Halloweening

Frances has so much energy lately — even more than usual, which is quite a lot — and we’re really looking forward to going out trick-or-treating tonight.

Ordinarily, over many years, we’ve gone to a party, which was great fun, and the evening usually would end with me taking Frances door-to-door by ourselves, away from the others. (At last year’s party, we didn’t separate from others, and she did so well running alongside other kids her age.)

This year, it will be just her and myself. 

We haven’t gone around our own neighbourhood in years, and it will be a nice change. Pink Cup Dad will be staying home and handing out candy.

In anticipation last week, Frances and I actually planned our route: she drew maps, and we selected starting and end points. 

Yesterday, we happily carved the pumpkin. This is usually the province of Pink Cup Dad, but I wanted to take a turn this year. (I was going for a traditional face for my first ever jack-o-lantern.)

I think we’re ready!

Priorities

Frances made a cute list of things she wanted to do before Christmas during Christmas vacation — number five was my favourite: Capture an elf. She said she might believe in Santa if she could capture an elf.

  

The Christmas carol

It takes on new meaning in our home.

For example, while listening to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, at the “as they shouted out with glee” part, Frances asked:

“Is ‘glee’ a company that sells telephones?”

While listening to We Wish You A Merry Christmas, at the “we won’t go until we get some” part, Frances said:

“That really gets me. After about ten minutes, would you call the police?”

  
Merry Christmas!

Changes

I think people probably hear about children with autism being resistant to change, and, in our case, it’s true.

One morning this week, in order to get as much done at once before the children left for school, I decided to try to brush Frances’s hair while she ate breakfast.

She had an immediate meltdown: crying, screaming, and complaining to Pink Cup Dad that I’d interrupted her breakfast.

That was completely my fault: I hadn’t thought about the fact that brushing her hair during breakfast was something we’d never done before. 

She notices even the tiniest changes in an environment — whether it be her piano teacher’s studio, her school classroom, or home — and her reaction ranges from complete distraction to meltdown.

With Christmas approaching, I will have to put up decorations slowly, and there is a meltdown every year when I have to take them down.

When the presents are under the tree, it is just too stressful for her for there to be “objects everywhere”. 

On Christmas morning, we stagger gift opening, and we try to clean as we go along to minimize the visual stress for her. We do our best not to have guests on that day.

I think that Christmas brings just so much change for Frances — including the stress of anticipation — that, if I could, for her sake I would avoid it altogether.

She may enjoy Christmas without stress one day, but, at eight years old, Christmas (and the change that it entails) is difficult.

Halloween 

We go out with pretty much the same group of people for trick-or-treating every year. Since Frances was old enough to know what Halloween is, she has insisted that we leave the group and that only she and I go from door to door.

This actually makes sense: gross-motor wise, there is the effort of keeping apace with others; emotionally, meltdowns slow her down; socially, she always chooses to be away from others.

This year? It was a little different. She ran — even out-running the older kids — from door to door. She did her best to speak. One little boy — the one she spent the most time beside — was on the spectrum, too, and they really did well alongside each other at the party afterwards. 

The worst that happened this year was that she lost the old, dirty stuffed animal that accompanies her everywhere, and her father took a flashlight and successfully retraced our steps in order to find it.

Before our arrival at the host house, she had had such a huge meltdown that I figured that I would be spending much of my time handling meltdowns while trying to signal “let’s leave” to my husband early on in the evening. That’s what usually happens at any social event.

But not this Halloween. We got through a big social event with just a few meltdowning moments. Her anxiety (for example, as she encountered the imagined possibility of anaphylaxis while watching a guinea pig), was evident but we managed.

Halloween wasn’t as difficult as it usually is, and, for me, that is success. 

Five years ago 

In preschool, Frances didn’t speak to anyone, ever. After every class, I would approach the teachers and ask if she’d spoken, and they would always shake their heads and say, “Not today.”

She was a tiny three-year-old with long, corkscrew curls who wouldn’t acknowledge, speak to, or play beside others, and I wasn’t yet very worried as much as I was just surprised to be realizing this about my daughter. 

At any rate, she spoke freely to me using an impressive vocabulary, but to everyone else she was a silent child.

So, imagine my surprise when I was called to speak to the teacher about something that she had said in class: the one time that Frances had spoken to anyone in her class was to tell the other children that Santa Claus didn’t exist, that it was “just something written about in books”!

It was doubly shocking for me because we had always kept the Santa narrative alive in our family, yet clearly she’d developed her own opinion.

That being said, whilst still a non-believer regards the jolly elf, she is today excited about the end of Halloween and the beginning of the Christmas season.