Trying to see a speeding bullet (#398)

The saga of the flying food continues. Charlie threw his breakfast as he stood on the porch waiting for the bus; he was directed to pick it up and it disappeared into the garbage. At the pool, Charlie ran to get French fries at the snack bar, glared at me when I reached to hold the paper tray, and sent everything flying into a puddle of chlorinated water. He cried louder (plenty of sunbathers gave us interesting looks) and, while I held his hand, picked everything up and put it in the garbage. Then he sat, mournful and shaking, in a chair until the whistle blew to signal that Adult Swim was over.
Chollyinchurch
“Jump,” said Charlie.

“Off the diving board?” I asked.

“Yes.” And he was off and all smiles in, and under, the blue water.

Despite the pre-bus food-throw, Charlie had yet another great day at school; he has started to work with a new instructor (his teacher has been careful to introduce new routines and instructors into his day), a young man. He sat patiently during our biweekly meeting with his home ABA team—-there was too much to talk about, from Charlie’s increasing speech to our upcoming two-week vacation (= fourteen days without the structure of school or ABA)—-and then during a special Mass for children with disabilities. At first he curled up against Jim, then sat quietly, only requesting that we pull down the kneeler. When Charlie did speak up during the second part of the service, it was to say “Grandpa!” with a smile. I wrote “Grandpa” on the bulletin and pointed to it; Charlie pointed and grinned pleasedly, and later (at my request) ran to show Grandpa “what he did in church” after we got home.

It was a roster of new or at least different things, except for two rounds of food-throwing—-and, I have been asking myself, now why have I kept on giving Charlie things to eat that he simply throws away?

Because he requests them, yes; but then, Charlie is a boy with a very limited (and ever-growing) vocabulary, so that he often uses one word (“white rice”) to do the service of six words, or even sixteen, of forty-six.

Because Charlie has a hard time waking up in the morning and has had a history of tantrumming en route to boarding the bus; because once, two years ago, when I did not get Charlie French fries at the pool, he erupted into such a huge tantrum on the way home that I had to pull over and get him calmed down.

In watching Charlie struggle to learn to read, to talk, and so much more over the years, I have often thought that his progress happens at a more than gradual pace: For every seven steps he move forward, some undertow pulls him back eight. But in the past two days I have been learning that my “progress” is often at the same pace, if not at an ever slower rate than Charlie’s—say, seventeen steps forward, and twenty-seven back when I get more hung up on Charlie’s habits than he does—so that, when it is time for a change, he is quite ready to move on while Jim and I are still standing in a place Charlie has long said good-bye to.

We are the ones with a delay—a tardiness–in our understanding, and our thinking.

Better reset every clock in the house so I can catch up to Charlie, whose changing–growth–learning have been happening fast as a speeding bullet. And I am only catching sight of it.

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Comments
9 Responses to “Trying to see a speeding bullet (#398)”
  1. Estee says:

    Yes, isn’t it so? We work, we worry, we try to problem solve and our kids just keep moving on.

  2. Tara says:

    Littleman has enjoyed bursts of progress and skill aquisition also-
    but this often comes after some rough waters have been crossed with tantrums.
    Growing up, with or without autism is not easy and I have to remind myself that developmental milestones , by their very nature are often difficult passages.
    I am so glad Charlie is enjoying such new growth!

  3. Ennis says:

    Is he eating enough? Or is he eating less b/c he’s throwing away his food?

    It’s not your fault any more than it is Charlies. You can’t figure it out quickly because he can’t tell you, but you’ll find a solution sooner or later. It sounds like it’s just part of the process.

    Have you tried serving him something different to see what happens?

  4. When my kids were little, if they did anything with food that they weren’t supposed to do, I wouldn’t give them that particular food for a long time.

    If they asked for it, I would just tell them, “We don’t buy Cheetos any more,” and if they asked why, I would say, “Because I don’t like food fights with Cheetos in the back seat of my car.”

    Does Charlie have enough understanding of language and cause/effect so that if you didn’t buy french fries at the pool for a while, he would know that it was because of his food throwing?

  5. I think Charlie knows full well he is not supposed to throw food (or anything, for that matter). He almost seems to be doing the throwing automatically when he has the fries. I’m not too worried about his eating; I have used the situation to try some new foods—salad, for one thing, with the hot weather especially.

    He hasn’t thrown anything at school.

  6. Rebecca says:

    When I first met my stepson, Chris, he was 10 years old and eating with him in public was a very uncomfortable experience. Since he loved to eat in restaurants, I used eating out to help introduce him to more “socially acceptable” behavior…of course, I had the luxury of not experiencing the previous 10 years of agonizing therapies and was nearly completely ignorant of autism, so I bravely set out where I should have probably been scared to death. Call it beginners luck, but eating out is now pleasurable for the entire family‚Ķso there is hope. We would often talk about how to behave in a restaurant – how to stay seated and say please and thank-you. We would play out the event before we went and would refer back to the discussion to praise his efforts. Withholding a restaurant experience was a real punishment so Chris was willing to make the effort rather than eat pancakes at home. There is still one restaurant which always turns disastrous even though he is now 12, so we just avoid it altogether.

  7. Ennis says:

    How complex people are, even young ones like Charlie. On the one hand, he has a difficulty with impulse control – he doesn’t mean to throw the food, but he does. On the other, he only does it at home. It must be a real puzzle for you to figure out how best to do what Charlie needs!

  8. Puzzle-solving I’m glad to do—-always worth it with Charlie!

    Rebecca, great to “meet” you! We used to take a younger Charlie out to lots of restaurants and not just fast food ones (he loved a certain Spanish place and also Vietnamese and any Asian food). I guess we are going to be doing take-out or “Mom cooks” for awhile—-it’s really encouraging to hear about your step-son. Sometimes Charlie’s struggles are preludes to long-term learning and changes and I’m not sure where this food-throwing is going to lead, but onward.

  9. Rebecca says:

    Thank-you, Kristina. It is nice to “meet” you, too! You are so fortunate that Charlie is willing to try so many different foods (and good for Charlie, too!) When I first met Chris his diet pretty much consisted of french fries and chicken nuggets. We still struggle to get him to eat new foods, but at least he doesn’t gag every time he tries something new like he used to…augh!

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