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Autism-friendly Easter bunny to come to Rhinelander

The sensory event focuses on creating a quiet space where autistic children can have one-on-one time with the Easter Bunny on Saturday April 3.
Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 2:42 PM CDT
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RHINELANDER, Wis. (WSAW) -Tom’s Drawing Board in Rhinelander has teamed up with the Autism Society of Central Wisconsin to help kids on the spectrum meet the Easter Bunny.

The sensory event focuses on creating a quiet space where autistic children can have one-on-one time with the Easter Bunny on Saturday, April 3.

For kids on the spectrum, meeting the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus can be an overstimulating experience full of loud noises and crowds. For that reason, many families choose to skip the tradition.

Thomas Barnett, the owner of the store, didn’t feel it was fair for those with autism to miss out.

“These children, they just think differently. They’re no different than any other child. They like to have fun. They like to create art and they like to visit Santa and Easter Bunny,” Barnett said.

In 2020, Barnett went through training to certify Tom’s Drawing Board as the first autism-friendly business in northern Wisconsin through the Autism Society of Central Wisconsin. Since then, he has held many sensory events for local kids.

Barnett has even installed mood and action signs around his business to better communicate with non-verbal kids.

He hopes that through his work, he can inspire other businesses to get the certification.

Families interested in the event are asked to call Tom’s drawing board to set up a time to come visit the Easter Bunny. Those waiting can play with sensory toys in an inclusive atmosphere.

To set up a time, call Tom’s Drawing Board at 715-420-1001.

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