One little boy with autism was carrying a big secret that was weighing him down. So when he met Santa one Christmas, he decided to share his problem. But, little did he know, the response would leave his mom in tears.
Naomi Johnson lives with her family in Muskegon, Michigan. In December 2015 her son Landon was just six years old. Like most kids his age, the youngster was excited for the upcoming holidays. However, he was worried about something most children wouldn’t even consider.
Landon has autism. The developmental disability can affect people in a number of ways. However, the condition primarily affects the way people perceive situations and how they interact with others.
Even at the tender age of six, Landon was all too aware of his disability and the problems it posed. He was keen to educate himself, but he found that his condition was often misunderstood, particularly at school. According to young Landon, teachers sometimes believed he was misbehaving when he was simply expressing himself.
Consequently, Landon often finds himself in trouble for reasons outside of his control. This was weighing heavily on the young boy’s mind. However, his mom had no idea just how much he worried until one memorable trip to the mall.
Landon had traveled to RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville, MI, with his mom, Naomi, Aunt Brittany and four cousins. The aim was to get some pictures of the children with Santa to celebrate the holidays. So they joined the line, and before long the five cousins had an audience with the big man himself.
The visit to Santa was a success, and Landon’s Aunt Brittany was excited to collect the cute prints from the booth. However, as she was doing so, Johnson noticed her son doing something unexpected. Even though they had all finished visiting Santa, Landon had turned and dashed back to him once more.
At first, Johnson was worried about what may have been unfolding. “I turn around and Landon had gone back by Santa,” she explained to ABC News in 2015. “And I was just like, ‘What is he doing?’” However, when she learned what was going down, it brought tears to her eyes.
On the car journey home, Naomi asked Landon what he’d been chatting to Santa about. “I wanted to tell Santa that I had autism,” Landon revealed. “He wanted to know if it bothered me, having autism. I said, ‘Sometimes.’ And Santa said it was OK to be who I was.”
According to Naomi, Landon had also asked Santa if his autism meant that he was on the naughty list. Santa told him that he was a very good boy and shouldn’t worry. As he reassured him, the bearded man held onto the child’s hands to stop him from shaking.
“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,” Naomi told TODAY in 2015. “Seeing Landon’s face light up in that moment was just incredible. I couldn’t stop crying.”
In fact, Naomi was so moved by her son’s encounter with Santa that she decided to post about it on the mall’s Facebook page. “I had an AMAZING experience with the Santa at the RiverTown Crossings Mall and I want to share my story with you,” she wrote.
She then went on to explain the heartwarming exchange between Santa and Landon and what it meant to her and her little boy. “They sat and chatted for at least five minutes,” Naomi said. “Santa payed close attention and listened to him. This just melts this momma’s heart!”
“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,” she added. “Mommy tells him all the time that he’s special and I love him the way he was made, but it’s always nice to hear it from others.”
Unsurprisingly, Naomi’s gushing Facebook post captured the hearts of all who saw it. Since she shared her experience in 2015, more than 175,000 people have reacted to it. It has also been shared nearly 60,000 times and attracted 11,000 comments.
“Amazing story,” wrote one user. “Thank you so much for sharing this and God bless Santa for going the extra mile to help this little boy know how special he is.” Meanwhile, another added, “Thank you for sharing your story. There are angels on Earth. Your son may have just met one this Christmas. All the best to you.”
With all the attention Naomi’s post gained, it wasn’t long before reporters came knocking on Santa’s door. However, for him, reassuring Landon was all in a day’s work. “He told me what he wanted for Christmas and I told him I loved him and he was a good boy,” he divulged to ABC News.
According to him, he was simply capturing the spirit of the festive season. “Christmas is about love and joy,” Santa pointed out. “That’s what I try to bring to all the children and the people around me here. It’s an honest pleasure to do that.”
But, although Santa remained modest, Naomi felt differently. “I thought, he did a wonderful job,” she said. “I have had so much positive reaction and people from families with children with autism thanking me sharing their story, giving them hope that they can take their children out and be accepted.”
And, for Landon, it was the best Christmas present he ever could have wished for. “You knew it was going to impact Landon in the most positive way,” his mom explained. “I always tell him he’s unique and special, but when Santa says it to him, it really means something.”