Soon as the bus aide slides open the door of the mini-van (aka Charlie's "red schoolbus") she simultaneously hands me a ball-up pair of inside-out socks: Since last summer, Charlie has been taking off his socks soon as he settles himself into his car seat. Even on the coldest winter days, he prefers to be barefoot.
But no sock handover from the aide to me today. The note from Charlie's teacher revealed why: One sock was flushed down the toilet, the other was nowhere to be found. "Other than that he had a great day!" and his teacher proceeded to detail how his sight-reading program is going (well).
Charlie ran into our house and I asked if he'd like to change his pants into shorts. "S'orts," said Charlie and I started to unzip the bottom of his left pants leg off---he was wearing those "convertible" cargo pants that can go from long to short. Charlie grinned and undid both zippers, stood up, voilà! bottom legs bare and that summer feeling of bare skin. He ran to the refrigerator, found a bowl of rice, ate it cold with his fleece coat still on; he ran out to our front lawn to wait for his ABA therapist.
"He read all of Goodnight Moon," the therapist said, smiling: From watching the Goodnight Moon DVD, hearing the CD, and paging through the primary-colored pictures, Charlie memorized the story a few years ago. Jim and I used to read it with Charlie, used to watch him read it, thought "This is it! Soon reading will come."
We soon rather realized that Charlie had memorized the text of Goodnight Moon and was script-repeating it. A good start, but he only "read" Goodnight Moon and showed no inclination towards other books. I think it was the double-spread green and yellow and blue with red and orange tinges of Goodnight Moon that drew Charlie to that book as to no other, while the repetitive words appealed easily to his language. The soothing gentleness of the book arises, I think, from the repeated "Good night" (that is why Goodnight Moon was the favorite book of my childhood).
Will Charlie learn to read the words this time around?
This time around, this is not my worry. Charlie learning to read is not going to be some magic sign of him "being fine." Pragmatically, I can see how Charlie reading could certainly help his speech and much more, but there is no rush. Charlie's teachers at school and his ABA therapists at home work together and look to Charlie for how to proceed, for how many targets for him to attempt, for when he needs to move a bit more slowly, or to speed it up.
Not talking in sentences or paragraphs does make a nearly 5 foot tall boy as "different"--"special"--"neurodiverse"--Charlie as he is. But what's the big deal? He's a Charlie kind of boy.
Not wearing socks may mean your feet (and shoes) smell extra funny, but what's the big deal? It's a new kind of smell.
Somewhere in the universe there's a mateless sock floating around, and a boy who's glad that he can feel all the world through the soles of his feet.