Backseat Navigator

Crisp November day bike ride  "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" some
thing 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.

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Comments
5 Responses to “Backseat Navigator”
  1. Jill says:

    It’s good that you try and give Charlie more than toys and food. If he’s like a lot of kids with autism he doesn’t really want many toys. A few beloved things probably suit him fine.
    That leaves food and I know many parents stuff their autistic kids full of unhealthy food because they like to give their children SOMETHING and the kids overeat and get fat, sometimes very fat, as was the case of one teenager I used to teach who must have weighed over 300 pounds.
    All the kid did was bounce a basketball very rapidly and semi-menacingly when I tried to get him to do his work and he ate everything he could get his hands on, including strangers’ food when we visited the food court at the mall.

  2. Rose says:

    Powerful words, “I want”.

  3. Emily says:

    Hugs around here are armless,too. Feebee, we also call it the “lean.” Too funny.
    I love this post, Kristina.

  4. Rhiannen says:

    This is a great post 🙂
    I’m an armless hugger also – If I do “the lean” it seems to be a way to get quick reassurance/comfort then I’m off again.
    I can do a propper hug but only a small handful of people are lucky enough to to get one of those 😀

  5. autismvox says:

    @Jill, We’ve tried really hard to find other things besides, well, food and toys for Charlie—-today, it was definitely physical activity in the form of walks/runs and bike rides. Food doesn’t really motivate him anymore—he knows the routine of “do this and you get a piece of cracker” way too well. Not interesting, for sure.
    @VAB & Feebee & Rose & Emily & Rhiannen, Charlie handled my parents coming and going much better than in the past. No big blow ups. Meant a lot to hear him tell my dad “we love you” as my dad having some health problems is why my mom and dad have not visited since April.
    Charlie’s definitely a “leaner.” I can’t remember the last time he gave me a huge-with-arms. But a good long look in which I can feel him studying me, that says it all.

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Backseat Navigator

Crisp November day bike ride  "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" some
thing 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.

Comments
4 Responses to “Backseat Navigator”
  1. feebee says:

    I like the armless hug. My friend Jennifer and I both have autistic sons and we call that “the lean.”

  2. VAB says:

    Wow, the airport really sounds like Charlie is exploring all kinds of ways to put abstracts into words. There really is no more classic intangible than “love” and Charlie clearly knows what it means — but then, that’s not surprising.
    Our guy, who came to language very late, also stuck to nouns for a very long time. Verbs are just tricky. One verb, like ‘want’, can go a long way with the right listener, though, I see.

  3. Rhiannen says:

    This is a great post 🙂
    I’m an armless hugger also – If I do “the lean” it seems to be a way to get quick reassurance/comfort then I’m off again.
    I can do a propper hug but only a small handful of people are lucky enough to to get one of those 😀

  4. Jennifer says:

    When my staff asks about the “do this and get a cracker” stuff, my response has always been, “And what happens on the day he has a stomach ache?” 🙂

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