Echoes and Soundings
In the car going home from school Friday afternoon, Charlie was talking about the subjects he regularly returns to (as in, when he talks, these are words he's most likely to use, regardless of what he and we are doing): "Gong Gong," "I want to eat," "Portia" (my sister-in-law's dog, whom Charlie hasn't seen in years, though I think he prefers it that way). And then, a subject Charlie refers to much less frequently: "Broken." Said with just a wisp of anxiety, as something being "broken" means it's not doing what it usually is.
Was Charlie bringing up a difficult topic to test himself? To tell me, in his shorthand way, that some worry was running through his head? And perhaps, he wanted, needed, to let it out? Friday means the weekend means a break from the weekday school routine Charlie prefers: It's rarely "TGIF" around here.
While once I would have tried to "redirect" Charlie away from something uncomfortable like "broken"—in effect ignoring and, you might say, bulldozering past and over his worries—the new strategy is just to confront things head on. So I said, yeah, some things got broken, but now they're fixed, like Dad fixed the holes in the wall. And other things are broken, like the black car (well, it's not completely broken as it still runs pretty well, but only for "local driving"), and you just have to make do.
"Make do," Charlie repeated, and there was a little silence in the car.
Charlie's been saying more new words lately: That was the first time I've ever heard him say "make do." He isn't saying these phrases independently, but echolalically. His articulation has been for the most part accurate. And, from the tone of his voice and the studious look of concentration on his face, I think he's also really trying to digest the meanings of these new words. He has yet to use any of them on his own, and, as much of Charlie's independently said phrases are for things or visible, tangible specifics (like colors), they may not enter his verbal repertoire, at least not for awhile.
The little silence passed and Charlie sat back and relished the ride. The rest of Friday unfurled gently and unexcitedly, with three walks and several changes of socks, because the snowy field is now turning into more of a giant snow-pack-ice-puddle, with mud and grass showing through after the temperate went into the low 40s. Two of the walks were in the dark, after dinner with me and then after Charlie had gone to bed and then gotten up when Jim came home late from work.
In between Charlie had taken a shower. Without getting into too many private details, Charlie has, of late, been starting to learn how to do this on his own. Giving him verbal directions about soaping and shampooing hasn't gone very far but me standing beside the tub with a bar of soap and (pretending to) rub it on myself while saying "do this" has produced the desired result. Imitation was one of the first things Charlie was taught to do when he was 2 1/4 years old in his home ABA program and it continues to serve him well. With the shower water pouring down, Charlie looked at me and rubbed the soap on himself (not quite as much as a mother would like, but it was a start). I put a dab of shampoo on his palms and demonstrated rubbing my own on my hair and, after a few attempts, Charlie did the same. (I still helped with the rinsing part, which he likes not at all.)
It'll be slow going to teach Charlie showering. Nothing new there. Charlie's been sprinting but it's truly a marathon we're still in the earliest miles of.
(And speaking of marathons—some day, one day.)