Swings and Carnivals and Summer Things
One Way to Navigate Through Scylla and Charybdis

House Party



Our next door neighbors had a big birthday party for their little girl (she's 1!) on Sunday evening and Jim took the 4.55 train into New York to attend the annual pre-semester Theology department party.

So obviously I told Charlie, who passed the majority of the time standing a-stim in front of the fridge, that we were having our own party.

Our activities were a little different from toasts, cocktail chatter, and candles to blow out. Charlie did his thing and I offered him minimalist but ever cheery check-in praise that we were dadless and he was not launching boxes of books into the air, demanding frenetic walk-runs down the street, attempting to pull down the poor refrigerator, overturning my desk or adding to the collection of holes in the wall. Perhaps he has concluded, the best way to avoid all that ruckus is just to stand in one place, with a proper view of the front yard and the bikes.

Yes, after Charlie and I went on an easy-going noon time walk (he didn't go to sleep till 4.30am and slept in), he wanted the bikes out! But then he felt the need for refrigerator-standing and Jim had to leave and I moved the bikes first to our back yard, then to the shed.

I also put together four syllabi for my four different classes and read Herodotus to prep for my Greek history class. And did laundry. And undercooked my rice but perfectly cooked some eggs; Charlie wisely chose other things (he's never eaten an egg and I doubt he would care to start) to munch on.

When he looked troubled I realized I was myself looking distracted and frowning. Not at him, maybe about something I'd read (such as the use of 'special needs' to describe college students; not everyone agrees but I use 'with disabilities' -- I do work in disabilities studies which you most certainly would not call 'special needs studies' -- I have a whole creed about the overly precious use of the word 'special' but will spare you).

Anyways, I don't think it's always clear to Charlie on seeing someone looking cross or addled, or on hearing someone say something cross or judgmental or put-downish and cutting (as I'm inclined to direct towards various politicians such as this state's overrated governor) -- I don't think Charlie is certain that it is not he who is the cause of censure, anger, or other sorts of harsh attitudes. The actual topic can be religious orthodoxy or a frozen web browser or insurance or home improvements; Charlie just hears the negativity and makes a grand generalization that it's about him and then, too often, gets upset, presuming he is the cause of trouble.

I've been monitoring what I say, my facial expressions in his presence and (sometimes you gotta use the hippie new-agey speak) the vibes I may be sending out. Doing this, and smiling, turned a consternated boy into a joking one who, at 10.15 pm, settled himself (it was several hours of standing he put himself through) into the big brown chair and dozed off, opening his eyes when Jim walked in and then (jndeed our little house party was winding down) going back to sleep.





it is terrific that you have figured out that your facial expressions/words about something totally extraneous might make him anxious...too many people will talk in front of a kid with autism and defend their choice by saying, "Well, he doesn't understand what we are saying"...but these kids do read facial expressions and tone of voice and often feel that they have done something wrong...(since they know it is often that they do indeed do something to make people upset)....keep this message coming through in your blog! I love reading it.

Kristina Chew

I can't say how long it took to figure that out. It seems it should be so obvious -- but I guess because of Charlie's own different ways of showing and communicating emotion and what he knows, it has taken so long. -- Some other friends and I have been talking on and off that our kids really seem to be more emotionally attuned than the (previously presumer) opposite!

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