To begin again: Yesterday I visited Charlie at the Big Autism Center. At the end of the visit, as I walked out with his teacher, she told me that they think he's 'just a sweetheart.'
[this is actually supposed to be a big blank space to indicate a very emotional response of the maternal sort on hearing such words]
The whole visit was great, because Charlie is doing very well at his school. He sat attentively at his desk while going over vocabulary words—street signs; telling time—with his teacher; he was focused and did as directed despite noise in the classroom and his being yawny after a full weekend; he sat straight up and stiff in music class. Of the four students (two were not there) in his class, Charlie was the only one who didn't volunteer to go up to the smartboard and touch it to make Jackson Pollock-ish drips and drabs by drawing a finger/pulling the mouse across the screen. On being called, he obligingly stood and put a finger on the white screen to make a couple of circles, somewhat concentric, and then asked to sit down—this to me wasall very Charlie, to be so careful and contained in his response, and dutiful.
It's some of the reason why his teacher called him a 'sweetheart,' an obvious heartmelt phrase for any parent to hear said by a teacher about her or his child, and all the more when the official paper record on that child—as documented in IEPs and incident reports—would give a different picture, to an outside observer.
Maybe that's one reason I've kept blogging, doggedly and day in and day out for five years come June 18th, to put out the real scoop—the true story—about Charlie and about what Jim's and my life raising a child with moderate to severe autism is like. Since starting to blog back in 2005, and, too, since we started to think that Charlie had 'something' over 11 years ago in the winter and spring of 1999, we've read so, so many accounts about 'life raising an autistic child' in the media, on websites and in newspaper and magazine articles; we've seen so many major broadcast networks' 'exclusive reports on autism.' All of these have seemed only to capture the thinnest slice of the fullness of life with Charlie, scant traces of what Jim calls the 'veritable icon.' Books do a better job at portraying that fullness, though—as a book must begin and end—something of the story is, of necessity, left out. Which is maybe one reason I've had such a hard time getting myself to do more book-writing than blog-posting.
Anyways, to finish out this post's account of the school visit. Charlie's teacher showed the students of the New York Philharmonic kids' site, and used it to have them hear the sounds of different instruments and to try out a memory game. Charlie was again uninclined to volunteer to go up to the smart board but very (quietly) watchful of what was going on. At the end, his teacher turned on some salsa music and the four boys got up and danced. Charlie smiled during this part of the class and swayed side to side rhythmically and, some might say, a bit mechanically: I would say that his dancing style is, again 'very Charlie,' precise, contained and definitely distinctive.
Charlie said 'going home' several times during my visit and got upset after I left (and got over being upset quickly). I realized that a social story explaining my visit would have helped, and am planning on such with his teacher for next time. We also talked about planning for Charlie to start taking (or to start trying to take) the bus home from school in the summer and about to best prepare for such, and, too, for the several-day break between the end of school and the start of the summer session. And, she asked about starting up a shaving program, with an electric razor, to which I quickly said, 'Great' (just have to consult with Jim). 'Just let us know how we can help,' Charlie's teacher said, a couple times over.
It was some four years ago, when Charlie was (briefly) in a private autism school, that his teachers called him 'lovely boy.' The sentiment has stayed with him, despite a lot of rough and tough times; it could even be called a kind of iconic phrase to describe our boy.
Our lovely boy, indeed.