Mum’s delight as autistic children to get ‘quiet hour’ Santa visits

Ashleigh McIlroy pictured with her son, Noah
Ashleigh McIlroy pictured with her son, Noah
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The mother of a three-year old boy with autism is delighted her son will be able to meet Santa Clause tomorrow, thanks to her local council backing her ‘quiet Christmas’ idea.

Ashleigh McIlroy, from Limavady in Co Londonderry, said she brought Noah to a Halloween event in her home town but had to take him home again when the little boy was overcome by the noise and bustle of the busy celebration.

Disappointed but determined that her son wouldn’t miss out again in future, she decided to contact one of her local councillors, the DUP’s Alan Robinson.

She asked him whether the Causeway Coast and Glens council might take steps to ensure more autism friendly Christmas celebrations.

Mrs McIlroy said she is delighted that the local authority has decided to press ahead with her idea of a ‘quiet Christmas’ scheme and hopes other councils might follow suit.

“Unless it’s a really quiet event Noah really just can’t cope with it,” she explained. “I took my son to a ‘Halloween Spooktacular’ event in Limavady which I thought would have been great for him because they had loads of sensory things, but when I took him in he had a total freak-out because there was so much noise and so many people.

“That’s what made me think, you know, this isn’t fair. He’s missing out. All children should be included. I got really cross and I decided I had to do something about this. I felt like my son was being excluded.

“I went to Alan (Robinson) to ask if the council might be able to do something for us.”

Mr Robinson said: “As the father of a young child who has seen Santa many times I believe it is right we ensure that all children have the opportunity to fully participate in the Christmas festivities.”

Mrs McIlroy added: “I really hope other councils might be able to do follow suit and do something similar.”

The first ‘Quiet Christmas’ was scheduled to take place in Ballymoney Town Hall yesterday.

Another will take place in the Roe Valley Arts and Cultural Centre in Limavady tomorrow, from 1-3pm while Coleraine Town Hall will host another on Friday, November 24 from 3-5pm.

A final event will be held in Sheskburn House in Ballycastle on Thursday, December 7 from 3-5pm.

The Causeway Coast and Glens council has said that while the scheme was “specifically designed for children with ASD”, it has been extended to include “children with needs other than ASD”.