The Best Therapy (#209)
Whopper Minus All (#211)

The Lovely Boy (#210)

"Luv-ee booyy!" Charlie was standing under the hot water spraying out from two shower heads in the visitors' locker room at our town's indoor pool. (Boys over five years old are not allowed in the women's locker room.)
"Luv-ee booyy!" he declared again, smiling.

Charlie's articulation can always be better; "his speech needs to be crisp and clear, so anyone can understand him," our speech pathologist friend Tara has always reminded Jim and me.) Or rather, admonished: " Don't talk so fast! Short and clear sentences. Set up situations so he can ask for things he needs [set the table without the knife and fork]."

The ambiguity of Charlie's speech does allow for me to consider multiple meanings as I try to read his words: Is he saying "I love you, boy"? "Lover boy?"

"Lov-lee boy. In dee eewehning by dah moonlike!" Charlie was smiling, holding onto my shoulders, looking me directly in my eye.

"Love you, sweetee," I said back.

Lovely boy: Charlie is my silly sweetheart boy, my guy, but I have not used that "lovely boy" phrase. It must be what he is hearing at school. In the evening by the moonlight: This is a Sesame Street song (sung by Hooter the Owl) that I used to perform for Charlie, a rocking and a diva-ing, on long afternoons in St. Louis when he was four years old.

As I was signing us out of the pool I heard a familiar voice say "Hey, it's Charlie, hi! How are you?" Charlie was standing with his chin and elbows on the counter. "I'm ine." "Great eye contact," said his interlocutor, who used to be an aide in his classroom and now (besides working at the pool) works at an autism center. "Has he been getting a lot of exercise? Lots of swimming?"

"Charlie's been in a new school," I said, as Charlie pushed the door open. "We haven't been swimming as much--busy--we do a lot home sessions now, six days a week." Then I had to hurry after Charlie who sat, stiff and serious, in the back seat.

"I talked to Dad. Grandma and Grandpa are okay, they made it through the operation. But they have to stay in the hospital for awhile." Charlie said nothing and we listened to the CD player.

Once home, Charlie lay, right hands tightly wrapped, on his blue blanket on the second-floor hallway. I turned on "In the Evening" for him and cut him up an apple and, after Jim came home, Charlie soon shuffled off into his own bed. Jim told me how he had sat with his mother before her early morning surgery and she had kept talking about how great Charlie is, about how he can talk so much, about how lovable he is.

It had been a good day. The bus was late because of the rain and sleet; Charlie grinned at me as the aide shut the door and seat-belted him in. Perturbed by the "hospital-knee" business of his grandparents, Charlie did some throwing and tipping today, but his teacher easily got him back to learning at the table. He got home a half-hour late; worked more on his reading and language, on his playing and relating, in his ABA session.

I got home after 4pm because, as I was driving home from Jersey City, a semi decided to drive over two lanes directly in front of me as I was trying to make my turn-off. I had the choice of driving into the semi, the concrete barrier, or possibly skidding erratically onto the turn-off ramp. So I kept on going where the road led me (the middle of Newark) and, after deciding not to try this or that turn in the rain, I was back to where I had started, on Kennedy Boulevard in Jersey City. ("Sure I can stay late," said the babysitter. "The bus still isn't here with Charlie!")

So I had to drive the same route--Pulaski Skyway, Routes 1 & 9, 78, Parkway--twice, to get back home.

And isn't that Autismland in a nutshell, or an exit on said Parkway? You think everything is fine, you drive off with the CD player on, a truck turns into your path and threatens your life, you follow misleading signs that lead you to turn onto the wrong roads, you drive back to where you started and have to plunge your car into a flooded ramp a second time, and back over the Skyway.

Back to your Lovely Boy, who is talking a lot and who fixed you with his deepest gaze after you took him swimming at the pool, as he so wanted and found the words--"swiimmingg!"--to ask you for.


Wade Rankin

Some days it seems like we're traveling in circles for our kids, but the payoff is wonderful. may you continue to have "good days" with your lovely boy.


He *IS* such a lovely boy - I'm so glad he knows that! It is so important for our kids to be able to sing their own praises. There is so much to sing about!


Yeah, and that truck always comes out of no where on the road in Autismland. So far, none of us have hit the truck or the concrete barrier. Sure, we may have to take the long way home, but we always get there.

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