Backseat Driver

Monday morning I was trying out a new route to drive Charlie to school that, Jim reported, had taken them a mere 34 minutes on Friday. 

We indeed zipped along for the first 20 minutes then, after getting onto a state highway lined with commercial establishments and chain stores of every possible kind, we sat. It wasn't as bad as the bumper-to-bumper congestion on Thursday that had made me feel quite glad I'd brought the iPad in the car. But I could tell we weren't going to meet Jim's time.

I do lack Jim's Jersey roads knowledge and driving prowess in general (Jim was once a taxi driver in NYC, in the 70s). I had gotten into the right lane thinking we could make our way along there and then have no need to cut across lanes of traffic to make the right turn towards Charlie's school when the right road cmae up.

Then I realized that the lane we were in was 'exit only.'

As I was slowing down and looking to the left to get back into the line of cars, Charlie said 'no, no' from the back, telling me that, yes indeed, this was not the place to make a right turn.

My eyes remained on the traffic as we now had to get ourselves back into the line of cars. There was a small gap and I quickly edged the white car into it, waving at a oncoming car which had to slow down to accommodate us.

'Sorry, sorry!' said Charlie.

Pretty much what I was attempting to say with my waving-arm-gesture.

This boy knows where we are going.

Charlie gearing up before a long bike ride on Saturday in the country

My thoughts on the long life of Donald Triplett, the first person diagnosed with autism by Leo Kanner, are over here at

Yes, our boy has come a very long way, too.

5 Responses to “Backseat Driver”
  1. emma says:

    That’s so funny and so great! Charlie too has a great knowledge of the streets, and it seems driving etiquette.
    I keep reminding my husband not to use Greek driving etiquette, which mainly involves being abusive to every other driver just for being there, as Dimitri is paying attention.

  2. Louise says:

    He’s an American boy, all right. He’s spent hours in the back seat of cars, soaking in every detail of the driver’s behavior and the road conditions.
    I bet he ends up telling the bus driver “no, no” if the person makes a mistake. Way to go. literally, Charlie!

  3. Jill says:

    You made some thoughtful comments in your Care2 article. Obviously, the Kanner patients weren’t the first autistic children in history. Victor, the “Wild Boy” of Aveyron, was a so-called “feral child” who emerged from the woods in Aveyron, France, in 1792 at about the age of 12 without speech and behaving much like a wild animal, including walking/running on all fours and eating raw meat. It’s generally believed that Victor was an autistic child whose parents, despairing at his failure to speak and behave like other children, dumped him in the forest at about the age of three.
    As a classics scholar, I’m sure you’re aware of the children whom the ancients believed had been raised by wolves, due to being discovered in situations much like Victor’s.
    You expressed dismay at parents who institutionalized their autistic children in the early and mid-twentieth century. Those parents were undoubtedly acting on the advice of “professionals” and barbaric as the conditions the institutionalized children found themselves in, at least they weren’t abandoned in a forest.

  4. autismvox says:

    One does have to watch one’s mouth! Someone in the backseat is listening.
    The backseat does offer quite a view of the world.
    I think it’s simply very hard to think of institutionalizing such a young child. — I like the cultural history of the development of autism and autism diagnosis in Roy Richard Grinker’s Unstrange Minds, regarding the history of autism, and there is another book on this that I still need to read.

  5. Jill says:

    And don’t forget the old story of the changling, the baby stolen by elves/fairies/witches and replaced with a small creature that is outwardly human and inwardly something “other.” It seems to describe a child whose intellectual and emotional development stops early on for apparently supernatural reasons.

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