Editor’s note: Accessibility Matters will highlight places, programs and events in the Inland 360 readership area that help meet the needs of all people living in our communities. If you have a suggestion, please shoot us an email at arts@inland360.com with “Accessibility Matters” in the subject line.

— Mary Stone

Families with autistic children have a sensory-friendly option for Santa photos the first Saturday of December, thanks to The Green Apple Project, based in Lewiston.

Countless families participate in the annual tradition of photos with Santa, with children posed on Old St. Nick’s lap as they whisper what they want for Christmas.

But for children on the autism spectrum, it can be too much, and not just because it means engaging with a bearded stranger in unusual dress. The crowds, noise and pressure to perform for the camera quickly before the next child’s turn can make it impossible for an autistic child to participate.

A nonprofit organization for autism awareness and support, The Green Apple Project started the no-cost, sensory-friendly event a few years ago. It will return from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Dec. 4 at the group’s office at 615 Thain Road, Suite A, after being suspended last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Some of the parents we had in 2019, that was the first picture they ever had with their child with Santa,” Green Apple Executive Director Laura Lumley said of her first year overseeing the event.

Organizers create a “low-sensory” environment by dimming lights and forgoing music, Lumley said. A child care provider and volunteers will be available this year to help if there is a wait.

Lewiston photographer Patrick Brown-Hayes, who has experience working with children with sensory issues, will take the photos. Children who don’t want to interact with Santa can have their photo taken with a winter background, and Santa can be edited into the final image, Lumley said.

If they’re bumping up against the 1 p.m. ending time, families can call Lumley at (208) 503-0826 to see if a later time can be arranged.