Likes Music, Likes Water (#520)

“He sat on the edge of his seat and kept smiling.”
So my dad reported, as I thought would be the case about the Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City Music Hall: Charlie likes sounds and music, likes movement and bustling activity (and I would think that the rhythmic, repetitive, synchronized movements of the Rockettes quite caught his fancy). The only time Charlie got antsy was when Santa appeared and……..talked.

Music appears as frequently on the list of “things autistic kids like” as water. It has just been in the past few months that Charlie has been able to sit through a movie in a theater. I had thought Charlie would like the Christmas Spectacular most for the sounds of its music (though I am always ready to stand corrected) after seeing his response when we took him to a short concert at the college where I teach—Charlie stood up straight and beamed when one student sang “On the Steps of the Palace.” I have also noted a notable difference in Charlie at movies. He can sit rapt, eyes staring at the silver screen if there is music playing (and if there is the kind of roller-coaster like action sequence that every kids’ movie seems to have, like a ride in the rapids of the sewer in Flushed Away).

But when those characters start to exchange too many words—well, animals are not supposed to talk anyways, they make interesting sounds, not words!

Charlie can talk as the result of hours, hours, and hours of speech therapy and ABA. When Charlie was a non-verbal two-year-old, I thought that him “never” being able to talk would be “devastating”; a few years later, we realized that Charlie’s wanting to communicate, irregardless of whether he used speech for this, was what mattered the most. Perhaps it has something to do with Charlie’s rising interest in making music by playing the piano, but, more and more, I have become attentive to his non-verbal communication. In particular, I have become aware of how the flute-toned, wordless, melodic exchanges of sound that pass back and forth between Charlie and me and (it has just been occurring to me) constitute a sort of conversation.

“Yaa-daa.” “Eh, ahh nah?”

English is my native language but I did grow up with a grandmother, my father’s mother Ngin-Ngin (just turned 101 years old), who only spoke Cantonese. Chinese is a tonal language—how you inflect your voice, whether you let it rise like a question or ring level as a bell or swoop down and up and more, plays a part in determining what word is being said. I only learned Chinese (and not Cantonese so I could actually speak to Ngin-Ngin, but Mandarin) in college but the glides and dips my teachers demonstrated for us brought me right back to the language-music I had grown up hearing when we went over to Ngin-Ngin’s house with its familiar smells of cooking oil, dried mushrooms, chicken broth, anise. And sometimes I think, a childhood spent “tuning in” to a completely different language taught me to be used to “listening different,” and so enabled me to help understand the language, non-verbal and otherwise, that Charlie uses.

“Ahh-ah! Uh ahhh-ah!” “Ah-aaaahhhh.”

My parents met Charlie on the bus (early dismissal, in anticipation of “the big day”), and the three of them took the train into New York, and then the subway up to Rockefeller Center. “Lots of kids,” my dad noted. “He looked very good in those new pants,” my mother added. “Nice and tall.” (Charlie is as tall as my mother.) After the show, my parents took Charlie up to what is becoming his favorite New York City food emporium—the Whole Foods Store at the Time Warner Center (I guess I am raising a gourmet eater)—-for (surprise!) sushi. “And edamame, they had soybeans in the salad bar with seaweed,” said my dad as memories of Ngin-Ngin’s seaweed soup flashed into my mind, as well as the thought, like grandfather, like grandson, loves to eat!

“Mahm. Mahm,” called Charlie from the shower where he had been for a good half-hour…..

Likes water, likes music; likes the sounds of the water, and the feel of its music.

Warmest wishes to all of our Autismland friends and family on Thanksgiving…… I am ever thankful to know you, and to be Charlie’s mother.

4 Responses to “Likes Music, Likes Water (#520)”
  1. It’s nice to know another child who can stand in the shower for a very long time just feeling and listening to the water. Patrick loves it! He always seems calmer when he’s done too. Happy Thanksgiving! (I’m in Canada but I’m getting better at wishing my American friends Happy Thanksgiving.)

  2. Julia says:

    Ooogh, I hope the sushi at the Whole Foods there is better than the sushi at the Whole Foods store in downtown Austin! (Many sushi eaters characterize that stuff as “scary” and prefer the sushi at Central Market.)

    Sam likes the shower, too. All our kids like baths and showers. The biggest problem is trying to bathe two of them together under the shower, one will usually bogart the spray. 🙂

  3. Thanks for the good wishes…….. showers make Charlei more hyper than ever at first, and then he calms down……. for awhile, he was taking too very long showers. Sushi at the Time Warner building is good stuff—–Charlie could eat packs if allowed.

  4. Shawn says:


    Thanks for sharing an upbeat story. I sure needed it after everything else I’ve read in the last hour.

    As I read, I smiled as I thought back to our trip to the Radio City Christmas show last year with the boys. And our trip to the movies last weekend. And playing the piano yesterday.

    I needed that. Happy Thanksgiving to you, Jim, and Charlie!

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?

%d bloggers like this: