only my hands were between the hard floor and his banging head
That just came out when I was typing a comment into an online forum accompanying today's Wall Street Journal article on How Many Kids Have Autism?. The article presents a cogent summary regarding the over-familiar "1 in 166" statistic most of us can recite faster than the birthdates of our parents and the "alarming" rise in the prevalence of autism. I wrote up my own thoughts on Autism Vox this morning and then thought little of it, my mind on how Charlie, after yesterday's tough day, was doing at school and the fact that we are down to the final two weeks of the semester and I wanted very much to get in one more chapter of grammar with my ancient Greek or Latin classes. (I did.)
Terrific, was the word on Charlie's day. Bang bang bang went the hammers of the workers on our house: Charlie stopped and stared up after he got off the bus at someone on the roof. "Bread!" he giggled to his speech therapist as he rounded his lips in his oral-motor exercises ( I appear to have finally found a brand of gluten-free bread that Charlie likes). "Da shooszon" he echoed and literally skipped and ran to the train station. We filled up the black car with "gazzz" and stopped at "liberry" where I found a DVD on the Romans to show my class after we discuss the Rise of Caesar. Then we headed to the grocery store where Charlie, as he has for the past year, went to look at the cupcakes and cookies in the bakery section---only to look as he has been, as he knows he is to do.
So when I turned around to find Charlie with a whipped-cream finger going from mouth to inside the plastic container of a piece of cake, I said to myself, Okay, he has been talking about "cake" and "California" a lot since Thanksgiving---shoulda been watching.
Charlie already had the nervous pull to his face when I asked him for the cake container, which was more than slowly handed over as I said words to the effect of "you know you need to wait till we're home to eat food from the store." It happens that the sushi case is right next to the bakery section of this grocery store and I added that I didn't think he could get sushi today as a result.
Boy on the floor, on his back, bang, bang, bang.
It took me that long to dive down and place one hand, both hands, beneath the back of Charlie's head. At school, Charlie is directed to lie on a mat at these times and usually calms in a minute. In the grocery store, the floor was the only option, and I simply stayed there with Charlie, and waited for it to pass.
If you are a more recent reader here, this kind of thing used to happen not only every day last year, but, more often than not, a few times every day. I felt both "here it is" and also "but Charlie will get through it faster" and especially if I could let the rage or strickenness or whatever pass out of his body in waves of energy that I tried to lean along with. And so only my hands were between the hard floor and his banging head.
A woman who said she is a physician's assistant asked in a very lowkey way if any medical assistance was needed; I said (so evenly I am surprised in retrospect) "he has autism." A grandmotherly woman came over and said what sounded like "the police are coming" at which point I again said "he has autism, he's calming down."
Charlie was, though he cried beyond woebegone as he carried the shopping basket through the store and I tried to reassure him it would be all right. He did select a half-watermelon and agreed to try some fish for dinner, and made no effort to go stand in front of the frozen French fry case. All the while, I had the cake container in one hand and walked rather awkwardly, as the strap of my shoe had broken. We got in the check-out line and Charlie tried to lift the basket onto the conveyor belt; I lent a hand.
"Just put it all up there." The woman in line behind us said to her teenage son whose hair was long, rumpled, and stuffed under his sweatshirt hood, his posture slack. He said something and leaned down to pick up a large container of ruby red grapefruit juice, which did not make it to the counter. "What did I tell you!" said the mom. Turning half-around, "My son spilled a container of juice in aisle 3...."
"Why do you have to do that," said the son.
"Why do you have to be this way," said the mother.
"Listen, I think you don't......" said the son. Their shopping basket was full of several yellowish yogurt containers, another ruby red juice, and something else along the same color scheme. The son shrugged and very slowly placed each item on the conveyor built as Charlie and I each took a bag and headed for the door.
Charlie ate all the watermelon (except for what I stowed away in his lunchbox) and most of the fish (with some saved for Jim). Before we practiced "Rolling" on the piano, he glanced at me and just touched my hand, to hold under his wrist and lightly guide his fingers over the keys.