LANESBOROUGH

Holiday sights, stores and lights may be exciting for some children, but can be too much to handle for others.

Teachers, staff and parents of students in Linda Carnevale's integrated preschool program and Caitlin Larabee's self-contained combined kindergarten-Grade 1 class at Crosby Elementary School ushered a total of 25 youngsters to the Berkshire Mall on Wednesday.

Both classes serve children with a range of abilities and needs, including those with autism, Down syndrome and learning disabilities. The preschool also serves same-age peers.

"This year is our fifth year doing this and it's really a learning experience," said Carnevale. "There are a lot of children here who come to the mall and are very overstimulated by the lights and sounds. Here, they can come with the occupational therapist, speech pathologist and their parents to see that it can be OK."

Both Carnevale and Larabee said they talked about the trip with their students ahead of time and used visual cues and sign language to help students understand.

Wednesday's field trip started with a visit to the "A Dollar" store. Each child was given a plastic bag with a dollar bill and change. With the money, they picked out and bought a present for a family member.

Then, the classes went to the mall's food court where they were greeted by Santa Claus. The students later were treated to a pizza lunch donated by Pizzatella.

The children did their best to learn how to count money, say "thank you," wait in line, and meet new people, like Santa.

Some students warmed right up to the man in red. A couple cried.

Some, like Nick LeClair's 3-year-old son Carter, simply declined.

"We haven't been up here yet. I asked him if he wanted a picture with Santa and he said no. But that's OK," LeClair said, with Carter clinging to his leg.

The father noted that Wednesday was a particularly special occasion: It was his birthday and his son surprised him with a handmade birthday card.

"I love it, and it's just a great experience to see the kids here and being a part of a field trip," LeClair said.