Single dad dresses up as Spider-Man to help autistic son with his mood
A father of a boy with autism has found that he can help his son calm down by dressing up as his favourite superhero, Spider-Man.
Dale Grounds has raised eight-year-old Reece since he was just six months old. In 2016, at the age of six, Reece was diagnosed with autism and his father struggled to deal with his son's mood swings and meltdowns, leading to him opting for an unusual method of calming him down.
Whenever Reece felt stressed, Dale would don the iconic suit and help his son with his homework, play soccer in the garden with him or read a book to him.
Not only does Spidey-Dale hang out with Reece when he's stressed, he also visits sick children at the local hospital and has had dozens of requests to turn up a kids' birthday parties. Twenty-seven-year-old Dale said:
"I first started dressing up as Spider-Man as a way to calm Reece down. 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 ($33) 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.
"For a while, he didn't really grasp the fact that I was his dad and Spider-Man as well, but now he does and he thinks what I do is amazing.
"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."
Friends would ask Dale if he would attend their children's parties, leading to the father to get in touch with the local children's hospital in order to see if he could turn up at Easter and deliver some eggs. Now he goes once a week to meet the sick children.
"Some weeks I'm on the cancer ward," he explained. "Other times I'm visiting children in the burns unit; it varies all the time.
"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."
Dale has since set up his own company, 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," he said.
"The reason I started putting on the suit was for my little autistic superhero.
"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."
"With my personality and the suit I'm able to bring Spider-Man to life for Reece and other children, and them believing that a real superhero took the time to come and see them can make a real difference.
"I love doing it and will carry on for as long as I can because even as Reece gets older, what I've learned and done with him, I can do the same for other children along the way."
Good on you, Dale. You're the definition of a superhero!