Just a Few Words, Lots of Action

Standing Charlie's bus got here later today. Apparently there was an accident on the highway so that slowed things down. He was fine and had also had a good day at school. He and Jim went out for a bike ride as soon as Jim could get out the bikes and they'd just come back inside when I walked in after taking the train home. Charlie was having one of his several-course afternoon snacks/eat-ins (he did get in all four food groups except for dairy, as it doesn't agree with him).

After which, he stood by the stairs with an expectant look on his face.

Jim was sitting on the couch answering an email and said the magic two words, to which Charlie provided the proper one-word response.

Jim. 'Bike ride?

Charlie. 'Yes.'

It's become my job to get out the bikes from the shed in the back and put them away. Wednesday was steamy hot and me taking care of the bike business means that the bike riders can take their time getting ready and, on their return, get back inside and cool down.

For all of its age and the wear and tear we've subjected this house too, the air-conditioning has been working well; we'd be quite comfortable if we just sat inside all the time. We don't exactly do that; we're constantly coming and going. Charlie continues to show his 'just go out into it' attitude towards the summer heat with nary a complaint (underline that nary) and we'll be continuing to follow him. It makes for a very active, if sweaty, life, you can be sure. I know we're lucky to be able to be able to keep up with Charlie. Sure we won't always but—I always find myself saying this and while I like to be realistic about our limitations as well as Charlie's, this past summer I've been feeling it's all right to let go of that ominous phrase for a bit and just be grateful that we can do what we do with Charlie, and for how we seem more and more to understand how to be with him.

My summer class on Greek drama ends today. The students (all in high school) have been a great group. Wednesday was our performance of scenes from Aeschylus' Oresteia and Aristophanes' Frogs and great stuff it was. Perhaps every line wasn't delivered at the exact time it had been rehearsed at, and I found myself standing on the wrong side of the stage and had to make a fast run to where I should have been, and one student who had to wear a face mask as part of his costume was unable to see a thing as the eye holes kept shutting: All told, everyone's performance was wonderful and, for me, unforgettable. There were some silence moments that were unintended between the students delivering some of their lines and these had the effect of emphasizing the action more, to good effect. Actions do speak louder than words.

I've learned from Charlie that fewer words, said sparingly, can say a lot more than a whole flood; that where you put your body and how you hold it communicate even more than those proverbial 1000 words a picture is said to. An overload of language seems to overtax Charlie and, sometimes, stoke a storm; over the years, we've pared down the volume of words we chatter around him. This does not seem to have hurt his talking; indeed he's been saying longer phrases (even full sentences like 'it is raining') after hearing us say them. He's also been repeating things we've said quite a bit and often with a smile. A fair percentage of what comes from Charlie is still vocalizing and sounds that are not words, but whose musical qualities often give a clue to what he might mean.

To get some of my own communications across to Charlie without talking, or with using language very minimally, I've come to rely on quite a bit of body language, gesture and other forms of non-verbal communication. I wouldn't say that I do any acting in the way of pantomiming to 'talk' to Charlie, but I have become (and am ever trying to become) much more conscious of how much gets expressed just by the way I hold my wrist or modulate my voice.

It took Charlie so much effort, so many therapy sessions, so much practice to learn to talk: I'd never say that talk is cheap or silence simply golden. Some of Charlie's frustrations arise because he is, I think, increasingly aware that he can't say a lot of things he needs to.


'Bike ride?'


And, too, that inexpressible-in-words look on his face as he stood this afternoon at the foot of the stairs eyes on us.

All real communications.

3 Responses to “Just a Few Words, Lots of Action”
  1. Louise says:

    Is Charlie singing or humming with his vocalizations? He loves music.

  2. Sarah says:

    Hi Kristina,
    I have found it the same with Mars. Holding my tongue makes room for him to express himself. My chatter chatter can bring echoes, repetitions, and babble back. I want to wait and listen more and say less.
    Thanks for another post about communication.

  3. autismvox says:

    You’re more than welcome—communication really is one of my favorite things to write about regarding Charlie. My husband and I are hyper-verbal so we have to watch it somewhat.
    Charlie’s vocalizations are often humming and other combinations of sounds—the vocalizations are when he uses his voice, but it’s not words.

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