As a mother of a nonverbal, special needs child, there are a number of social events that can cause a great deal of anxiety. Two of these events happened for me in one weekend.
First was Cooper’s very first primary program. He didn’t have a part to say and didn’t sing any of the songs, but I wanted him to be a part of it still. So, I took him up to the stand and sat with him the whole time, singing along to the songs myself. He did so amazing! He sat fairly still for the whole thing, and didn’t wiggle or fight with me. He giggled a lot, and mimicked the primary chorister leading along with her. Each night, for about a week, leading up to the program we practiced a song that would be sung for the program. When we sang Scripture Power we would lift our pretend set of scriptures up in the air during the chorus. In the program, they didn’t do that, but Cooper lifted his arms up in the air anyway. I cried several times before and during the program, and I prayed very hard him to do well. He made me so incredibly proud, and made me feel so silly for stressing about it so much. I was very grateful that both of his grandmas and his grandpa were able to attend and see my sweet boy!
Second was Halloween. I dread Halloween for two reasons. First being the obvious, that Cooper is nonverbal. This might not make sense right away for some people, but for those with nonverbal children you probably understand where I am coming from. When children go trick or treating they are expected to say “trick-or-treat” and “thank you” at every door, it is both good manners and tradition. Last year I worked very hard with Cooper trying to teach him to say both phrases, we were unsuccessful and at every door that Halloween the person on the other side sat there waiting for him to say something. I was afraid that people would think he was a rude child with poor manners and a bad mother when he followed his cousins to the door and left without I word. I felt as if I should follow behind with an explanation for each person.
Second is that for the last two years after we have taken Cooper to just a few houses, it is followed with a tantrum that lasts all night. I think that the whole experience is too much for him, social gatherings and such are hard for him to handle (I believe it is a sensory overload).
So, this year for Halloween I debated what I was going to do with my kids (especially since Spencer works nights now). I didn’t want Alice to miss out on any fun, but I didn’t really want to have to deal with Cooper by myself. Cooper was not the greatest mood already, so I decided that we would stay home and hand out candy at the door. Cooper watched movies pretty much the whole night, so we didn’t see much of him, and Alice loved getting the door for trick or treaters. And for once, Halloween wasn’t a terrible ordeal!
I feel very blessed and relieved that both events went as well as they did, however that doesn’t mean I look forward to them next year!