A boy with autism was just being himself when others told him he was too naughty. So, he decided to ask Santa if he would be on the naughty list, and what Santa replied had his mom crying.
In early December 2015, Landon Johnson and his four cousins went to RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville, Michigan, and took turns telling Santa what they wanted for Christmas. When it was Landon’s turn, the young boy, then 6 years old, told Santa, “I wanted the Wii, a toy dinosaur and a remote control car,” WOOD-TV reported.
After telling Santa his wish, he started walking towards his mom, Naomi Johnson, but quickly turned back to tell Santa something important—he has autism.
“I had no idea why Landon turned around and then I saw Santa hold his hands to keep them from shaking and calm him down,” Johnson recalled to TODAY. “Landon had gone back to tell Santa that he’s autistic and was worried about being put on the naughty list because of it.”
“I wanted him to know that,” Landon explained to WOOD-TV.
Because of his disability, Landon was often told that he was naughty. “You get the stares when you’re at the grocery store if he’s too loud, if he’s throwing a fit,” Johnson said. “He’s been told by other people before, ‘You don’t need to be so naughty,’ or, ‘Why are you naughty?’”
So, this was why Landon wanted to ask Santa if he was really naughty, and Santa asked him if this has bothered him.
“I said sometimes. But he said it shouldn’t bother me. He said it’s OK to be who you are—who I am,” Landon said.
Santa later recalled to 24 Hour News 8 his conversation with Landon. “You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy. You’re a good boy, you know.”
Santa, who had not received training on how to work with children who have special needs, said, “I guess it just comes from being Santa. You just have so many children, and I just love them all. I’m just a humble Santa trying to make people happy.”
He added that he was touched when he saw Landon’s story posted on her and the mall’s Facebook pages, where Johnson had written: “My child is a great advocate for himself, but this day was different. He opened up to this person about who he was and he was accepted.”
“It brought tears to my eyes. My heart melted that he had such a wonderful experience. It wasn’t me. It was the two of us together,” Santa said.
Johnson was also in tears after hearing Santa’s response to Landon. “This stranger in a red suit told my son the same message I’ve been trying to get through to him for a while now—that he’s special and I love him just the way he was made,” she told TODAY. “Seeing Landon’s face light up in that moment was just incredible. I couldn’t stop crying.”
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