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About My Big Little Boy

3 years of Charlie's shoes Count 'em: There are eight pairs of shoes in this photo. (Lined up by me, the better to give you the full effect of how much Charlie has grown, and how constantly, over the past two years.) The smallest pair, a 7, 7 1/2 is on the right and Charlie's current pair of shoes (size 10 1/2, same as Jim's) on the left. If you really look closely, you can see how worn in, with the backs smashed in and folded, many of the shoes are, and how the leather is dried out and splotched, the result of occasional walks into large mud puddles. I can't tell what size most of the shoes are as Charlie's feet have worn out the numbers.

The shoes on the left are a bit less worn down. Since last September, Charlie has managed to grow nearly 7 inches, gain quite a bit of weight to match his height, and go through the physical aspects of puberty. These not insignificant biological changes have certainly factored into the struggles and challenges he's faced at school. Sometimes when Charlie and I are standing in line at the grocery store, the clerk says "are you together?" (Sure we hope to see Charlie paying for his own sushi someday, but not quite yet.)

I've mentioned Charlie's recent growth spurt and height a number of times before. He currently seems to be among the tallest, if not the tallest, child at the public middle school he's in and he's definitely taller than the (male) aide who's assigned to him. Indeed, he's pretty much the same height as many of the adults at the school. People often look surprised when I tell them Charlie is 12 and, indeed, a "young 12. I have been suspecting they think he is more around 17.

I've been the height I am (5 feet) pretty much since I was in junior high (that's what grades 7, 8, and 9 were called in the Oakland Public School system when I attended them). Whatever genes gave Charlie his height, they're not from my side of the family tree. And I suspect they're from one side of Jim's family in particular; one of Jim's uncles on his father's side has (college) football player sort of height, and some of his children are quite tall (and athletic). Actually, Charlie is probably the tallest (while the youngest) of his cousins on Jim's side of the family, and right up there with my cousin's children.

For Charlie right now, being tall, strong, and athletic aren't exactly considered "positive assets." He can certainly carry his weight's worth of groceries (whole watermelons, boxes of detergent) but when he gets upset---when some sort of neurological storm seems to be going on in his head---there's a lot of boy to hang on to. This is simply a reality and we (Jim and me in particular, "society as a whole" in a more broad and sweeping sense) have a long way to go to in (1) figuring out minimally intrusive ways to support an autistic person in distress and in (2) shying away from individuals who are, like Charlie, "big" and who also seem "different." 

It was a long time ago that people commented on how "cute" Charlie was. (I think he's quite the good looker, but I am very biased.) Now what they see is a big strong kid and there's often a rush to contain him. One reason the big autism center would (Jim and I hope) work for Charlie is that it is in such a big space. Charlie is currently in the same smallish classroom for most of the day; the classroom is on the inside of a corridor and doesn't have windows looking outside. The big autism center really is big, with three levels, high ceilings, and  a much more open feel. Charlie has Adapted Physical Education once a day (in the morning) at his current school, but him having more access to more space: It really seems that this can't but help him, a boy who still is growing into his grown-much-bigger body.

I mean, I know it's only a matter of months (weeks) before we need to order size 11 shoes.



Well, I agree that he is QUITE handsome!

My boys didn't have the huge growth spurt that Charlie did -- they sort of inflated from the bottom up. I particularly remember the shoes, though -- Drummer Man's are size 12 1/2, I think, and have been since he was about 13.


My kids are doing the same thing- I think that I'm spending more on shoes than I ever have in my life, and for someone who used to be addicted to buying shoes, that's saying something. Fortunately we've only got about another 6 months until one girl will fit into my shoes...she's already eyeing my Converse longingly :-)

The growth spurts are definitely not an unmixed blessing though- we're now back to only having my son in the house when he's accompanied by worker(s) because of his strength, self-injury and aggression. It sure was nice to be able to see him by ourselves for 6 months...our workers were and are great, but it was a real treat to actually be able to spend time alone with him by ourselves. My fingers are crossed that we'll get back to that some day.


Wow... and last week when I went with an 11 year old client to buy new shoes, and he got a size 7.5, I thought those were big. Being that he's now only a half size smaller than me, I was the only one close to his size to test out his shoes when we noticed the cut on his foot when we got back from the shopping trip. These trips are working their way towards uneventful, which is a good thing, since it's not long till we'll be looking up to him as your are to Charlie.


We have the opposite problem with Nick. He's now under the 3rd percentile on the growth chart and had an x-ray to gauge his bone growth (he's 2 years behind.) We're setting up an appointment with an endocrinologist soon.
In some ways, it works to his advantage that people think he's younger than he is. I do have concerns for next year, though, when he begins middle school. He is edging toward more inclusion and, I assume, less close supervision and I worry about bullying since he's so tiny.


ah, I feel like I am looking through the looking glass into the future. So funny to hug my oldest with him eye to eye. (I am 5 ft, he is 9). Lately Bubba has gone from explosive-aggressive to explosive-crying. I much prefer him crawling into my lap, wedging his head under my arm, and prompting for hard hugs rather than the blocking etc.


He grew way too fast! And obviously this is just the start, he'll be wearing size 12 by the time he's 18. It must be a big adjustment for him to physically change so quickly, and for the parents too.

karen d

I agree -- tall or small, Charlie is a very handsome boy. I love seeing pictures of him. xo

Kristina Chew

Well, I have again to agree about Charlie being handsome! I am just wondering when the shoe size changes will stop. There was a time when I inherited Charlie's not very worn but flipflops (am size 5) but forget it now.


definitely handsome!!


Charlie is getting more and more handsome everyday!!

I have the exact opposite problem to Charlie.. Whilst I'm 5'5 1/2 I look several years younger then I am and need to buy children's shoes!

Kristina Chew

I have been known to buy a pair of children's shoes myself.......


It is interested to read the similarities and differences between Charlie and Andy. They are the same age and Andy is also tall for his age. I can still look him in the eye, but for how long? We have no spurts here just continual
growth where clothes are outgrown before they are worn. This is a good thing as we have Ryan to pass down clothes.

But I wonder if Charlie's school staff didn't feel he was outgrowing them physically? Andy's teacher is petite and I wonder how she deals with all the boys, most of them
are bigger than her. But there are some male staff teachers and aides just down the hall.

Sometimes Andy's size concerns
me. He has never been aggressive and I hope he never has to be. If he knew his stregnth...

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