It’s Halloween and that means it’s Dance A’ Thon time again. Since Johnny was four years old and in Junior Kindergarten, his school has had a Halloween Dance A’ Thon. School dances are loud and filled with lots of movement and for Johnny his first year he could only be in the gym for 10 minutes and that was enough. Last year his Grandparents surprised him with a visit at the dance. I was sad I didn’t get to go and see him dressed like a firetruck but his little sister had been to her nursery school Halloween party and costume walk about and she was tired from the overwhelming experience.
So this year with both Princess and Johnny at the same school I decided to not to tell them my plans and surprise them in the gym. Princess was so happy to see me and she wouldn’t let go of my hand. She was overwhelmed by everything but had new friends and was eager to introduce me to everyone. I saw Johnny trying to dance but had one hand over one of his ears. His EA came over and told me he is doing great and has come so far. She has told him that he didn’t have to stay the whole time and could have some “quiet” breaks but he keeps telling her he’s okay. I tried to say “hi” but he is overwhelmed to see me at school and doesn’t want to dance with me. I asked him to just give me a kiss and let me give him some big hugs (deep pressure in disguise to make him feel better as his body compensates). He agrees and he lets me stay, watch him try to dance, interact with friends, move around the gym, getting closer to the speakers and then moving to stand near an open door to let the cold breeze hit His EA says that he wants to be here and wants to be with his friends. I told her that his cheeks are very red and that’s a sign his body is having a hard time with the anxiety and sensory regulation. him. In the back of my mind I’m a bit worried that he might just leave the gym and escape the chaos but he doesn’t. He’s not a “runner” but there is always a first time. But I could see he is compensating in his own way which is holding one hand over a ear and trying to not let his friends grab him right now for dancing or chase games. Usually he loves touching and hugging but not when he is dis-regulated like this. I know its hard for him but he loves the music, being with everyone. I also know deep down that he is in training right now. Training “to be” at big noisy social events so he can handle it because these kind of things are part of life. The very fact that he hasn’t bolted or asked to leave is huge.
I turn and look and his 3 Autistic friends who are all very differernt on the spectrum that are all here too and they are having a good time but in their own way. His closest friend has discovered that because the music is so loud that the girls don’t notice him sneaking up on them to sniff their yummy long hair. I wrote about the sniffing here: http://wp.me/p1KVmo-1Qq He is doing that to self-regulate but the little girls are not amused. A teacher is going to try and help the little boy exchange this behaviour to touching and sniffing a Rapunzel doll’s hair. I joked to one special education that when I was the age of the little girls I was always having trouble with boys pulling my pony tails. I think I would have preferred the touching and sniffing way more by a little boy whose eyes would light up with mischief. My Mom was right, you have to see the humour in life and at this moment all the children were at a dance together while proud parents looked on or danced too. That was my treat this Halloween.