So maybe the 'reverse psychology' strategy is the way to go.
Wednesday morning, Charlie took his time getting out of bed. When he did, he asked to wear his green shirt and I said,
'Let's leave it here so it'll be safe.'
Charlie arranged his shirt and pants in a neat little heap in a corner of his bedroom, got dressed in the clothes I had laid out for him, and soon we were in the car en route to the Big Autism Center. He knew he was going swimming and got right out of the car with bookbag, swim bag and coat.
We'll see what happens tomorrow/Thursday with the 'outfit.'
It might seem that I am making a super big over-deal about Charlie wearing those clothes. I am starting to formulate a plan whereby Charlie has several of the same type and color of pants and a small array of t-shirts in different colors to choose from for his school clothes. If he can keep wearing different clothes for the better part of the day and then, perhaps, change into the green/brown combo later in the day (play clothes, right?), I think we can all live with it.
Charlie is definitely obsessive-compulsive. He often wants things to be a certain way literally, as when he lines up items on the floorboards or on the kitchen counter and also in a more abstract sense, as when he insists in a very hearty way that he has to do certain things in a certain way (such as, only wearing a swimsuit to run onto the beach and into the water, even when the temperature is in the 30s and the surfers are all wearing wetsuits). Past (often rather) painful experiences have shown that some obsessions, once too deeply embedded, can lead to really difficult moments, as if Charlie is somehow weary himself of the 'old order' but not sure (and even scared) to let go of it.
At Charlie's IEP meeting on Monday, we ended up talking for a good 10 or more minutes (at a meeting of about an hour) about the green shirt and brown pants 'fixation.' Strategies we discussed included: making a social story on Charlie's iPad (did that, though I think it may have alarmed Charlie overly much) and having him put the clothes into the laundry machine (I want to work on this, though I do respect Charlie's careful arrangement of his clothes in their designated spot in his bedroom). Another suggestion was to cut a little piece from the shirt each day until it became just a square; Charlie's teacher herself thought this idea might not be the best for him, as Charlie might end up being more anxious over such a drawn-0ut process. (And the same cutting-a-bit-away process was tried for an old blanket Charlie used to have at another school; he was never so attached to that blanket as he was to the shirt, though, and didn't seem to care too much what size the blanket ended up.)
For a moment at the IEP meeting I found myself thinking, we are spending too much time on this! And then I said to myself, this is the way it should be. Charlie periodically gets 'stuck' about something and often has a hard time letting go and moving on, so the extended conversation about how to address the green shirt and brown pants was in many ways a discussion we have often had and will often have to, to help Charlie learn and grow and deal with change.
And he does have a big change coming up. Charlie turns 14 in May and, after this school year, he will be moving onto a secondary school classroom. There will be 9 students in his class (vs. 6 in his intermediate class) and he will switch activities and even rooms every 1/2 hour - 1 hour. 9 students is a bigger class than Charlie has been in but I think he'll be all right with it. I do think he'll like the more frequent activity and room switches: It often seems that Charlie's attention span for most tasks is about 1/2 hour to 1 hour and he likes to keep moving.
I've been taking my time to write up Charlie's IEP meeting: It really was a friendly, productive discussion and exchange of plans and ideas (so maybe I'm savoring the good vibes and not feeling any rush to spew and vent, ha). The topic of what we envision for Charlie after he is (GULP) 21 and finishes school was brought up: I've thought about this and written about it for the past several years, so I was very ready with my answer: a job, preferably in the community and full-time but part-time and even in a separate setting also all right if that is what Charlie needs; housing in a group home or some sort of supported living environment in the community but only when we find one that is appropriate.
Charlie's teacher talked about how well he has been doing learning various pre-vocational skills, doing things like assembling sprinklers. He apparently enjoys doing these things, too.
Sometimes having a rage for order can be a good thing.