Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Bear Goes Trick or Treating

This was the first Halloween for the Bear. We dressed her as a Hawaiian hula girl, complete with a lei (double wrapped) around her neck, another lei around her waist, a grass skirt, and a garland of flowers on her ankle. Given that this is Canada, the outdoor version also included leotards and a heavy top (both very non-Hawaiian), plus a coat to hide it all. We would have also liked to put a garland on top of her head, but it would have had the same life expectancy as any hat that is not tied down.

The Bear’s IBI program put on a Halloween event for the kids, providing loot bags, and practicing trick or treating. The Bear is GFCF, so I made the ultimate sacrifice, and afterwards replaced the treats with fruit. The Bear seemed to be quite accepting of her costume, and was very interested in the fact that everyone else was wearing one too.

Momma Bear and I talked about whether we should take her out trick or treating. We live in an area that is not exactly urban. The nearest driveway is nearly 300m away from the foot of our driveway, and that doesn’t include the distance to walk up to each house and back (often a 100m or more). Unless we wanted to drive to an urban area, any trick or treating would have to be via a car. Instead, Momma Bear thought that Halloween would be a good opportunity to introduce the Bear to the X’s.

The X’s are a couple (with older children, I believe in University) who live across the street and a couple of properties down. Mr X was in politics for many years. I won’t say any more since it will a) identify the X’s (I’d like to respect their privacy) and b) more closely identify us. We often see them riding their horses along the street and wave to them, and they say hi when they see us out and about. Mr X drops a bottle of wine off every Christmas on behalf of the local riding club. We have also been to their house for a neighbourhood gathering, plus to see the start of a one of the local hunts. But they had never met the Bear. Given that she is part of the neighbourhood (and also a potential flight risk), Momma Bear thought we should let them meet her so that they would know who she was.

So we dressed the Bear up and I drove her (with instructions to just stop by quickly, say hi, and come back) down the street and up their driveway. I walked the Bear to the door and knocked. Mrs X and the family dog came to the door, and she was surprised to see a trick or treater. Given the neighbourhood distances, we were probably the first to come by in a decade. I reminded her who we were (never taking it for granted that anyone who doesn’t see me often will remember exactly who I am), and said I just dropped by to quickly introduce my daughter to them.

Mrs X said hi to the Bear, complimented her on her costume, and seemed to immediately take to her. I mentioned at that point (since the Bear wasn’t saying anything) that she did not yet speak. This interested Mrs X. She had recently finished writing a book with a character that was ‘selectively mute’ and had done some research on this subject. I mentioned that the Bear was autistic, and she said that she had done some reading about autism too, and hinted that the character was on the spectrum.

Mrs X said that she would go and get a treat for the Bear, at which point I said that there was no need. She was on a selective diet, and I had just brought her over to introduce her, so that when they saw her they’d know who she was. Mr X was not home to meet the Bear, but Mrs X really seemed to take a shine to her. She wouldn’t take no for an answer on the treat, and asked what she could give her. After listing a few things (no, no, no...) she suggested a box of raisins, which I said would be okay. She invited us inside while she went to get them. Her voice seemed to be searching for something else, and then she asked if the Bear liked rocking horses? I said I thought so, so she said that they had one and she would pull it out.

Meanwhile, the Bear decided to go walking. Before I could grab her, she walked off into the darkened house. Crap. I’m inside the doorway in my shoes, the Bear has just walked off into their house, and Mrs X is down the hall off the kitchen trying to pull out the rocking horse. Something had to give, so I apologized and walked in. Meanwhile, the Bear had circled the front hallway and came into the kitchen from the opposite side. I came up the other side, helped Mrs X pull out a large fur and wood rocking horse, and finally everyone was in the same place, including the dog, (who also took a friendly interest in the Bear).

We put the Bear on the horse, and she seemed to enjoy it. I wish that I had a camera with me, since the opportunity to get a picture of my daughter in Hawaiian winter dress on a rocking horse does not come along that often. I mentioned that she was quite the daredevil and liked amusement rides, going on them at the local park where we had season’s passes.

Mrs X appeared to be quite interested in the Bear, and seemed to want to do more. “Does she like horses?” I’m not really sure, I answered. “Well, I have to feed and water the horses later anyway, so would she like to see the barn?” Er, okay? I said that we’d only popped by to say hi and introduce the Bear, and didn’t want to be any trouble, but Mrs X ducked the opportunity to politely shoo us off. So off we went to the barn. I carried the Bear as the path was a bit mucky, and continued to carry her though the barn and stables.

The barn was quite large, with about 20 horses (both theirs and boarders). Mrs X took us round and introduced each horse and its history, one by one, including a mother with a new colt. The Bear did not smile much, but she was clearly interested. She watched and took everything in, and was quite content to be carried around the barn. She patted a couple of the horses (hand over hand) and bopped a couple of horses that appeared too interested in tasting her lei and her grass skirt. Mrs X remarked on several occasions that she looked quite observant and also quite intelligent (which is a good way to make her Dad feel proud). Mrs X knew someone else in the neighbourhood (largely defined) who had an autistic son, and talked about him and his experiences.

