Charlie stood at my elbow as I drained the hot water from a pot of rice noodles and shrimp and carefully lifted six tissue-delicate rice paper wrappers from the bowl of water in which they had been soaking. He stood on a step stool, the better to watch me spread out the wrappers on a towel and fill and roll them.
"Spring rolls," said Charlie.
I packed them into a Tupperware. We were going to his biweekly ABA therapist team meeting at 6.15pm, which meant Charlie would have to wait an hour to eat those six spring rolls he was prodding with a finger-tip.
In the past, if Charlie saw something he wanted to eat, he had to eat it now. Similarly, if he said he wanted something--"I needa bah'room"--he had to have it immediately (so that, him saying he needed to use the bathroom meant he was already in need of a change of clothing). Charlie was not able to anticipate his needs and only verbalized them at the moment of them happening (or after they had happened); he could not coordinate speech, thoughts, and actions simultaneously.
Charlie stood at the door, spring roll-filled Tupperware in his hands, as I got ready to go; we stopped to get him a "clear drink"--a diet Sprite--and he reached for it after settling into his seat in the black car.
"We'll save it for the meeting," I said.
"Say vor meetinnn," said Charlie.
The Tupperware sat untouched in the middle of the backseat as we drove. Charlie waited until halfway through the meeting--after showing his prowess at reading comprehension (matching pictures to words) to the therapists' happy cheering and running with a big grin around the office to poke his head in another child's meeting--to have his soda. During one of those runs-out-the-room I noted that he has been telling me "I need bah'room," pausing, and then going--he is learning to coordinate his words and actions, to anticipate his needs and tell us before it's too late.
That, I can tell you this and then do this.
And that, just because I see something now, I can wait till later to have it--delayed gratification.
Tito Rajarshi Mukhopadhyay writes of not being able to coordinate the thoughts in his mind (the blades of a fan are dangerous) and the actions of his body (his fingers touching those moving blades), of only being able to deal with one sense--such as hearing words or looking at something--at a time. Charlie has to think to synchronize speech and his body's moments; has to work at telling himself that just when he smells a favorite food, he does not have to eat it right now
It's a matter of timing. Of choreography.
And Charlie seems to be stepping to the beat.