Charlie's teacher and I were reviewing the Dolch words that he has been learning and both concluded that it might be best for now for him to work on concrete ones (nouns) rather than the abstractions of "it," "the," "are," "on"---of pronoun, definite article, irregular verb "to be," and preposition.
My own judgment was formed in no small part from knowing that, in his home ABA sessions, Charlie's reading program has focused on nouns. (Just in the past few months, he has picked up a good number to total 14 in all.) We do not regularly require Charlie to use "the" and "a" or "an" as he has enough to contend with simply to say his nouns clearly (and Latin, by the way, does not have any articles, definite or indefinite, and the Romans seemed to manage quite well without). Nor do we demand that he always say "I" with every request and I am simply not sure if he understands how Mom plus Dad plus me Charlie equals We (or Us, depending on the grammatical use of the word in a phrase). The verb "to be" is called a "linking verb" by grammarians of classical Greek (aka the "copula") and is frequently left out---so why insist Charlie always include "am" or "is" or "are," especially when he has gone to so much trouble to "hungry" or "angry"? And as for prepositions.....
On, in, at, by, beside, upon, into, onto: Little words, big abstractions. True, "under" is quite direct, and "into" appears to be so, too, under you are sitting with your autistic child before a table and a small blue block in hand, and attempting to show said child "where" and "what" each of those little word represents. Charlie might more or less figure out where to put the block for most of the words in respect to that table after careful teaching, but when it came time to generalize to the couch or the piano or a box, we were back at square one. I have come to think that a more effective way to teach these words to Charlie is by pointing them out as they occur in everyday contexts: "Let's get into the car! Put the plate on the counter. It fell under the table."
And, too, one usage that, if not weighted with significance, has a certain practical application:
"It goes into the toilet."
Charlie indeed knows this; he has known this since he was three years old and was trained in a few days thanks to us staging a "potty party" with his team of therapists. A few years ago, when Charlie was 6 1/2-7ish, it started to be the case that what Charlie knew was not always what Charlie did, or what he remembered to do, and I began again to carry an extra pair of pants and underwear for him in my bag. What seemed to be happening was that it was starting to take a bit too long for the signal in Charlie's mind to tell his legs to get himself into the bathroom and we ended up re-teaching Charlie to "take himself in."
What also happened is that my understanding of "in" and "into" in regard to matters of the bathroom means that, while it is preferable that these prepositions are used in regard to "getting it in/into the toilet," one sometimes has to settle for "it's in the bathroom and it could be worse."
Substitute words such as "pants," "car," "swimsuit," and---this has not happened in our case---"swimming pool" to imagine how it getting in/into any of the above can indeed "be worse." When it happens in any area of the bathroom in addition to, or besides, or be-sides, the toilet (e.g. the bathtub), at least there is a sink nearby and, in the case of our bathroom, a ready supply of cleaning products, towels, and Joy dish detergent.
All of which I did have to use, in speedy order, tonight due the fact that, while for the most part everything was in the proper place, occasionally it will happen in some other location (the shower, in the case of tonight). Charlie, who had been lying on my bed facedown with his hands pressed into his stomach, got all "into" the designated place, or so I thought. The bathroom where Charlie was showering is on the lower level of our house, right next to where construction has been going on in the form of an addition to the house. The lights had been flickering all afternoon in the midst of serious hammering and sawing and it was only after the constractors left that I realized: No light in the bathroom. At All. I had rigged up a desk lamp outside the bathroom door but I supposed it was not enough to see what was going on inside the shower.
Out of the shower came Charlie. Under the sink I went to retrieve said cleaning supplies. On went the taps in the sink and onto my bed (sheets completely mussed up and now damp) leapt Charlie. "S'irt on! Pants! Mommy, I want s'irt on!" His smile was the same as when, earlier in the day, I had seen him riding a scooter or playing a game with an instructor at school; when he had been working at his ABA programs despite the repetitive noise of the construction; and when I found Charlie in front of the freezer case that contained bags of gluten-free bagels that he actually likes. "Yes," he had said, his eyes aimed at me, a hopeful dart of a look aimed at me. "Mahm, yes. Mahm!"
Out of this world