This was the first year that I can whole heartedly say that Johnny REALLY enjoyed Halloween. He had a big smile plastered on his face and he didn’t seem full of anxiety like he usually does when it comes to trick or treating. When he got off the school bus on Halloween he practically tackled me with his hug when I asked him if he had a fun day at his 2 schools.
I asked him if he liked seeing his friends dressed in costumes too and he said “yes” and lots more kisses. I tried to see if he could tell me what the other boys and girls in his class were wearing and I started saying names to prompt him. I could tell he wanted to tell me more but he couldn’t find the words. When I mentioned Elise’s name his eyes lit up and he said “she’s a Princess.” Did you like her Princess costume and did it look like your sister’s? Johnny gives me another big hug and another big smile and says, “no…its red.”
What was different besides being super happy?
Johnny picked out his own costume this year. I asked him last year but he really couldn’t tell me (lack of words) so I showed him some suggestions and he pointed to a fireman’s costume. I am not sure if he completely liked the idea of dressing up or was just beginning to warm up to the idea of “pretend play” when he was 4. This year when I asked Johnny about Halloween and what he wanted to dress up as he said “Superman.” He checked out the costumes but didn’t see one he liked. I asked him to think of who else and he said, “I want to be cowboy.” Where did that come from? We don’t watch any children’s programs or movies with cowboys in them or read western books. Over a few days we kept checking back with him and very fervently he said “I wanna be a cowboy.” We went to a costume / party store and there was a large hat area with all different kinds of cowboy hats and somehow he found the only black cowboy hat on the whole shelving unit and put it on his head and said with a big smile, “Johnny’s a cowboy…cowboy hat.” To say that Mommy was stunned is an understatement but I think that was the deal breaker and it was time to get our cowboy the rest of his outfit.
When I dressed Johnny for school and I helped transform into a cowboy, he was so excited and would jump around, flap his hands, and then hold my face between his hands and shower my cheeks with kisses.
There was a Halloween dance at school (dance-a-thon) and Johnny’s SK teacher was very proud and happy that Johnny had a great time despite the loud music that was playing and the excited children all around. He was smiling the whole time and dancing with the his classmates and his EA until after awhile he needed to have a break and leave because it became too much for him. When you get such good news like this when you have a child with Autism and find out that your child enjoyed stretches of time where he could just be a kid having fun with friends you are left utterly speechless because of the surprising news.
When it was time to go trick or treating, the rain that was promised was only teasing us with a drizzle. Would the prospect of rain stop our little guy from having fun or cut the evening short like it would for so many other children and their parents as the rain increased? Ha….Johnny could not have been happier because the sensory experience of walking in the rain, holding his hand up to catch the rain on his fingers and tasting it seemed to make any anxiety literally disappear. Johnny always looks serious before he starts an activity but last year the anxiety on his face that you see in pictures when he was trick or treating was not there at all on this night. He was laughing with his sister, smiling and excitedly wanting to scamper up a path to to go get candy. So many times over and over we would hear “Trick or treat” and “Thank you” being said without prompting. Last year Johnny could not say any of these words and would just open his bag and smile at the person on the front stoop. This year Halloween felt so easy and natural except for Mommy and Daddy trying to balance umbrellas, goody bags, and helping our children get up and down wet porches.
Over and over again I’d watch excited children run up paths and quickly say the magic phrase and get their candy and run to the next house. It is no wonder then that Johnny would get extra candy because he would stop and really look at the home owner’s carved pumpkins and with a big smile comment on them. He was really interested in how every Jack O Lantern he came across was very different.
Its moments like this when you think that this is where Autism literally shows you how to stop and smell the roses and focus on what is different and special. This is when Johnny yet again teaches me how to really live in the moment.