This Talk Ain't Cheap (#401)
Choosing Favorites (#403)

The Right Combination (#402)

So today we had to get the BLACK CAR serviced (we've had it for a year and some months but---as you may note from the mention of it in practically every single one of my Autismland posts---it gets driven a lot). So Jim aka DAD took the BLACK CAR to the car dealership and then took the TRAIN back HOME and, once Charlie got HOME from SCHOOL, he and DAD and GRANDPA rode in the WHITE CAR (with MOM in the GREEN CAR) to see GRANDMA in the HOSPITAL, and then he and DAD and MOM took the GREEN CAR to the car dealership to retrieve the BLACK CAR and then DAD took the GREEN CAR back to get GRANDPA at the HOSPITAL while CHARLIE and MOM took the BLACK CAR back HOME to see his ABA THERAPIST.
That's how I explained what we had to do this afternoon to Charlie, mostly using the words in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS.

If you got confused about which car was going where and with whom, so did Grandpa when Jim explained it to him. So long as I thought about the whole plan in regard to the colors of the cars and where they would be----in something more like a Charlie-style way of thinking, or what I think this might be---the plan made sense. Black car, white car, green car, were like ice cream flavors in a math problem on combinations and permutations : How many different variations of flavors can there be, if you can have three scoops?

I suspect, sometimes, that Charlie makes sense of the changes in the world by shuffling around elements in his head, as one does those ice cream flavors in the math problems. If you have six flavors (vanilla, rocky road, cookies 'n' cream, mango, mint chocolate chip, strawberry) and you get three scoops, how many combinations are possible? If you have three cars, and two adults who can drive (and one Charlie in the backseat), how many rides will it take to get them all back to Grandpa's house? If Charlie and Jim are riding bikes, they can go in three different directions (right, left, straight) on I don't know how many streets (I suspect Charlie keeps count), and end up with how many different bike routes?

The tricky thing for Charlie seems to be when some of the "givens"---the number of ice cream flavors---are not fixed. Days when Charlie knows that the number of "elements" he has to face are finite---yellow school bus, school, home, ABA or speech, swimming, dinner, shower, Dad comes home, bedtime----are easier on him; days when there are uncertainties not onlyonin how many elements there will be but also in what they will be (as happens on the weekends) as definitely tougher for Charlie.

I was reminded of this as Charlie and I drove home in the BLACK CAR. The car dealership is in a town on a hill that we do not regularly go to and I am not as familiar with the roads (and Charlie with the landmarks). On the way HOME, we ran into traffic because of various detours, road repairs, street closings, and just too many cars on the road in New Jersey. We had one of those wrenching moments of motherhood when you're in the left lane with cars to the front of you, cars to the side of you, a truck to the back of you, and you've go to get into the right lane and no one is letting you in and

Charlie screamed. Blood-curdling.

From my view in the rear-view mirror, that was all he did, aside from looking very woeful.


I sat up straight and got the BLACK CAR into the right lane at the next-to-last moment.

It happened that the route we were taking was somewhat familiar: Part of it was on the road that Charlie used to take home from his former, now defunct, private autism school. He looked wide-eyed and intently at landmarks he used to see every day. He became more and more calm as so many familiar elements came into view, and MOM drove the BLACK CAR back HOME with CHARLIE.

Those are FOUR THINGS that make a good combination to me.



Littleman will always tell me we are going the wrong way if we travel on a different route. We went to look at a house to buy a few months ago and he began to cry and scream to go home because we were on a deserted back road. You're right- keeping choices limited and finite makes things easier.
I think its remarkable how in tune with their environment these kids are.


yes. especially the three: MOM, HOME, CHARLIE. i agree with tara--fluffy is often FAR more tuned in to where the car is going than i am.

Kristina Chew

Same with me, Kyra---Charlie could be a navigator but we'd only go to certain places!

We try to drive via different routes to show Charlie we don't always have to go the same way.


Combinatorics. You put the examples of having N things and picking K of them, and I start calculating them. :) Just what I needed this morning. Thanks!

(Math geek. My favorite integer right now is 21,504. I found it on a mailbox and liked it.)

Kristina Chew

On a mailbox!

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