(this post has been modified from a post I made on my personal blog on November 6, 2011)
All right, Halloween was a while ago. I never thought I would be writing this kind of post. Halloween doesn’t work for my son. It’s too strange. It’s too out of the ordinary. It’s too different. But Halloween 2011, something changed. It showed me how much my child has been growing in the last 2.5 years since our journey in the Autism World had begun.
We had been preparing for Halloween for a while. Big Brother had wanted to be “Darth Vader” for MONTHS. This desire was so strong, I went and ordered his costume before school started so I could be sure that he got the costume that he wanted. I found one (amazingly) on sale and he was very happy with the results. But he’s the easy one. As a typical kid who is really into Star Wars, he likes the idea of playing this character. He will act out all of the light saber battles when watching the movies and he is now watching Clone Wars on DVD as we are working to get him caught up. To him, it’s all fun and a great chance to play dress-up without fear of what it may look like to others.
Ballerina was also relatively easy. As she has been progressing so well in her ABA-based program, she is spending more and more time learning to “play”. And one of her favorite games is Dress-up. She has enjoyed putting on her princess dresses and her Tinkerbell costume which she has had for a couple of years. She likes to wear her “Fairy Wings” and more than anything, she wanted a tiara. So, for Halloween this year, I bought her a princess costume, with a tiara. She loves it and just ate it all up.
But Music Man……that’s the hard one. He doesn’t like things that alter his perception of reality. He doesn’t like things that are out of the ordinary. He likes things to be predictable. He wants things to stay just the same day in and day out. He’s like Knit-Knots from the first season of Imagination Movers on Disney Junior — boring and predictable. That’s how he likes it. Halloween is anything but. Last year, he really showed us how much he despised the holiday. He didn’t want to get into his costume (cowboy). Trick-or-treating was not thought of as a fun activity. He was the concern.
This year I selected his costume very carefully. I made sure his costume was one that would easily fit over his clothes so he wouldn’t have any problems with the way the costume felt against his skin. I made sure that there was no hat required or no mask. And I found one that really seemed to suit him — Mater, from the movie Cars. He really doesn’t care for the movie, but he does enjoy the shorts “Mater’s Tall Tales”. Every time he sees Mater, he immediately will shout, “If I’m lyin’, I’m cryin’!!!”. (it really is very cute) So, I purchased the costume and crossed my fingers.
With Music Man, we have learned that sometimes if you prepare him, it will backfire. It seems to tell him that if you need to take the time to get him used to an idea, then this is something to be afraid of. Sometimes, if you allow something to sneak up on him, it seems to come out better. The hard part is determining which circumstances require the preparation and which should you just allow to happen. This time, we decided to just allow Halloween to come up and see if it went better than it did the previous year.
So, on Halloween morning, Music Man went to school. The other 2 were home because of a school holiday (since his school is TECHNICALLY outside of the public school system, he has a different schedule than the other two). He went to school with his costume attached to his backpack and we were going to come visit for the party and we’d see how it was going. When we arrived about 1.5 hours later, he had just gotten into his costume and he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it all. But he wasn’t fighting anyone. When we arrived, Ballerina and Big Brother were both in costume (Big Brother minus the helmet) and I think he liked what he was seeing. All of a sudden he was more willing to participate. We all went on a small Halloween parade around the school and went trick or treating in the various classrooms/office. He was really having some fun. He stayed in his costume until shortly before the 3 of us left and we took the costume home with us.
That night, I hoped to be building on that success. Last year, Music Man didn’t want to get into the costume and he DEFINITELY didn’t want to leave the house to go trick-or-treating. But this year, putting the costume on was reasonably easy. He was fighting a little bit, but in a playful way. We found a small bucket for him, anticipating that he would only visit a few houses, and the 5 of us set out to go Trick-or-Treating.
We went to the first house and rang the doorbell. After the door was answered Big Brother immediately said “Trick-or-Treat!!!” (he was going to do a Darth Vader thing, but the excitement of the night took over — he’s only 6 after all). Then it was Ballerina’s and Music Man’s turn. Ballerina said it and then tried to go into the house (which became her pattern everywhere we went). Music Man said, at the top of his lungs, “TRICK-OR-TREAT!!!!”. Then he was given candy in his bucket. He SMILED! He UNDERSTOOD! This is FUN!!!!
He stayed out as long as he was permitted. We went to at least 30 houses. Every house, he said his line. Everyone gave him some candy in his bucket (which had to be emptied into Girly Girl’s bucket a couple of times because there was no room since we didn’t anticipate success). And he walked home holding Daddy’s hand. He had a GREAT time.
What a change in 365 days!!!!!