We had to teach Charlie to open presents. When he was five, teacher wrapped his favorite toy radio in wrapping paper and had him pull off the paper: Voilà! Present!
Charlie’s aunt, uncle, and cousin came over for dinner tonight to celebrate Christmas; they noted how slowly he unwrapped his presents, comparing Charlie’s methodical removal of each piece of tape to another cousin’s rapid dewrapping of his gifts.
Charlie marches to his own drumbeat.
Especially in these holiday season times when all is out of order—extra noise from the other students, singing of too many Christmas carols, assemblies, and too many cellophane-wrapped platters floating around the halls.
So when Charlie and I came home from a vigorous walk and found guests in the living room, he walked backwards down the steps and stood in the driveway. Minutes passed and I called him in, went out, cajoled, and explained to his grandparents why I did not want to shut the door despite the cold: I needed to be able to see Charlie in the front yard. After twenty minutes, I told Charlie he could stay outside until Jim came home. When, a half-hour later, we each took Charlie by the hand, he did a partial back arch, then ran to the couch and cried. He took his seat between Jim and me at the dinner table after several minutes, poked at the salmon his aunt had brought, and ate three slices of watermelon. He ran downstairs to our room and came up when I noted that I had “brownie cake” for him for dessert—-Charlie ate that, showered and donned his pajamas, ran back up and ate “chocklatt”—soy chocolate pudding—before his slow opening of his presents.
Stranger danger, Charlie-style? Charlie’s aunt and uncle have a dog who they used always to bring; last time they visited with her, Charlie had positioned himself in front of the house to make sure that the dog was in the car, and stayed there. I think he may have been on the lookout for the dog tonight but she had not come.
And by the time everyone was gathering their coats and gifts, Charlie was in fine spirits as he ran humming from room to room. “Bye! Bye bye!” His face beamed with his best smile (and if you go here and keep refreshing your web browser, you can see that very smile).
Why not take your time in opening presents, to savor the moments of anticipation, the “I wonder what it could be” feeling? It takes extra time for Charlie to process language and stimuli both auditory and visual—-why not the same for processing people, with their jumble of different voices, body language, clothes, mannerisms, even smells?
Wrapping paper off, Charlie was soon holding a Japanese animé figure in one hand, a small basketball in the other, and the latter was tucked into bed with him along with his great green squishy ball as he fell asleep.