Brayden, who has autism, was at an event for the Caring Santa Program, which allows children with special needs to meet Santa in a calmer, more controlled environment.
"Brayden doesn't like posing for photos and being told to smile for the camera," his mom, Erin Deely, told ABC News. "The anxiety, the waiting on the long lines . . . it would be too much for Brayden and for us."
Maeghan Pawley, who captured the sweet interaction on camera, said that the Santa was as accommodating as he could be to every child who attended the event, which was held at South Park Mall in Charlotte, N.C. Pawley works for Autism Speaks, one of the event's partners.
"The whole staff (Santa included) was overly accommodating for all of our kids," she told Autism Speaks, "really trying to get the best picture and create the best experience possible, regardless of how much time or patience was needed to do so."
Autism Speaks posted about the Santa encounter on its Facebook page, where it has more than 50,000 likes. People praised this Santa and shared similar experiences of when Old Saint Nick went the extra mile, including another sweet photo of Santa on the floor playing guitar.