do more fully this year.

Nine-year-old Robbie Hancock is on the autism spectrum and can sometimes be overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a busy parade.

To accommodate people like Robbie, the Corner Brook Kinsmen Club has designated the beginning section of this year’s Santa Claus Parade in the city a sensory-free zone. This means that, from the parade’s start on Grenfell Drive and until it passes the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre, there will be no loud music or other noises and no bright and flashing lights emanating from the floats.

“In the past maybe five or six years, Robbie always wanted to watch the parade from inside our car,” said his father, Ronnie. “He doesn’t like the loud music, people yelling, sirens, etc. We are thinking that we may take advantage of the sensory-free zone this year and see if he enjoys the parade in a more quiet environment.”

A sensory-free zone is something that the Autism Society of Western Newfoundland has been asking for in recent years.

“We have a number of kids in our group who have issues with sounds and can’t even walk into a mall without headphones,” said Mark Lacosta, the western regional representative of the Autism Society of Newfoundland and Labrador. “It’s great that the Kinsmen have finally been able to do this.”

Lacosta has a child with autism, but said his son is not affected by loud sounds and bright lights. They will watch the parade Saturday evening from West Street, where the sights and sounds will be in full effect.

Mike Hoffe, the Kinsmen Club member who helps organize the parade, said they tried to accommodate a request for a sensory-free zone last year, but the request came in too late to get it done. He said he is thrilled to be able to offer it this year and make the parade more inclusive for those people who have sensory issues.

“Now they have the opportunity not to worry about that,” said Hoffe.

Hoffe added plans are going great for the parade, with about 60 floats expected to participate.

Including sensory-free zones is becoming more common for parades. The parade being planned in Deer Lake next Saturday evening will have a quiet zone at the start of the procession along Morey Avenue.

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