"This way." "That way, that way." "Go straight!" "Right, yes, right." These are just some of the directions Charlie has been giving us as we drive the white car around. His sense of direction is impeccable, or so it seems. When a couple of blocks before there's an intersection Charie points ahead and says "I want, I want," we know Charlie knows where he wants to go, and where he wants us to go.
That wasn't my first thought on hearing those "I want"'s from the back seat of the car. I figured that Charlie "wanted" something and, in particular, something to eat. Food is the main item he tells us he'd like, along with some toys, CDs, DVDs. But the "I want"'s in the car have been of a different sort, precisely as Charlie isn't requesting some concrete, tangible thing. He's asking for something far more imprecise and abstract, that we go in a certain direction, "left," "right," "straight."
I've been finding these "in the car I want"'s indicative of something new in Charlie's use of language, in that he's asking not for stuff, but for something that's more, how to put it, abstract? that's an idea, a concept. Of course, Charlie's not asking for hypotheticals, but for something that he can see (going in a certain direction). But asking for "go straight" and "turn right" isn't the same as asking for crackers or a video. The result isn't something you can hold in your hand and eat or play with. Charlie's learning to ask for other things, for something other than things.
Most of Charlie's words are, indeed, for things. His vocabulary consists primarily of nouns. This could in part be due to those being the words teachers and therapists have tended to teach him; this could also be due to it being the fact that such words are most readily learnt by Charlie. Certainly I remember how Charlie was able to label and point out a number of flashcards of objects. When it came down to learn verbs or "action words," he struggled, whether we used flashcards with photos or whether we had him perform whatever action was on the list. "Want" is one of the few verbs that he uses, though as much of what he says is requests or "mands," the notion of "wanting" is often implied in his speech.
For instance. My parents flew back to California early Saturday morning. Friday night, Charlie stood beside my dad and told him "hug," as he wanted to give my dad a hug (and Charlie then did so, giving my dad one of his "armless" hug-touches).
Afterwards Charlie looked at my dad and said "We love you. We love you." And then, some minutes later, Charlie looked vexed and told me "no we love you. no we love you." I'd say he was processing through feelings of good-byes and missing people, and of the puzzling notions of "see you next time" and "see you real soon." And a part of him was feeling, this is too complicated, I'd rather not deal!.
But Charlie did and, after my parents drove off in their rental car, Saturday was very pleasant. A strong wind blew out the clouds and left a beautiful blue sky and much sunshine and, later, a full moon. Charlie and Jim did a vigorous bike ride and then, at intervals throughout the rest of the day, three equally vigorous walks, with Charlie running strongly for much of them.
I'm just relishing that Charlie not only knows where he wants to go, but is able also to show us the way and to let us know all about it.