One Big Autism Family (#349)

Charlie is down to One More Day at his soon-to-be-old-school and I thought it best to keep today familiar, routine, and not over-exciting. And, his teacher wrote, Charlie had an “awesome” day and a happy ABA session with lots of talking—especially telling his therapist that he did not want to use the computer: “No compewterr. I want break! I want earn play!”.
Life has been good for Charlie since that early December day when he started at the “new school.” After struggling to learn to read for the past four years, Charlie (backed up by his home Lovaas program) can read a few sight words. He is not only talking more, but talking instead of “behavioring”: Asking for breaks, or to play, or to go on a walk, when the noise level gets too loud. We no longer have to scrupulously avoid saying “school” or “Monday” on weekends, as those words are now full of positive associations.

It has not been a matter of miracles. The reading that Charlie can do is only a few sight words. He is still confusing some of the alphabet letters (i, l, t). He can still fly into a terrifying tantrum. There is so much that Charlie needs to learn: Shoe-tying. Writing the letter v or the letter s. Asking to leave a noisy room every time the sound is too much for him.

I do know that Charlie is on his way with all of this, and it is all thanks to his teachers and the staff at his school, with the coordinated input of our home ABA consultant and therapists. This evening, as Charlie bounced across the floor on a slightly deflated hop-ball, I looked again and again at a notecard blank except for Charlie’s signture-scrawl on the bottom.

No verbal thank you can be enough. Really, no thank you can be enough.

In the fall of 2005 Jim and I were not talking “he can read ‘triangle’!” and “piano lessons.” We were talking helmet. We didn’t have always have words ourselves to talk about Charlie with.

I do not like to say that autism is “devastating” but I do have to say that I felt a bit more devastated on a daily basis last fall. It was not just that Charlie did not seem to be attaining any IEP goals. It was that, along with minimal or negative academic progress, Charlie—despite the well-meaning and constant and more than dedicated efforts of his then-teacher—was falling, and falling, and failing. And none of us seemed to be able to do anything about it.

Our old friend, ABA therapist, and speech therapist Tara had advised us that Charlie needed the kind of intense, carefully structured, carefully monitored ABA that he had flourished in when he was a 2-year-old boy with no language and no skills of any sort. Tara had become one of our family and, with her words echoing in our ears and in us after a certain day in February 2005, we began the journey of getting Charlie and his learning “back on track.”

And it does seem that Charlie’s teacher and instructors (for one more day) have become part of our family. Of our Autism Family, same as Charlie’s long-gone but long-remembered therapists Stella, Kristy, Beth, Arielah, Andrea, Lindsay, and Tara.

I printed out the photos I had taken on Wednesday morning, cut them out and put them in a special memory book. Tomorrow I will be delivering a bag of reinforcers (music, squishy balls, certain rice crackers), extra clothes, pillows, and more to Charlie’s new school. I will be assembling a “transition book” for Charlie that we will talk about over the weekend.

And Charlie’s good learning will continue and all the more because of the foundation his teachers, and Tara Stella Arielah and the whole crew (and the current, wonderful, crew) have been building.

Dear Teachers: You have made the difference in Charlie’s life. And in ours. You have taught him to love learning, to love school and all the good that learning can bring him. You have been the essential step in Charlie’s having a happy, a fulfilling, a good life packed with meaning and adventure in years to come.

We will not forget you!

We know the change in the world–in the universe–in Charlie–you have nurtured, have created, and have passed on as the gift worth more than——

More than I can say.

What riches, this growing autism family brings to Charlie, and to us.

One Response to “One Big Autism Family (#349)”
  1. Lisa says:

    I’ll be thinking of Charlie as he makes his transition. Love to you all.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

  • What’s all this about?

<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: