While Charlie was in the shower crumbling my big blue bar of soap into bits that he shoved down the drain, I was putting together questions for a mock interview for a certain scholarship, for one of my students.
Charlie got out of the shower, stood around with his pajamas at his feet, and---when I coughed (after just failing to suppress it)---he scream-cried, a loud, desperate, keening wail that was wordless and yet said more than the picture's proverbial thousand: Did something hurt? Was he just annoyed at the world? Is he coming down with a cold? Was his stomach hurting from all the frozen bread he had grabbed from the freezer (it was meant for his grandparents' meals)? Was he sad and mad that, after a very nice morning, his schoolday became like "one of those days he used to have"? (Another student cried out and Charlie did the same instaneously---his teacher usually has him ask for a break and he gets to leave the room---and, as he was back-flipping, he could not leave the room. He calmed and had lunch, but the other student again cried out and Charlie again went to the floor, and then did Distar, and then cried out and back-arched again, and seemed like he would end the day in peace but his forces failed him at the very end, and the bus driver made a point of assuring me how well Charlie had done on the bus (all smiles, he had been). )
Charlie simply stood and screamed and I tried not to talk much (if at all), suspecting that at these times especially, my words sounds like so many clanging cymbals. He practiced piano with me offering as minimally loud praise as I might; he started a puzzle of a spaceship (still weeping, but more quietly) and carefully put together the lower left hand corner over and over: It was white swirl of a galaxy, edged with a fluttering line.
I don't know what Charlie was thinking in the silence---maybe about those lovely white oval forms on the murky "space" background?---but it had been yet another of those "just got to endure it" experiences that make one qualified for the Autismland Fellow-ship.
If you'd like to see if you are a viable member, here are interview questions for anyone interesting in applying for this award. (They are the interview questions I devised for my student, revised for the Autismland crowd; please don't hesitate to answer any you may wish to in the comments!)
Interview Questions for Autismland Fellow-ship
What is your most significant achievement?
What has shaped you?
Name the person who has done the most to help you achieve all that you have.
What is the most controversial thing you have every done?
What was your biggest moral dilemma and how did you resolve it?
What was your worst failure and what did you learn from it?
How do you want to make a difference in the world?
"Charlie" is my answer, or is in my answer, to most of these.
Why did you choose to go to live in the town where you do?
What "disciplines" or "professions" have you had to acquire amateur ability in as an Autismland parent?
See these synonyms for a partial answer.
What other books about autism do you enjoy? [See right sidebar.]
The metaphor of traveling to Holland has been used to describe what it is like to be autistic. How do you feel about being in a country whose language you do not know?
"Science moves the world": Does this statement apply to Autismland?
Do you think autism is genetic?
What is your position on mercury and vaccines in regard to autism?
How do you account for the prevalence of autism today?
Is there an autism epidemic?
Name one famous autistic person who is not Temple Grandin.
Describe the ideal Autismland parent.
Describe a good day (not the best day ever) with your autistic child.
Describe how living in Autismland has changed and transformed you.
Jim always tells me that an interview is just another day in your life----if so, we are all winners of the Autismland Fellow-ship and every moment with Charlie, however loud and long, the finest prize.