Today I started to read Engaging Autism: Using the Floortime Approach to Help Children Relate, Communicate, and Think by Stanley Greenspan and Serene Wiedman. Dr. Greenspan "redefines" autism according to three "core or primary problems" (p. 5; I have substituted [Charlie] for Dr. Greenspan's "the child"):
- Is [Charlie] having trouble with establishing intimacy and warmth? [the ability of "establishing closeness"]
- Does [Charlie] communicate with gestures and emotional expressions? [the ability of "exchanging emotional gestures in a continuous way"]
- When [Charlie] begins using words, does he use them meaningfully? [the ability of "emerging words or symbols with emotional intent"]
My response to the three questions is "No," "Yes," and "Yes."
- Charlie, Jim, and I are so close emotionally as to be symbiotic. Charlie reads my emotions better than most people as he does not rely only on what I say but on those more subtle, and non-verbal, cues of body language, tone of voice, and actions. Today, Charlie (after another great day at school) correctly read my nervousness about his potential anxiety regarding a contractor showing up at 8.15am to finish some renovation work in his bedroom, Fridayitis (which I also suffer from), driving Grandpa and the nurse and Charlie to see Grandma in the rehab hospital, and Charlie bursting into tears in the swimming pool. On returning from the pool, Charlie was one step over the threshold when I heard his head knocking--knocking--knocking--against the floor. Charlie knows my emotions intimately and responds as he can.
Right before bedtime, Charlie pulled a blanket over me as I sat on the couch, wrapped himself in another, and curled up beside me.
- Charlie's face is my favorite book to read and the eye contact he shot me with his big brown eyes today was not telling me that he was feeling peaceful easy. His eyes had more of the deer-in-the-headlights look. At the pool, Charlie kept looking at me and saying "jump" and then walking back and forth at the side of the pool and when he did jump into the shallow end, he cried. And waded over to the edge when I called his name, and cried again.
- Sushi is an emotionally, symbolically charged word for Charlie.
Stanley Greenspan and Serene Wieder note that "the degree to which these three core processes or abilities are not functioning in age-expected manner may indicate, at least initially, the degree of autism affecting the child."
And yet, despite my "no" responses to the three questions, I have to say (it goes without saying?) that Charlie is autistic, has autistic spectrum disorder, is "classically autistic." Of course, Charlie is not a newly diagnosed child and he has more than benefited from over seven years of teaching (not Floortime, in Charlie's case). And while some may question my responses---thinking, perhaps, that I impute too much to Charlie's minimal language and to his gestures---I would say that I perceive the "basic abilities" discussed by Greenspan and Wieder not as "core problems" that need to be addressed.
I see them as the core of Charlie.