More than 37 children and their families enjoyed a pleasant evening with hot chocolate, cookies, gifts and a visit with Santa Claus at MECA Therapies on Saturday.
The event was planned by a group of parents of children with autism or sensory issues who might not be able to attend a noisy or crowded place, such as a mall, to visit Santa Claus and take a picture. Autism is a complex neurological disorder that usually lasts throughout life. It is part of a group of disorders known as autism spectrum disorders (ASD). According to AutismSpeaks.org, one of every 59 individuals and one of every 37 boys is currently diagnosed with autism.
One of the families that enjoyed the event was the family of Marco Ojeda, general manager of KLMA radio station. The youngest son of the Ojedas, Xavi, age 4, was diagnosed with autism on his second birthday. For Marco, Saturday’s event helped him see that his family is not the only one that has been affected by autism. He enjoyed seeing how children from different parts of the spectrum interacted with each other without being labeled with a diagnosis.
“These are autistic children. These are children first and then secondly diagnosed,” Ojeda said. “Seeing that there are more families in the area with children affected by autism is an eye-opener.”
KLMA, in conjunction with Ortiz Construction and the Law Offices of Fredlund and Bryan, provided toys for the event.
The lights, noise, smells usually affect people with autism more, which makes it difficult for families to take their children to Christmas events. The staff of MECA Therapies made sure that the environment was the most appropriate, making adaptations such as covering the lights with blue to soften the tone.
Monica Nez, a mom who recently moved to Hobbs from Farmington, said she came up with the idea of an event because an autism support group in Farmington had similar events.
“I think everything went very well and many of the families enjoyed it,” said Nez.
MECA Therapies provides physical therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, family therapy, and developmental instruction for newborn infants up to the age of 21 throughout Lea County. Services are provided in the clinic for ages 3-21, and in the natural environment for early intervention for newborn children until their third birthday.