Follow Through or, Slowly Through the Snow

We spent way too much of Christmas Eve Day/Day 1 of Camp Charlie, Winter Session, in the white car. Morning drive to Charlie's school (the gates were shut and locked so we had to settle for driving the perimeter). Afternoon drive to see my mother-in-law in the nursing home, with the sled in the back of the car, just in case. 

We're very fond of our no longer new, odometer-reading-way-too-many-miles car except for one thing. The trunk is a bit awkward to shut; a certain finesse is required and I was not displaying this yesterday after noon. Jim and Charlie were already in the car and, Charlie being easily jarred by loud noises and bangs and thraks, I was extra, or rather excessively, cautious in shutting the trunk. Accordingly, it wasn't shut, and the "something is open" light was glowing red on the dashboard. Jim reminded me not to force it, but to "follow through," to imagine that the trunk door closed six inches below where it actually does and to build up a sort of momentum. Slamming the door down hard, I was reminded, was not going to work (and would rattle Charlie in the backseat. "You have to follow through," said Jim.

Yes, Jim used to golf (actually, he used to caddy) and yes, his advice worked and off we went to see his mother. We found her propped up in a special chair; Charlie told her "Merry Christmas" several times.

After a late lunch we drove to the hill where we'd attempted sledding on Sunday.

Or rather, we drove to the hill that we'd driven by on Sunday, on seeing a great many small children there, and ascertaining that Charlie would have a hard time maneuvering among them (and, too, they around him, more likely). Jim noted that the hill was far less crowded yesterday and that its more gentle slope might better appeal to Charlie.

At first, it looked like Jim might be doing most of the sledding. Charlie walked near and then away from the sled, saying "no" repeatedly when Jim stationed it at the top of the hill. 

Jim suggested moving to the side, where the slop was more gradual, and there were no other sledders. He positioned the slide and coaxed Charlie to get on. Charlie walked over, looked down, and put his foot on the sled.

Charlie goes after his sled
 He followed it down.

Charlie retrieves, and carries, his sled
 He then retrieved it. (Jim came to help.)

A little sled ride
 Charlie positioned the sled almost near the bottom of the slope and knelt on it. He had to rock his body and use his hands to get it going.

He got a little ride.

He carried the sled up a bit farther and carefully set it down. Jim helped hold onto the sled so Charlie could get on it.

Jim helps Charlie get on the sled
 Sled ride!

Charlie goes for a (short) sled ride 

Charlie got the sled again, positioned it carefully, stood up. The sled did what a sled does, and slid away.
After that sled!
  Charlie indicated that he was done with what was, if you ask us, a very successful sledding outing, Charlie methodically going through the steps to show us how he wanted to do it. 

Jim carries the sled after a successful couple of rides

By now Jim and I know enough that, the more we put pressure on Charlie to do something, the more likely he is going to resist. While this has probably been the case for Charlie all along, it's become more of an issue as he has gotten older. No more scooping him up and plopping him on a sled or into his seat or wherever; when he tell us "no," plants his feet and puts his hands over his ears, he's not going to be moved (literally and figuratively). Last summer's lesson of following—respecting—the time Charlie needs to think through doing something, remains as important as ever. Besides waiting for Charlie to work through whatever's in his head, we've all been getting a sense of how to provide just enough of a push, a suggestion, a word here or there—Jim noting that another part of the hill wasn't as steep, and was empty—to get things going.

Charlie and the white car after sleddingIt's not force one needs but the ability to follow through. A not very profound idea, but one I'm keeping in mind during the upcoming, school-less, in the Garden-not-the-Golden-State days—though it occurs to me, Jim and I were already following this principle when we decided not to get on the airplane Wednesday with Charlie. I had spent so many days worrying about the trip and what to pack to keep Charlie interested and how to ensure that he'd sleep for most of it: I was, you could say, going to have do a lot of forcing to get through the long flight. And the forcing wasn't going to stop there. Jim and I, being too well-aware of what a tough time Charlie had in California in 2008, we'd been scheming about how best to handle each holiday gathering and how to keep Charlie active and occupied in surroundings that were not his usual ones. 

A whole lot of effort, in other words.
Of course one would like one's child to be a part of family gatherings as much as possible, to learn how to handle such social situations. But I've wondered if, in doing so, all the fun and at least some of the joy of holiday season gets siphoned out. 

 So wishing you good follow-through whatever you're celebrating, or not, today, as well as much good will, deep joy, and plenty of peaceful-easy-feelingness.

12 Responses to “Follow Through or, Slowly Through the Snow”
  1. Louise says:

    Merry Christmas to you all! Christmas can be such a stressful time, especially with the grading deadlines running up right against it. It must feel like a guilty relief to eschew cross-country air travel.
    But giving yourself the gift of ease is the most meaningful gift of all. You can’t have a peaceful easy feeling without it, right?
    Blessings on you all.

