What Charlie wants, he wants now. He says "Gong Gong Po Po" and my parents are supposed to materialize right now, right here, whether (as today) he has just spent the day with them going on walks and errands and taking the train into NYC to see the Big Apple Circus----or whether (as will be the case next week) he said good-bye to them a few days before. Or, when he is hungry, he says "white rice" and the expectation is that a steaming pot will be cooked, instantly, as if a genie had just passed by with his magic touch.
I attribute Charlie's wanting something as soon as the word for it is uttered to his generally concrete understanding and use of language. Words that refer directly to things---nouns for specific, tangible objects (and so food and familiar objects like a ball, a blanket, a car)---are the ones he is most likely to produce on his own, with an occasional adjective (usually a color word) to make things more specific and, very rarely, a verb. "Give," "want," "eat," "go," "have," "see," are all verbs, are all about activity and motion and are far harder to capture in a photo, to draw on a PECS card.
Charlie has had to be taught every single phase of language production, starting with understanding that the sounds from our and his mouths were attached to things; to schooling his lips and tongue in the right configuration to make a certain sound; to remembering to pull together a couple of words so that he speaks in sentences rather than one-word utterances; to learning that you can ask for something now but have to wait till to get it.
And Charlie has indeed learned each of these steps including the last one, as evidenced by his listening to my parents telling him that he had to "wait till we get on the train" to eat the shining packet of sushi they had bought for him after a happy time at the circus (my parents held their breath when it was time for several dogs to perform---Charlie still having dog fear---Charlie sat on the edge of his seat and enjoyed the show, except for the clowns). This is in part (I posit) from Charlie getting older, and in part from our having him practice the art of waiting while at home. Teaching Charlie that he can wait----that no one is going to eat the watermelon if he does not wolf it down immediately---is helping to allay the anxieties that can race through his head.
On the other hand, I as an autism parent have long been a bad waiter.
Because when you need a certain therapy for your child, you can't wait "a few months," you need it now.
Because when you need to see a certain specialist medical practitioner for your child's apparent vision or potential stomach trouble, you can't wait "for whenever the next appointment opens," you need one now.
Because when you see your child floundering in school, you cannot "wait and see if things get better," you need to take action now.
We autism parents can be an impatient bunch. And perhaps our own anxiety---our own rushing worry to help our children in every way possible now---sometimes intrudes on our effectiveness.
We had Charlie's IEP meeting back in August. Charlie's school program has been beyond great, with some additional concerns of Jim and mine that we requested "to be evaluated in October." It was thought by the school that Charlie was ready for group speech therapy in which he and another child from his classroom would work on simple questions and responses. Jim and I had responded that we did not feel, we knew, that (contrary to what was being suggested by the school) Charlie definitely needed to work on his articulation, on just saying words clearly, and on increasing the length of his utterances (Charlie's preference being to speak in slurry syllables of one or two words: "peaszz!" "wahermehonn"). We decided to have the request for the October evaluation written into the IEP.
When I met with his school speech therapist in mid-October, she had just switched Charlie from doing group speech with an autistic child in his classroom to a typical peer Charlie's age, and Charlie was already doing better. Okay, good, we said. I met again with the speech therapist this week and, after mentioning Charlie's muddled pronunciation and his tendency only to use one or two words, she said that it was felt that Charlie needed to work specifically...... on his articulation and on increasing the length of his utterances in 1:1 speech, rather than in a group setting.
Sounds like what he needs, I said. We said, together.
I guess we, too, have learned the art of waiting.