A new way to experience Santa

RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Children with special needs ranging on the autism spectrum gathered with their families late this Sunday afternoon to snuggle up close with Santa for a private photo session.

Kristine and her family take a picture with Santa.

The Rushmore Mall dimmed the lights and lowered the music to limit the distractions for the children.

More than 50 families waited in line...including Kristine Forrest.

Forrest brought her four children and her cousin, Richard, who has down syndrome.

Every year, the family wears matching red outfits as they march up to Santa's couch.

"It's the magic of Santa, the magic of Christmas you know being together having that photo that we get to look back on. I get emotional about this stuff because we love making memories, we love it," said Forrest.

The event was hosted by the autism advocacy organization, Autism Speaks.