Five-year-old Emilie-Faye Borrowdale from Nelson was recently invited to visit Father Christmas at The Mall Blackburn with her brother Ollie, 10, and parents Elizabeth and Richard.
Emilie-Faye, who attends Pendle View Primary School in Colne, has autism and is non-verbal. She seemed to thoroughly enjoy the specially adapted experience without the loud noises that can sometimes make such organised events overwhelming for her.
The Borrowdale family had a great time exploring Santa’s Post Office at The Mall in 2019, and they were invited back this year to board The Santaland Express.
Mum, Elizabeth Borrowdale, said: “Emilie-Faye adores Christmas, and one of the sounds she’s recently learnt to say is ‘Ho Ho Ho’ but we often struggle to find festive events that aren’t too much for her.
“While she doesn’t mind bright lights, she gets quite upset by loud noises and in-your-face characters.
“The Mall Blackburn and Imagination Entertainment (the organiser) were great. The cast spoke quietly and used Makaton signs to provide additional visual clues when communicating with Emilie-Faye.
“The sound effects were pared back and she was able to explore at a pace that was more comfortable and calm for her, which made the experience really magical for our family.
“We’d like to say a big thank you to The Mall, and we’re already looking forward to next year!”
Loraine Jones, General Manager at The Mall Blackburn said: “It was lovely to see the Borrowdales again this year and we were happy to adapt the experience for Emilie-Faye’s enjoyment.
“The Imagination Entertainment cast refresh their Makaton training each year so they can offer more children the opportunity to communicate during the event.
“For anyone that’s unfamiliar, Makaton is the simple sign language used by characters such as Mr Tumble and consists of signs and symbols that are used alongside speech in spoken word order.
“This can really help the team interact with visitors who may have limited speech, or whose speech is unclear.
“The whole idea of The Santaland Express is to celebrate Christmas and give everyone a magical and immersive festive experience, so we want it to be inclusive for all.
If any families would like to request a similar, more muted, pared back experience – we ask that they email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do what we can to help.”
The Santaland Express ‘pulled in’ to The Mall’s specially made Blackburnigum Station on November 27th – and will be running up until Christmas Eve – taking visitors on a make-believe journey through time and space to meet Father Christmas at his workshop.
Not only does each child enjoy the train station and scenery, meet Santa, and receive a quality gift, they also come away with a special keepsake train ticket, and parents are welcome to take photos throughout.
Standard tickets are £9.95 per child and include a maximum of one parent.