Communications of Various Kinds
Friday morning Jim and I were to meet at 8am with the director of the big autism center. As we were running late, Jim dropped me off first at the center and took Charlie to school. While I waited with the director, the principal, and Charlie's case manager, I was able to take photographs of his new classroom, of the cafeteria and art and music rooms, of main corridors, of the entranceway. I also met Charlie's new teacher.
Jim came after about 15 minutes. We'll be able to bring Charlie to visit once or twice before he starts at the center on the 16th of November. While we had (until the past week) received daily emails from Charlie's teacher (no emails for a couple of days….), teachers at the big autism center only write home once a week; a daily checklist sort of sheet is sent home. We asked if the teacher might write three times a week about Charlie for a couple of months; got a no; asked if she might write home twice a week for the first month: Ok.
The conversation returned (as it tends to in discussing Charlie in educational settings) again and again to "behaviors" and Jim and I emphasized, emphasized, emphasized:
- Charlie only wears the helmet at the public school middle school that he currently attends, and that the helmet is left there.
- We can never outrule that the helmet itself might be causing behavior problems in Charlie—just imagine if you had to wear it. (Jim and I made that point a couple of times.)
- As Charlie does not wear the helmet at home, it's imperative to work on fading it out at school.
Jim and I also talked about the effects—including the potentially psychological ones— of restraints on Charlie. When the director asked how we handle "behaviors," we noted how, especially since this summer, we've learned to be much more attuned to Charlie's communication of his emotional states so that we pre-empty many "behaviors" before they turn into "really big ones." I said that I'd write up a (semi-)detailed sheet (I do, um, have a lot of records and writing about Charlie…….) about Charlie's communication, about how he communicates (verbally and non-verbally) that a neurological storm is on a-coming, about his extreme sensitivity to others' emotional states. We talked about Charlie's preference to use words to communicate, but his tendency to use words to mean more than one thing, and to mean things other than might be obvious.
For instance. Friday night Jim and Charlie picked me up around 6pm at my job in Jersey City. We thought we'd go to a certain diner, but Charlie said an adamant "no" in the parking lot. We drove towards home, with him saying over and over "I want eat, I want to eat." We proffered various choices, all of which Charlie turned down. Jim and I told Charlie that we were getting a pizza (it's been a long week). "No pizza pie," said Charlie. We suggested an old, old favorite, guacamole and Mexican food. "Yes, guacamole," said Charlie. And then, "no guacamole. No." We stopped at home and I put away my computer and two bags of books, and went to get the pizza.
It wasn't ready yet, as I informed Jim and Charlie, who had walked down the street to use the ATM at a nearby bank. "Let's go to Qdoba and just show Charlie the green stuff and see if he wants it maybe," I suggested. There was a time that we used to be regulars there; Charlie, still gluten-free, liked his "naked" burrito and a side of guacamole. Tonight the place was crawling, outside and in, with younger teenagers and families with little kids. We directed Charlie to stand in line and he watched intently as a vegetarian burrito (hold the cheese and sour cream, lots of guacamole) was made for him. "I want," said Charlie, eyeing a basket of brownies: One of the workers smiled and held up the basket for him, and he took one, and carried it tightly in his left hand all the way back to the car. Jim got the pizza, and we headed home, where I think Charlie polished off his burrito before I'd even gotten my first piece of pizza.
A little indirection; a little silence; a little letting be and seeing what results
Not all communication (certainly not all of Charlie's) comes in words.