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Boy with autism is forever connected to Santa, who told him it's OK to be himself

Santa gave one 6-year-old boy with autism the best gift he could've asked for this year.

While visiting RiverTown Crossings Mall in Grandville, Michigan, on Friday, Landon Johnson and his four cousins took turns sitting on Santa's lap to tell him what they want for Christmas.

After his turn, Landon was walking to his mom, Naomi Johnson, who was waiting for the photos to be printed, when he realized he'd forgotten to tell Santa something important.

"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," Naomi, 32, told TODAY.com.

"Landon had gone back to tell Santa that he's autistic and was worried about being put on the naughty list because of it."

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Landon is very aware of his disability and makes an effort to educate himself, his mom said.

He told Santa he frequently gets in trouble at school because his classmates and teachers don't understand that he's autistic and they just assume he's acting out.

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Santa reassured Landon that he's been a very good boy and that he shouldn't be afraid to keep being himself.

"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 said.

"Seeing Landon's face light up in that moment was just incredible. I couldn't stop crying."

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Landon has always loved Santa and the holiday season, but this year was extra special for the first-grader.

When they returned home to nearby Muskegon later that day, he said, "Mommy, it's OK for me to be me. Santa said so."

"My child is a great advocate for himself, but this day was different," Naomi wrote on the mall's Facebook. "He opened up to this person about who he was and he was accepted."

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