Charlie’s Choreography (#303)

Charlie stood at my elbow as I drained the hot water from a pot of rice noodles and shrimp and carefully lifted six tissue-delicate rice paper wrappers from the bowl of water in which they had been soaking. He stood on a step stool, the better to watch me spread out the wrappers on a towel and fill and roll them.
Twistwalk_1
“Spring rolls,” said Charlie.

I packed them into a Tupperware. We were going to his biweekly ABA therapist team meeting at 6.15pm, which meant Charlie would have to wait an hour to eat those six spring rolls he was prodding with a finger-tip.

In the past, if Charlie saw something he wanted to eat, he had to eat it now. Similarly, if he said he wanted something–“I needa bah’room”–he had to have it immediately (so that, him saying he needed to use the bathroom meant he was already in need of a change of clothing). Charlie was not able to anticipate his needs and only verbalized them at the moment of them happening (or after they had happened); he could not coordinate speech, thoughts, and actions simultaneously.


Charlie stood at the door, spring roll-filled Tupperware in his hands, as I got ready to go; we stopped to get him a “clear drink”–a diet Sprite–and he reached for it after settling into his seat in the black car.

“We’ll save it for the meeting,” I said.

“Say vor meetinnn,” said Charlie.

The Tupperware sat untouched in the middle of the backseat as we drove. Charlie waited until halfway through the meeting–after showing his prowess at reading comprehension (matching pictures to words) to the therapists’ happy cheering and running with a big grin around the office to poke his head in another child’s meeting–to have his soda. During one of those runs-out-the-room I noted that he has been telling me “I need bah’room,” pausing, and then going–he is learning to coordinate his words and actions, to anticipate his needs and tell us before it’s too late.

That, I can tell you this and then do this.

And that, just because I see something now, I can wait till later to have it–delayed gratification.

Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay writes of not being able to coordinate the thoughts in his mind (the blades of a fan are dangerous) and the actions of his body (his fingers touching those moving blades), of only being able to deal with one sense–such as hearing words or looking at something–at a time. Charlie has to think to synchronize speech and his body’s moments; has to work at telling himself that just when he smells a favorite food, he does not have to eat it right now

It’s a matter of timing. Of choreography.

And Charlie seems to be stepping to the beat.

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