  2. Merry Christmas. Matthew had his backpack and lunchbag out last nite. He seems scared of the Boom whackers, sort of likes the bongo drums and the small drum set is still sitting in living room.
    His aide comes Mon and Tue, Wed is Dr appt and the following Friday is dentist appt at Childrens Hospital in Hollywood – his aide has offered to go – it is only a cleaning and fluroide treatment, last and only one was in 2005.

  3. Dwight F says:

    Ah man, I miss the sledding. Really I more miss watching the kids have a blast sliding down the hill. But I’m not too old _yet_ to not enjoy “doing” as well. 🙂
    But Gabriel has mentioned more than once that he likes that it’s warm here even though this December has been pretty cold for Texas, the air was very near freezing even at mid-morning today. We sure aren’t going to be trying to get on a plane trying to head back, either. G has a tougher time with planes than Charlie. He’s able to get through it but he is TERRIFIED by the thought of flying.
    I’m going out shortly to warm the spa up so the kids can go in it for some splash time. Too cold to bother heating up the whole pool (and that’s pretty darn expensive).

  4. Dwight F says:

    Good to hear the Big A Centre is really working out. I have been busy and haven’t been following your blog regularly lately but I had a moment while the kids were into their stuff and the wife laid down for a nap so I thought I’d swing by a check up on you.
    Anyway, Merry Christmas to your family. Hoping you make it through the Holidays with your sanity in tact and Jim without frostbite from trying to keep up with Charlie’s enery expending excursions outside. 🙂

  5. Niksmom says:

    Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas! Looks like it’s off to a good start, too. 🙂

  6. Rose says:

    ~Merry Christmas~
    I think people who don’t have to travel for the holidays might not realize how stressful it is, especially flying, for some reason. Hurry up and/or wait constantly!!

  7. autismvox says:

    And then we read about the “terror attempt” on the flight that landed in Detroit, and extra security checks in airports: ‘Tis not the season to travel.

  8. autismvox says:

    And then we read about the “terror attempt” on the flight that landed in Detroit, and extra security checks in airports: ‘Tis not the season to travel.

  9. autismvox says:

    @Dwight F, warming up the spa—-we do suspect that Charlie wouldn’t mind living in a warmer climate, where he could bike and swim outside year-round! Indeed, it’s not the thought of flying that bothers Charlie; he seems to accept the idea, but it’s the whole experiencing of it that is the toughest part.
    I’ve thought often of a comment you made a while ago, about how we ought to think about how we, Jim and I, had done so much to have Charlie be “in the world,” and that having him at a separate school might not be the worst thing in the world. It indeed seems to me that school is a place where Charlie needs an environment very much specific to his needs and that it falls on us to bring him “in the world” and that we have (I hope) a sense of how to do that. (Next post set to appear in about an hour is all about how we did that this Christmas……)

  10. I hope you guys had a lovely holiday!

  11. Dwight F says:

    Keep in mind that in Canada we’ll fire up the outdoor spas (we usually call them hottubs, but they are jetted so apparently that’s technically a “spa”) in the middle of January when it’s -20 degrees. 🙂 I’ve never personally owned one before, and this one is built as part of the pool rather than the above ground heavily insulated fibreglass one that is what’s used in Canada. But yeah, it’s warm enough here that you could go biking. There’s enough heat in the ground that the water doesn’t freeze on it, just the plants/grass freeze overnight. Or the bucket of water in the wagon in the backyard, it had about 1/8″ of ice on it yesterday near noon.
    I know he can’t put on the same total miles but it seems a number of older autistic folks have taken up jogging as a mental health pastime. There are some precautions to take when doing it in freezing weather, and you’ll want to make sure Charlie has fairly good technique to protect his knees/joints, but it is an activity that I believe can be done year round in ‘Jersey.

  12. sharon says:

    Merry Christmas!
    This reminds me of the last family get together we attended. My niece was married in 2006. We traveled to South Carolina fo the wedding. The trip was OK, the hotel was OK. The wedding, not so much. The wedding was outside on the water and I had to make my boys sit still and not run on the beach. Then the reception was inside and dark and loud. My boys preferred the parking lot.
    My boys never got upset but they weren’t comfortable or happy being there and I was not about to force them to be inside with loud music and louder strangers. We left, went to Burger King and back to the hotel room.
    My family thought I was shunning them. They couldn’t understand why I didn’t try harder to have a good time. I would have enjoyed staying and talking to people I hadn’t seen in years. But then I would have tested my kids and well, then everyone might have seen a melt down.
    The next day we were invited to a house with a pool and Andy swam and played with the dozen or so people around. This he could handle.
    There have been 3 more weddings since then but we didn’t even attempt them. Besides being even farther away, I knew it will be a lot of effort on my part. Not enough enjoyment.

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