Otherwise is Okay

Charlie running up the stairs in our house The majority of yesterday's blogging energy went into writing a Friday roundup for Care2.com (resulting in a post that has, possibly, the most links I've ever put into a post and that mentions everything from Ulysses S. Grant to an eco chic car) so this'll—Thursday having pretty much followed in the pattern of the previous days of this week—be short 'n' snappy.

Charlie had a parent-teacher conference, which Jim went to (I had gone to the previous one and went solo to Charlie's most recent IEP meeting). All is well, the staff clearly like Charlie and, when he steps in the room, they're low-key and relaxed, in contrast to the rather rigid hyper-vigilant over-scrutiny of Charlie's classroom in a public middle school. 

School finished two hours early to make room for all the conferences and this threw Charlie off a bit. He and I also ended up driving around some in the old black car (a stationwagon), as Jim was speaking at a library in central Jersey and needed the far more reliable white car. We can only "go local" with the black car and I am, for the nonce, not going to take Charlie into a certain grocery store. We went to the UPS store and to the drive-thru pharmacy. We'd gone earlier to the store while Jim was still home and the fridge was full of things Charlie liked so I just nodded and "um" 'd when he said "I want eat, I want eat." We drove around to a neighboring town and looked at the storefronts (almost all small businesses). We drove into our driveway.

Charlie has been, his teachers have noted, doing some grabbing; they've noted this nonchalantly and are working quietly on redirecting and teaching other strategies to get attention, communicate, etc.. I wasn't surprised to see Charlie's hand reaching for my arm and that slackening off of his facial  features. I got out of the car and opened the door for him. He ran out and reached for my arm again, grabbed the keys and—crying—tried several until he'd opened the front door. 

"Blue coat," I said. I hurried in and grabbed my coat and saw Charlie, sniffling, pulling on his, and his gloves. He was still crying as he hurried down the street, but not when we came back home after a slog through the muddy field.

There would be one more walk (more of a sprintfest–Charlie was in high spirits after a few hours, some of which he spent going up and down our stairs while talking about "ladder to the attic," a reference to Jim's parents' house). I figured Charlie was trying to deal with a lot of, how to put it, otherwiseness: No longer going to that one grocery store. Riding in the old black car. Being at home for a couple more hours than he might have liked. It must have felt different, even awkward, like wearing someone else's coat by accident, or a new style of shoes.

Getting used to change, however little, is a skill that, it occurs to me, is on our unwritten list of "goals and objectives" for Charlie.

He's doing good.

6 Responses to “Otherwise is Okay”
  1. emma says:

    It’s so hard to find that balance between having a routine which is helpful and the routine taking over and becoming obsessive.
    I understand the need for routine, if I don’t have one I’m often at a loss and wander from one thing to another achieving little. It’s very unsatisfying.
    It is an unwritten goal, I don’t have much advice for it, it’s a work in progress.

  2. Linda says:

    Is that a piano by the stairs? It is a sign!
    (sorry for my one note thought)

  3. Niksmom says:

    This line is what strikes me the deepest and makes me smile: “All is well, the staff clearly like Charlie and, when he steps in the room, they’re low-key and relaxed…”
    The rest— the grabbing, the emotional storms —is all things which will work out in time as long as those around Charlie remain “low key and relaxed.” If Charlies is taught that every last little feeling and upset is NOT a crisis, I imagine it will become easier and easier for him to change his own direction. It sure sounds like he’s well on his way.

  4. Barbara says:

    I agree – he seems to be learning what he needs to do to calm. Progress that is now ‘written’.

  5. Louise says:

    It must be such a relief to Charlie to be considered a “normal” kid by his school. He’s so sensitive to the moods and attitudes of others that it must have been a terrible trial to always be a problem just because of who he is! And the message that the school sent to him by segregating him in a self-contained classroom was akin to being told he was a danger to others.
    His present situation must be going a long way to reassuring Charlie that he is a lovable, learning, accepted person.
    And the more fluency he develops with language – which is what this school is teaching him – the sooner he won’t have to grab, knock things over, or the other compensations that he’s developed. He can just rant the way the rest of us do.
    Beautiful chestnut woodwork in your home, by the way. You are so fortunate it was never painted. Stripping that household adornment takes forever.

  6. autismvox says:

    Yes, it’s the piano and he’s been playing it more!

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