As has become a multiple-times-a-week habit, I had a great evening chat with my best friend who I shall name Mama Squirrel. She has two little boys: Acorn1 and Acorn2. Both are adorable, affectionate, far to smart for their own good, creative, and typical boys. Mama Squirrel also has two greyhounds she has rescued. Their names are Dynaflo and Lady. Dyna is getting up in age and Lady is a feisty young-un. Mama Squirrel’s house is almost always full of activity of some sort whether it is Acorn-driven or Dog-driven. Halloween night was no different.
Mama Squirrel dressed up as a spider. Grandmama Squirrel (Mama’s Mama) dressed as a cow. Mama Squirrel gleefully informed me, “This is the one night of the year I get to run around saying, ‘My mom’s a cow!!!’ and not get in trouble for it. Although there is no carte blanche, I assure you. I tried calling her a cow the next day and it wasn’t pretty!” Unfortunately, Mama Squirrel did not tell me what Acorn1 and Acorn2 were dressed as. But nonetheless, the two Acorns had a great time and Mama Squirrel came home one tired spider. Why, you ask? Well both Acorns are under age 6 and Acorn1 has recently been diagnosed with mild Aspberger’s Syndrome. (For those of you who don’t know what that is, you can go here to read about it.) Acorn1, while exceptionally bright, needs to be instructed on social cues. Thus a typical stop at a house went something like this:
MS: Acorn1, ring the bell once honey, not a million times. They’ll come.
Acorn1 holds out bag.
MS: Say “Trick or Treat.”
Acorn1 doesn’t want to.
MS: How about singing, “Trick or Treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat!”
A1: Okay. I like that!
They walk on to the next house.
MS: Remember to say thank you. No, no don’t stand on the doorstep, wait on the porch.
A1: Why? Rings bell. Trick or Treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat! Thank you.
MS: sighing and thinking How many more houses to go? C’mon A1, let’s go to the next house. Look both ways before you cross the street.
A1: Rings bell 4 times.
MS: Acorn1, ring the bell once, not a million times. They’ll come.
A1: Trick or Treat. Give me …! Oh wait, I got it wrong! I gotta start again! Trick or Treat. Smell my feet. Give me something good to eat!
MS: You forgot to say Thank you. Don’t forget next time. On to next house. Look both ways before you cross the street.
At the next house.
A1: Rings bell once. Holds out bag. I don’t like that candy!
MS: Acorn1! You don’t say that. You accept what you’re given.
A1: But I don’t like it!
MS: I don’t care. It’s impolite. You can give it to Acorn2 or Papa Squirrel. And you forgot to say thank you.
A1: Oh! Frowny face, near tears. But I like to give candy to Papa! Smiley face.
MS: Look both ways before you cross the street.
At the house.
A1: Rings bell once. Holds out bag Trick or Treat! Thank you. I like your house! It’s decorated so nicely. And your flowers are pretty. What are they? Are you having fun? I am. What’s your name? My name is Acorn1. You have a nice pumpkin.
MS: Acorn1 let’s go.
A1: Nooooo!!! I want to say thank you somemore!
MS: You can say thank you at the next house! sigh
And so it went for at least another hour. Mama Squirrel, Grandmama Squirrel, and the two little Acorns came home tired, not only from all the knocking but from carrying their heavy bags of goodies. They made a good haul!
Children with Aspberger’s, a mild form of autism, need careful and patient explanations and instructions for things that we don’t even think about, like the rules of Halloween’s Trick or Treating. How many times did we think a child rude for not saying “Thank You” or “Trick or Treat?” Perhaps they just didn’t know how. Not because they weren’t taught, but because of a learning problem. How many times have we sat near or walked past a child who was doing something we consider they ought to have known better to not do or encountered a child who did/said something we consider socially incorrect and think, “Gee the parent sure doesn’t know how to control their kid.” or “That child hasn’t learned any manners.” Perhaps we ought to pause before allowing the thought to take shape and consider the child may have a mild learning issue that we can’t see.
I know that as I watch Mama Squirrel deal with her little Acorns, she exhibits grace and patience that I surely would never have had. I also know that I love to visit their house. Ya know why? Because whenever I walk in the door I am greeted by hugs and kisses from both little Acorns and am dragged by the hand to a chair, made to sit, and where they wrap their little arms around me and regale me with the events of their respective days. Those are some of the best Treats anyone could get!