A dad has found the perfect way to help his autistic son calm down by transforming into a superhero.
Dale Grounds, from Nottingham in England, has raised his son, Reece (8), on his own since he was six months old.
When the boy was diagnosed with autism in 2015, Dale struggled to find a way to cope with his meltdowns and moods.
But the single dad came up with a clever solution – by dressing up as Reece’s favourite superhero, Spider-Man.
“I first started dressing up as Spider-Man as a way to calm Reece down,” Dale says.
“He would have really bad meltdowns which resulted in non-stop crying.
“I’d tried everything to help him but nothing seemed to work.
“Then one day I walked into the living room and he was watching Spider-Man and he was so engrossed.
“I bought this costume for £25 (R450) and decided I was going to wear it when I went to pick Reece up from school.
“When I turned up in full costume, the reaction from all the kids was crazy.
“Reece didn’t realise it was me at first, but when he clicked, he couldn’t believe it.”
Now, when Reece gets stressed and tense, Spider-dad appears and helps him with his homework or reads him a bedtime story.
"There was a time when Reece came home from school and was really upset, he was crying a lot and took himself upstairs to bed and wouldn't let me talk to him.
"When he's in meltdown mode it can be really hard to get through to him; he enters his own world and you have to say and do all the right things to help or it just gets worse.
"So I got the Spider-Man suit on and made a super appearance into the bedroom. It made him laugh but then he started crying again.
"I started doing some silly dances and asked him to join in and he found it really funny and decided to get his Stormtrooper outfit on and join me.
"Eventually I was able to persuade him to come downstairs and we switched on the Playstation and spent a good hour doing some goofy dances together. He was so much happier afterwards," he says.
Dale’s parenting method has been such a hit that he’s even started visiting sick kids at his local hospital and children’s parties dressed as the comic-book hero.
“I now go to the hospital every Thursday morning dressed as Spider-Man, visiting a different ward each week.
“Some weeks I’m on the cancer ward, other times I’m visiting children in the burns unit; it varies all the time.
“I can be doing anything from playing on the PlayStation with some kids, or just having a chat with them.
“I’ve formed bonds with some of the long-term patients and some of them really open up to me; I think the costume makes them feel more at ease.
“The parents are really supportive of what I do too; some of them even join in with my entertaining and they love it,” he says.
Dale has now turned his passion into a career and set up his own business, Spidey-Tastic entertaining children at parties and events.
“It’s been an awesome adventure so far and one that’s really starting to become incredible now.
“The reason I started putting on the suit was for my little autistic superhero.
“At first it was a superhero taking time out to play with him, then it became his dad putting on a suit to help him through tough times when he didn’t just need his dad, he needed his dad to be his hero.
“Now he’s grown older and wiser he just thinks it’s awesome when I put the suit on or go to work or have a little play with him around the house.”
Despite being able to choose flexible work hours, Dale says it hasn’t always been easy raising Reece on his own.
“It’s been tough but it’s made mine and Reece’s bond unbreakable.
“I was 19 when he was born, and have looked after him alone since he was six months old, so I missed out on all the things a normal 19-year-old would do but I never look back and want to change it.
“I love being a single parent; it made me grow up very quickly.
“Reece and I do everything together, whether I’m in costume or not, and it’s amazing.
“I love doing it and will carry on for as long as I can because even as Reece gets older, what I’ve learnt and done with him I can do the same for other children along the way.”
Source: Magazine Features