GRANDVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) — Landon Johnson’s Christmas list was not unlike the list of any little boy.
“I wanted the Wii, a toy dinosaur and a remote control car,” is what the 6-year-old Muskegon-area boy told Santa Claus at RiverTown Crossings Mall.
Then he ran back to Santa to tell him one last thing — that he has autism.
“I wanted him to know that,” Landon said on Monday.
His mom’s Facebook post about the visit with Santa has gotten more than 62,000 likes and has been shared more than 20,000 times.
Landon is a first-grader who loves Harry Potter books and video games, but he also didn’t start talking until he was almost 4. His first words: “I’m sorry,” after he bumped into a stranger.
Often, people who don’t know him mistake autism with being naughty, his mom said.
“You get the stares when you’re at the grocery store if he’s too loud, if he’s throwing a fit,” his mom, Naomi Johnson, said. “He’s been told by other people before, ‘You don’t need to be so naughty,’ or, ‘Why are you naughty?'”
So on this trip to see Santa, his mom figures he wanted to make sure he wasn’t on the naughty list.
Of course, Santa knew all this, but it was good to hear it from Landon. Santa asked Landon if it bothered him.
“I said sometimes,” Landon said. “But he said it shouldn’t bother me. He said it’s OK to be who you are — who I am.”
Santa spoke softly to Landon.
“You know I love you and the reindeer love you and it’s OK. You’re a good boy,” Santa told 24 Hour News 8 on Monday, recalling the conversation. “You’re a good boy, you know.”
“He was the real Santa Claus,” Landon later proclaimed.
Santa, who has worked at RiverTown Crossings for eight years, said he gets no special training on how to work with children who have special needs.
“I guess it just comes from being Santa,” he said. “You just have so many children, and I just love them all. I’m just a humble Santa trying to make people happy.”
Even Santa was overwhelmed when he saw the Facebook post.
“It brought tears to my eyes,” he said. “My heart melted that he had such a wonderful experience. It wasn’t me. It was the two of us together.”
Sources tell 24 Hour News 8 that Landon has, indeed, made the nice list.
“I’m not going to get coal,” Landon said. “You get coal when you’re bad. Santa brings you coal if you’re bad.”