LIMA — For Mandi Garver, taking her 2 1/2 year old son Cooper to the Lima Mall to see the Easter Bunny was a real treat.
The mall set up special hours Sunday morning for special needs children to visit with the Easter Bunny and have their picture taken in a stress-free environment.
“We’ve been doing it for over five years, so we do it each year for Sensitive Bunny, and we do Sensitive Santa as well,” said Betsy Billingsley, Marketing Director for the Lima Mall.
“The point is to give children with special needs, autism, a time where they can enjoy themselves, a relaxing experience with Bunny or Santa, so it’s not overwhelming. It’s overwhelming enough to come and see Santa and Bunny, but when you factor in other things, this gives the kids plenty of time to do a one-on-one with the Easter Bunny. It also gives them time to just have a little bit of fun, crafting, having a treat, that sort of thing,” Billingsley said.
Cooper has level 2 autism and has sensory issues as well.
“It’s really nice that they’re bringing it to Lima for kids like him, but we need just that little bit more sensitive environment — less noise, less crowds,” Garver said.
A trip for Mandi and Cooper to the mall normally isn’t something Cooper can handle very often.
“Some days are better than others, but the less noise and busyness in the environment, the better off he is, the less meltdowns and attitude we get,” she said.
Garver says there are challenges to raising an autistic child.
“[It’s] a little bit unpredictable, as we have to think everything forward — from planning schedules with all the different therapies to specialized schooling and different things — and just making sure that we have what we need if there’s a meltdown or if there is kind of environment he’s uncomfortable with,” she added.
Sunday was the only date for the Sensitive Bunny, but the Easter Bunny will be in the mall through March 31.
From 6 to 8 p.m. March 25, you can bring in your pet to have pictures taken with the Easter Bunny.
Reach Sam Shriver at 567-242-0409.