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.