Ethan has fallen in love with the Gruffalo series. It is safe to say that our house at times, has been taken over by the Gruffalo & the big bad mouse. From reading the books, to watching the dvds, making our very own Gruffalo teddy bear & pom pom figures & even taking a walk through a real life Gruffalo trail. You name it we have done it.
When I saw that the Gruffalo’s child was being shown at our local theatre, I was quick off the mark to make sure we had tickets. If ever a new experience arises; that ethan has never done before. I try to make sure that we put our names down for whatever it may be.
Activites such as going to the cinema or to the theatre; can be a no go for families who have children with autism or other additonal needs. There is such a huge level of planning ahead required, running through what will happen in those places, how the child will be getting there etc.That, by the time you get to said place, the child might be too overwhelmed with the environment in question to stay and enjoy the latest movie showing.
The day arrived for us to go & see ethan’s first theatre show, it is always interesting to see what ethan’s reaction will be. We prepared him for 2 days, telling him what we were going to see, where the show would be held & who we would see once at the place. It helps Ethan cope a bit better when he knows what will be happening, ahead of time.
We got to the theatre, there were alot of excited children captivated by the thought of what they were about to see. Not to mention there was a cloud of the Gruffalo child’s picture on sticks; we got Ethan a stick that he immediately fell in love with & held proudly.
Stepping into the main theatre room, I looked around aimlessly for our seats. I realised that the tickets I had ordered were located one row from the front. One part of me was really pleased with the fact that we were up close & personal with the characters, the other part of me thought “how will Ethan deal with the proximity of our chairs to the stage?”
By this point, I had ethan in my arms, he was unsure about the lighting in the room, the amount of people & the level of noise being given off. Depending on where ethan is in our house for example, he usually has to have every light on, before he can walk around confidently. The sound of people chatting & laughing is something that we can filter out for the most part; but for ethan it can often be unbearable for him as he struggles to process sounds like you & I.
After finding our seats, we tried to put ethan in the middle seat to stop him from wondering off mid play. However he refused to leave my lap, clinging onto me for dear life. Hands over his ears, sat on my lap, he repeated the words “don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me” over and over again. He felt safe & comforted most in this position.
Sure others saw ethan, his body language, his size (he’s very tall for his age) & wondered why he was acting in this way. I didn’t care, my main thought was whether Ethan would be able to enjoy the story that he had come to love, or whether he would have a complete meltdown before it even began. We waited for the show to begin, families were finding their seats around us, taking photos & chatting about the show. Ethan refused to look at a phone from beginning to end.
I hugged ethan tightly, rubbing his hand to calm him & told him about the book to familiarise him with what he was about to see. The lights dimmed, everyone fell silent. Ethan spent the first 5 minutes with his hands over his face. No amount of coersion was going to make him take his hands away; I was just happy that he was still sat down, if it meant he had to watch the whole play through his fingers, so be it.
As the play went on, he slowly but surely let his hands down. He began to become engrossed in the characters, story telling and singing & dancing. He wasn’t so keen for myself or his daddy to sing along with the story or get him involved. It was very much on his own terms or not at all.
As his mum, I was so happy & elated that he was enjoying the new experience. He adapted so well to the environment, from being completely overwhelmed to clapping along, laughing his little socks off & generally interacting with the characters. It was such a heartwrenching thing to experience with him, I couldn’t help but smile proudly, with a little happy tear in my eye, to see him so happy & enjoying something that he relates to in such a huge way.
Ethan seems to adjust really well to new situations, so that will continue to drive me to, put him outside of his comfort zone. Small baby steps, nothing too extreme, but things that I know he will enjoy & love. Sky diving is a few years away yet!!