Yet another year of little ones dressed like everything from scary to funny, superhero to anti-hero, dead to undead and then the ones that you don’t know how to classify.
Bianca had a class Halloween Party, so my wife and I went to take pictures, help out and meet other parents of the kids in the room. I have gotten to know the kids pretty well since I volunteer to help with recess once a week, but I am not that familiar with the other moms and dads. The kids seemed to enjoy their pumpkin decorating and nachos. The cookie decorating was a particular favorite of Bianca because she got to eat a cookie, and because she inhaled every possible candy sprinkle she could find.
My wife marveled at how well Bianca sat in her chair. This has improved for us at home as well, but Bianca obviously knew the expectation at school was to stay in her seat. This skill is so vital, yet if you have neuro-typical kids, you take it for granted. You go out to eat and you sit in a restaurant with your kid over the age of 3 and they will (for the most part) stay seated and listen to direction. Bianca is almost 6 and that skill is just now starting to emerge. Thank goodness too. The looks you get trying to crowbar your 6 year old into a highchair at a restaurant is pretty interesting. I swear if I could lather myself up with enough Crisco, I would jam myself into one just so that people would stop staring at my daughter. “My family finds high chairs more comfortable.” I would tell the scowlers.
I could never answer on an IEP that Bianca could sit for more than 3 seconds at a time or however it is they ask you about that particular skill. Now I think I can.
The actual event of Trick or Treating has always been met with equal parts enthusiasm and trepidation at the Melgarejo household. It was so great getting the kids dressed up and seeing them in their costumes. We were able to talk Sofie out of being Elmo for the third year in a row. She actually saw an Olivia costume that she really liked that just beat out Abby Cadabby. Luis went as Superman. Not these new, chiseled Superman actors, but like the puffy, doughy George Reeves Superman. Bianca was dressed as a cute black cat with whiskers and nose painted on with the help of mommy as daddy kept Bianca from swatting the brush away.
|Forget the chocolate lady, I will take the zinfandel.|
The only really stressful part of the Halloween experience comes from Bianca and her drive to be where we aren’t. I used to joke with my wife that it was like a Forrest Gump Syndrome. She gets in her head that she is going to run… and that is precisely what she is going to do. She stops when she decides it is time to stop. We were at my brother-in-laws house once and they live in the middle of nowhere. Bianca decided she was going to run so instead of stopping and re-directing her, I let her go and followed. She ran… and ran… and ran. Luckily for me she has little legs. She never looked back. Not one glance over her shoulder to make sure that mom or dad was there to keep her safe.
It is scary. So scary.
We live in constant fear that Bianca will “elope” as I discovered is the politically correct way of describing it. Trick or Treating presents many moment for Bianca to try and make a break for it. I read and see all the news stories that somebody’s child on the spectrum ran away, escaped, was found blocks away and I know how easy that could happen. We recently just signed up for a program to get Bianca a GPS bracelet just in case a situation was to come up. It should provide us a little bit of comfort… if she will leave it on.
So, after getting the kids suited up. We grabbed the wagon and headed out. At first we had to instruct Bianca that she could only take one piece of candy from the people offering to let her pick her own. If she could have her way, she would hit them up for every piece of chocolate she could grab. But little by little, it happened. She got it. She followed Olivia the pig from house to house and held out her Jack-o-Lantern bucket and got rewarded. I started to wonder if Halloween might not be one big ABA therapy session for Bianca. She walked on her own. Very little physical reinforcement needed. She looked like every other normal kid dressed in a black cat costume with whiskers painted on their face.
Then Bianca started to emerge a little more. She started to talk. Walking up to one giant tub of candy, she looked in and her eyes got WIDE with excitement and she said clearly, “Chocolate”. I know it reads the same, but she actually said it in Spanish, “Cho-co-LAH-tay”. At one point as we walked past a particularly scary house she said, “Oooo. Spooky”. She was even getting out “Trick or treat” but just not when she would walk up to a door or person.
Things were going so well, that we extended the planned Trick or Treat route. As a group of kids all decked out in various outfits approached us, I heard Bianca utter, “Costumes”. There was some echolalia going on too, but at least it was appropriate for the circumstances. Of course it was Dora… from the Halloween episode. A song that goes:
“Halloween, Halloween, trick or treat!
Our costumes can’t be beat!”
Sure there were a couple of moments when the eloping kicked in, one scary time when she ran across the street, but if you would have told me a year ago that Bianca would be able to walk around our neighborhood without her teddy bear backpack/leash on, and wouldn’t run away every couple of seconds… I would have thought you were overly optimistic.
I am beyond proud. A ritual that most families can take for granted, we are celebrating like we won the lottery. I know Bianca has a long way to go. I know we have a lot more to do to pull her out of the isolation that is autism. But I also know that we will be there every step of the way, doing all we can, and encouraging and celebrating her victories.
I know that catchphrase is “Trick OR Treat”, but for us, Halloween 2011 provided our family with a “Trick AND Treat”.