Spring Break, Day 5: Stuck on Blue

Charlie has long shown a preference for the color blue.  He's very fond of colors in general; the first words he learned when he started doing ABA in 1999 were the colors. But there's definitely something about blue that appeals to him, perhaps because (and I could be completely wrong here) it's the color of the ocean, which he more than adores; of swimming pools on hot summer days; of water, which Charlie has always had a strong liking for.

In the past couple of years, he's become very attached to a couple of blue objects and insisted on carrying them pretty much everywhere , or at least loading them up into the car. There was "daddy's blue blanket," a navy blue king-size fleece blanket that once graced Jim's and my bed; the "blue case," a light blue neoprene laptop case that I had gotten for my laptop, and that Charlie used to hold a bunch of pens he had to have with him for a time; "PoPo's blue jacket," a jeans jacket of my mom's; "PoPo's blue blanket," which my parents had used when they stayed with us on their visits. 

One by one we saw Charlie's insistence on keeping these things with him go from providing a sense of security to instilling raging anxiety, even when he held them in his hands. One by one, Jim and I had to discretely dispose of these objects when Charlie got something beyond blue about having those things. Somehow obsession and anxiety get coupled in an iron-clad knot in Charlie's thinking, with his need to have certain items turning into him having to have them always with him (for fear of losing or misplacing them), and then simply having the item causing deep anxiety itself. At which point, Charlie would be getting neither comfort nor happiness from having those things. He certainly wasn't happy when we told him they'd have to go but after the (predicted) stormy period had passed, peaceful easy-feelingness returned, or at least until Charlie found yet another item to become fascinated with.

Yesterday after returning from a lovely, lovely visit to our favorite beach, Charlie's attachment to "PoPo's blue blanket" became evident. He hadn't put it in the car for our trip but, on coming in the front door, saw it and put it back in the car. Then he wouldn't take it out. He saw me folding up some of the other items he'd been insisted on having in the car, threw himself on the floor, and Jim and I looked at each other and agreed, he is really stuck on this stuff, time to clear things out. Which we did: Charlie was not thrilled; ran up and down all over the house looking for things; I wrote the names of all four items on a piece of paper, noted that we had had to say "bye" to them and that he was then happy; read the sheet of paper aloud to him a couple of times. Charlie looked a lot more relaxed and sat down to eat sushi and soy ice cream.

Anyways, about that visit to the ocean. 

The beautiful beautiful blue of the ocean

Early in the afternoon, Charlie put on his bathing suit and loaded his boogie board in the car (and I just realized–they're both blue). It was a fabulously gorgeous day at home, perfect for walks (Charlie wanted several) and a morning bike ride. But it was even more gorgeous at the beach, the sun bright but softer, the air warm but just a little cooler than further inland. We walked in the sand (which was speckled with bits of shells, so just as well we wore our shoes). Charlie was happy for a lunch of WaWa-fare instead of anything from the café Jim and I ordered from. 

Charlie walking on the beach in April

Jim decided to let Charlie direct where we went: not past the beach house we've stayed in for the past five or so years; yes to check out another part of the beach; left to head towards home; straight ahead to take a local road through the Pine Barrens, instead of (the more direct route) up the Garden State Parkway. Taking this alternate route led to us running into some traffic jams; Charlie remained (mostly) smiling throughout and talking a lot. Indeed, I'd say more than usual and very clear.

Small wonder Charlie is so attached to all things blue.

But it is fortunate, you can't carry the ocean in your hand.

Charlie at the ocean on a perfect spring day in April

6 Responses to “Spring Break, Day 5: Stuck on Blue”
  1. Monica says:

    I am certain that someday Charlie will learn to carry the ocean in his head and his heart, no matter where he is and what he’s dealing with. You are now providing him with that comforting, calming “space” by taking him to the beach, and providing him with the sensory memory that he may return to when times get rough.

  2. karen d says:

    Your description of the obession objects then causing anxiety is so familiar to me. Pete seems to do this less and less as he gets older; I hope the same will hold true for Charlie. Though it seems that you and Jim have formulated a great system of release that works for Charlie which is so cool.

  3. Yes, the objet de jour. Car keys, rocks, sticks, plastic spoon, purring kitty, a small pumpkin. But I think we are fortunate with Jack’s terrible short term memory. Sometimes he completely forgets about the object until he sees it again.
    Love that the ocean gives him peace.

  4. autismvox says:

    Charlie, sigh, definitely does not forget—he just has to say the name of whatever it is to go, um, bonkers! We’ve yet to have rocks as one of those objects or pumpkins…. He was ok about not having all those objects to day. I’m hoping, hoping! that writing them out on paper and talking to him about it helped. Hoping!

  5. Shannon says:

    Leo sometimes demonstrates a similar anxiety response to his beloved straws; it’s almost like addiction in that, when stressed, he’ll demand them more and more frequently, without any kind of satisfaction. Then it’s time for distractions like a hike or drive or swim. 🙂 I’m sure he would love to carry the ocean in his hand, too.

  6. autismvox says:

    For awhile we had a huge, and rather sticky, collection of red and yellow striped McDonald’s straws on a kitchen shelf—those had to go a few months ago (Charlie was ok with this, less or more)!

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