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Santa reassures little boy his autism doesn't put him on the naughty list

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When Muskegon area mom, Naomi Johnson, took her son Landon to RiverTown Crossings Mall to see Santa Claus, she had no idea that her Facebook post summarizing the visit would draw global attention. With millions of children visiting mall Santa's, what makes this encounter so special?  It begins with a little boy worried that his developmental disorder puts him on the naughty list and it ends with Saint Nick letting him know it's OK to be different.

Like any 6-year old boy seated on Santa’s lap, Landon Johnson rattles off his wish list, “I told Santa what I want; a Wii U, toy dinosaur and a remote controlled car.”

“Landon came and sat down next to me,” explains St. Nick, “and his little hands started to move.”

Landon’s mom, Naomi, has seen this all before, “When Landon gets excited we call it ‘flapping.’ He likes to flap his hands and fingers and he gets really, really excited and he just can’t contain it.”

Landon telling Santa, “I’m autistic.” He tells his about his talk with Santa who asked, “Does it bother you? And I said it sometimes bothers me.”

His mom describes how autism impacts her son’s life, “He’s a very schedule-oriented child and if something is to change from his schedule it’s detrimental. He does act out. He’ll start screaming or he’ll get upset, he may throw something. He sometimes will hit.” Because this is a developmental disorder, Landon wants Santa to know, “I’m not naughty.”

“I put my arm around him,” Santa tells us, “And I said, ‘that’s OK you’re a wonderful boy. Everybody has little problems and you don’t look like it. You got all the hope in the world in front of you. And remember, people love you as I do.”

“You meet one child with autism you met one child with autism. Each are different. It’s the same thing as snowflakes. There’s none the same,” explains Landon’s mom, “More children have autism with more families going through this and that just gives more people hope.”

“Oh, Santa’s cry, it was moving, very moving a lovely, lovely child.”

That’s confirmation from the man who keeps a list and checks it twice. Landon now knows, “I’m on the good list.”

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.
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