Tuesday, October 30, 2012
Halloween with Special Needs
Halloween 2004, Elizabeth had just turned three years old, Chris was deployed and we didn't know it, but she had Pervasive Developmental Disorder - Not Otherwise Specifice, an Autism Spectrum Disorder. All I knew at this point was that she was our little Monkey, with lots of smiles, but also with lots of tantrums, head banging, and frustration on all of our parts.
So before Halloween I spent a month trying to teach her how to say, "Trick or treat." We worked, and worked and worked, but by Halloween, nothing was happening. So we dressed up and I told her to use her manners. Manners have always been really important to my family, so even as an infant I was showing the girls to use please and thank you. I never expected that it would save our hearts and butts this Halloween.
My mom followed us in our car and we began our walks. The first few houses I was worried. The bigger kids were practically mowing her over, she was three but the size of an 18 month old. So we kept plugging away. At first, I would say trick or treat for her, but then she realized she was supposed to say something, so she said the only thing she could say clearly in this situation. "Pwease!" Something shifted, people loved her Pwease and Pwetty Pwease and some watched in horror as the older kids shoved her down or out of the way. . . Empathy hit their hearts and the good candy came out. I became less anxious, somehow they understood she couldn't say what the other kids were saying. They smiled, they gave her more candy than the others and smiled when she said "Fank you."
That year Elizabeth made out like a bandit. I think it took, Mom and I a couple of months before we realized, we just had to throw it out already because she got more candy than even the three of us could eat or should eat. She loved going out and by the next year Sarah lived with us and she was able to watch and learn and her speech was improving and we didn't know it, but Halloween 2005 was our last year to trick or treat without knowing what was going on with Lizzie.
This year there will be many children coming to your door. Some of them will speak, some of them won't know what to say, try to remember - each child has a different story going on behind the scary or adorable costume they have on. Maybe all you will here is a please or a thank you, try to ask yourself, "If I had a child with limited or no speech what would happen?" You would be anxious, worried, and probably frustrated.
Now we do a little trick or treating, not a lot, but when we go, we go over the rules. I thought I would share them with you so if you see some of it, you might understand better.
Our Halloween Rules:
1. No knocking on doors with the lights out. They are not participating and it's rude to not respect their decision.
2. One piece of candy (sometimes Mommy had to help them) unless they tell you to take more.
3. You don't ask for more candy, there are a lot of other children who would like some candy too.
4. Use your please and thank you.
5. Look people in the eye when saying please and thank you. It's important and polite.
6. Watch out for smaller children, and be helpful if someone falls. You would want someone to help you if you fell down.
7. Stay close to Mommy or Daddy, it's important to stay safe from strangers.
I hope you all have a happy and safe Halloween. We are staying inside this year, because I lost my voice, but don't worry I'll be buying candy for the girls.
Have a good week.