We had a good chat about a lot of things, including but not limited to the Bear, got a good tour of the barn and the indoor riding area, looked (unsuccessfully) for the barn cat, and watched Mrs X give hay and water to each of the horses. Again, she seemed quite taken with the Bear, and ducked the opportunities I gave her to politely usher us on our way.

After the tour, she walked us back to our vehicle, and said that we could come by any time. I mentioned that my wife and I were not horse people (we’re probably the only ones in the neighbourhood who are not, although Momma Bear has ridden before), so that this was all new to us. Mrs X then mentioned teaching the Bear to ride, and I’m pretty sure that she actually offered to teach her. I’m not sure if I heard that correctly, and I’m not going to push the point. Mrs X did also mention that riding was probably good for autistic children. Living in horse country at least gives the Bear more of an opportunity, but on that we will have to see if she is interested.

Anyway, to make a long story short, Mrs X was the perfect host, and we really appreciated the time and the kindness that she provided. After I thanked her and drove off, I realized that we had been there for an hour and a half. All in all it was a good Halloween. The Bear had a nice experience, and made a new friend.

We need more Halloweens.

(FYI, a) the picture is in mid-swing (I'm quite impressed with the camera), b) the slant on the background is real - it is a hill behind her, and c) given Canadian weather this time of year, this is a reasonably realistic representation of what her costume looked like after coats, etc. were added)


kyra said...

what an adorable picture and what a fantastically successful halloween! i LOVE mrs. x! may we come over and go see the horsies with you and bear??????? i would SO take her up on her offer to teach bear to ride. i've been trying to find a way to get a horse under fluffy for ages. it's all so expensive and the hippotherapy wait lists around here are very loooooooooooong.

Shawn said...

Beautiful picture of the Bear!

We lucked out on Halloween and were able to go sans coats for the first time in years. SJ and MJ went as Mario and Luigi.

The riding sounds really interesting. My wife is a pediatric PT and has done some riding with one of the kids she treated. She's a big proponent of it. Coincidently a therapeutic riding center just opened up 2 klicks away. We've getting to know the people running it but haven't gone riding yet.

It sounds like you have some wonderful neighbors.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Kyra and Shawn,

Thanks for the great comments!

We’ll probably be able to go out coatless on Halloween when they officially move it to September. Until then… :-(

It was a great experience for the Bear, and we probably will try to teach her to ride when she is old enough. She is lucky enough to have the opportunity so we should take advantage of it. Having said that, I'll give Mrs X the opportunity to raise the point, or at least give her a graceful way to exit.

The Bear – while definitely knowing what she wants - is and always has been exceptionally mild mannered, cheerful, happy, etc - much more so than most kids, ASD or NT. That’s not just us saying that – those who know her well agree. We do get some tears, but we’re still waiting for our first meltdown, or indeed, ANY display of bad behaviour whatsoever. (If it weren't so visibly obvious that she were mine I'd be suspicious.) I took a behaviour course once, to be prepared, and probably learned more about me than her.

But it is asking an awful lot of Mrs X for us to accept her offer without knowing how receptive the Bear will be in the future. We may need someone more qualified to work with ASD kids. But if not, and if Mrs X is still willing, why not? Regardless, I see nothing wrong with boarding a horse there one day if they have space, or letting the Bear ride with Mrs X once she knows how. Part of riding seems to be having good company to ride with.

Yes, we have some wonderful neighbours.

Wade Rankin said...

Before we made our recent move,the Li'l Rankster was starting to do therapeutic riding, and it was way cool. You should definitely take this nice lady up on any offers.

I'm o glad the Bear had a great Halloween. I'm sure she was the cutest hula girl in Canada.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Wade,

Thanks for the input. Okay, you've all talked me into it. We'll get the Bear up on a horse. Anyway, it sounds safer than putting her on a hippo (how do they train those things anyway?). Besides, she'll be able to stay dry.

(Kidding on the 'hippo' part - my bad sense of humour got the best of me)

Kristina Chew said...

Ok, hippos is ancient Greek for the 4-legged creature.....have been wanting to get Charlie on one too. That's the best Halloween story I've heard......it was so warm here Charlie was a captain in shorts.

Ian Parker said...

Hi Kristina,

Thanks for stopping by.

Since hippopotamus is from the Greek for 'horse' and 'river', I can only assume that whoever named them was into the Ouzo that day! ;-)

It must be nice to be able to go out for Halloween in shorts. Heck, this year I'm jealous of those who could go out without gloves. I read about Charlie's Halloween, and it sounds like he had a good night.