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Boy with blindness and autism 'sees' the twinkle in Santa's eyes for first time

Six-year-old Matthew Foster had never experienced Santa like this before.
/ Source: TODAY

Matthew Foster, 6, had heard about what Santa Claus looks like from "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," but he wanted to find out in person if it was all true.

Matthew, who is blind and has autism, was able to feel the Christmas spirit in a magical moment with Santa at a Bass Pro Shops & Cabela's store near his home in Texas earlier this month.

Santa goes the extra mile for blind boy with autism
Matthew Foster, 6, who is blind, checks to see if Santa really does have "a twinkle in his eye" when meeting him at a store near his home earlier this month. Misty Wolf/Facebook

Matthew's mother, Misty Wolf, 41, had approached the man playing Santa ahead of time and told him about her son. Santa knew just what to do, as he got out of his chair immediately and sat down on the floor to allow the boy to feel his coat, hat, beard and face.

"I was just kind of standing there in awe of this happening,'' Wolf told TODAY. "I'm trying really hard for him just to get him an image of what Santa is so he can have that imagination of Santa just like any other kid."

Matthew made sure to touch Santa's eyes after hearing in the classic poem about "his eyes that twinkle."

"He thinks that you're going to be able to feel a twinkle,'' Wolf said. "It was just really, really sweet."

Wolf shared photos on Facebook that her husband, Shane, 43, shot of Matthew and Santa interacting in that touching moment.

"Every parent of a child who is blind or has autism or just any children with special needs is relating to it,'' she said. "It's been very heartwarming to see how special of a moment that is for others."

Wolf was just thankful that they made it to see the big guy at the Cabela's in Forth Worth.

"I take him to see Santa every single year and some years we don't even make it through the line,'' she said. "Then in the times when we got up to Santa, he wasn't about to go touch some stranger."

There was no line when they went on Dec. 5, allowing Matthew to go right up to the front. Wolf also didn't tell him they were going to see Santa because he likes routine and deviating from it can sometimes get him flustered.

"I was like, 'Oh look, Santa's here, let's go meet him,''' she said. "When he's excited, he flaps his arms and has a gigantic smile, but with Santa it was curiosity instead."

"Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s provide more than one million free photos with Santa each year, and many of our stores host special sessions for deaf children and low sensory events for kids on the autism spectrum,'' the company said in a statement to TODAY. "Meeting Santa is a very big deal for every child and we strive to make each visit a special memory for families. Hosting Matthew and his family was a joy for our entire team because we love sharing the true spirit of Christmas with so many others."

Wolf also loves Christmas and is hoping to pass that spirit on to her son and his 1-year-old sister, Lily.

Matthew still doesn't totally grasp everything about St. Nick, but he's learning. Santa asked him what he wanted and he said "water" because he thought he meant in that specific moment, not for Christmas.

He doesn't have that excitement on Christmas Day yet, often just asking to take a shower like any other day. But his interaction with Santa gave his parents hope.

"It was almost like a milestone,'' Wolf said. "After seeing him interact with Santa, I was super excited. It was a step in the right direction."

Matthew even took pictures on Santa's lap and turned his head in the direction of the camera, which Wolf said had never happened before.

On the way home from the special meeting, Matthew had one regret. He may have to go back to see the big man again.

"He asked me where Santa's dimples were," Wolf said. "He said, 'I forgot to feel his dimples!'"