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Thoughts on Assessing Schools and School Programs: TPGA Project

A Small Communication

Arrangement of favorite items by Charlie
The above photo shows Charlie's 'favorite things' as I call them. He refers to this whole set of objects as 'blue beads': Charlie often refers to a collection or a couple of things based on just one item, as if the part referred to the whole. For you literary types out there, this is a rhetorical device known as 'synecdoche,' and one could say that Charlie has a kind of synecdochal way of using language. The expression 'telegraphic' has also been used to describe his speech, which usually only includes the most important words, usually nouns, a few adjectives, and maybe a verb; his speech therapists and we, too, have constantly worked on 'expanding his length of utterance' but Charlie's default mode---after years of much prompting and requests to 'say [x y or z]'---is just to say as much as he needs to.

I mean, Latin, and Mandarin Chinese, don't have words for 'the' and people do (or did, in the case of Latin), just fine expressing themselves without.

For myself, I'm pleased that Charlie took enough interest in those blue worry beads a few weeks ago to start placing them with the other little items. He never does more than pick up the two strands of worry beads (one are of the Evil Eye, the other strand is plastic) but at first he completely ignored them. A student had gotten the Evil Eye beads for Charlie last summer and I picked up the blue ones on the last day I was in Athens earlier this year, but Charlie pretty much left both in random places on the floor until recently. He remains stalwartly faithful to the olive green strand I brought back after last year's Greece trip, twirling and pulling it and rubbing the beads in his long fingers. Happily, even though he takes the beads (and the other items in the photo) into the car, he has been leaving them there in the backseat or I would be, as you may imagine, a bit stressed about losing them.

(Worry beads at the beach: Yes, not a combo I want to be dealing with.)

Usually Charlie places the 'blue beads' (if I may use his term) in a rather unordered mass on the floor by the blue couch. Monday afternoon he set them down with a little more symmetry; I particularly noted his placement of the no-longer-working garage door opener to my in-laws' house with his iPod Touch and of the Mugen pop pop thing (not that he's ever been interested in making it pop) with my keys (yes, those are all my keys---only one for this house, all the rest for work). All those keys are exactly the same size and shape and Charlie has figured out (partially through trial and error, partially from me showing him) which is the key that opens our front door. Once inside the house, he keeps my keys. 

Foolhardy, you think?

Nah, Charlie keeps better track of my keys than I do myself. It's one way (there are a number other) of ways that his obsessive-compulsive tendencies and his (as it were) craving for order and routine come in handy, at least from the perspective of needing to locate the keys quickly. I've thought about taking off the keys for work and keeping them separate, and then realized that it was the sum total of so many keys, and that blue carabiner fastened to them, that had come to mean 'Mom's keys' to Charlie.

(When I went to Greece, I just left the keys with Charlie. Again I knew he would keep good track of them.)

As for why Charlie ordered his items so carefully Monday afternoon, I'm not sure. He had a fair day though he wasn't quite himself, getting upset at school when told he had to wait 20 more minutes for lunch (he'd had plenty for breakfast and a snack) and then asking throughout the day for crackers. Jim and I both suspected more stomach trouble---I guess I've been mentioning this a fair amount, but the combination of the recent ultra-humid weather and the medications Charlie takes, among other things, hasn't been (so to speak) very kind to his insides. 

As I noted, Charlie asking to eat more than usual and then not eating at all (even with some highly preferred foods in plain sight in the fridge) are both pretty clear signs of feeling (maybe) queasy.  After coming home and having his usual after-school snacks, he took a rest in his room (though without a nap), got up for his usual power bike ride with Jim, followed by a brief rest at home and a walk. He was not interested in eating a thing until much much later in the evening, when he must have been feeling much better.

I speculated, maybe Charlie made his arrangement of the 'blue neads' in an attempt to inject a little order to things?

Maybe. Or maybe I am (as I tend to) reading a lot into little things; something one does, when blue beads are what you have to go by.



Seems 'reading a lot into little things' has served you well for interpreting Charlie's synecdoche. Thanks for the new (to me) term! Have you told Charlie that he helps you by taking care of the keys? (Reminds me of an HP term 'keeper of the keys' at Hogwarts.) ;)

Kristina Chew

I have told him that he's a big help with the keys (especially when we're trying to get out the door for school!) and I love that term, 'keeper of the keys'! I'll tell him that, too.


Keeper of the synechdo-keys? ;-)

Kristina Chew

still grinning........

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