Unstrangers (#546)
Imitation is the Best Flattery (#548)

Some Boy (#547)

Write about the unstrangeness of autism and find yourself having a very strange day the next.
After Jim put him smiling on the bus, Charlie almost immediately fell into a deep, Rip Van Winkle-esque sleep at school. He went to the nurse and was found to have no temperature; he went back to his room and nothing, not even snack time, would wake him and I left work early to bring him home at 1pm. He immediately went through his lunch box and skipped off for a long walk that ended with a trip to the grocery store, came home and downed a pack of watermelon, several oranges, and a large roll before an ABA session that was full of talk: "P'ay with me! I want eat bread. I want break. Wash your hanns, I want walk, socks s'oos!" As I cooked dinner, he ran around the kitchen laughing and calling out "Kris-tee-nah! Kris-tee-nah! Kristia!"---only the second time that Charlie has ever said my name.

Then, even though it was a weeknight, Charlie and I went to a movie.

Whenever Charlie naps, his longstanding pattern is that it is almost impossible for him to go to sleep anytime before midnight. He had a few days in a row last week of going to sleep extremely late; I was hoping he might sleep in during the weekend, but he woke at 8am on both days. So (in keeping with another pattern I have often noted in Charlie) today I would say he had a delayed reaction to last week's lack of sleep: A five-hour nap at school.

Charlie was a great sleeper as a baby: He slept through the night at two months, he took regular naps after feeding. He did not seem to become hyper in the evening and run all over the house as he does now, but then Charlie did not walk until he was 15 months old and a wobbly boy he was, with impossibly long grasshopper legs and a large head to throw him off balance. This, along with the fact that Charlie did not have any words and only seemed to be saying one syllable ("dah"), suggested that "something" was going on.

So I found it quite inevitable to see more than a little of Charlie in Wilbur, the runt of the litter in Charlotte's Web. Shivering in Zuckerman's barn after Fern, the farmer's daughter who saves him from the ax, has had to give him up as her pet, Wilbur could only make me think of Charlie, big-eyed, hopeful, needing of help. Wilbur has no particular special talents---"savant" skills?---himself; it is Charlotte's web-creations with their simple messages---SOME PIG--RADIANT--HUMBLE---that broadcast to all who Wilbur really is. But the spinner of those word-webs is herself, in some ways, "disabled": Charlotte is feared by all the other animals because she is "ugly" (and saying she drinks insects' blood does not help); she is tiny and severely limited in her mobility (and hence dispatches Templeton the rat to the junk to find words).

Charlie loved Charlotte's Web. There was the familiar cast of farm animals. The humans' dialogue was in straightforward and simple sentences, the emotions communicated---fear, love, anger, joy----all familiar to Charlie. The scenes were all in a small and also familiar world: kitchen, bedroom, school, doctor's office, fair with rides (especially a ferris wheel), the barn (not that we, of course, have one). The pacing of the story was not hasty and special effects (penguins grooving in an iceberg-rave as in Happy Feet, which put Charlie to sleep) were minimal. Charlie asked for more popcorn, curled up in his seat for a few minutes, asked to use the bathroom, stood and watched, said "sit" and sat and stared with perfect concentration at the dénouément, when Charlotte gently expires (yes, I had to take off my glasses to wipe my eyes) and Wilbur watches over her egg sac of 514 baby spiders.

Charlie was completely entranced when those tiny spiders spun out their threads and took to the wind, small magical flying things.

We hurried back to the car, happy in the glow of a good movie experience. It would indeed be some hours before Charlie could sleep; as I look back on this day we spent together, walking and eating and watching and talking, I was reminded of what the unexpected---like words on a spider's web for a smallish pig---can bring:

Some radiant good times doing humble things.



I got all teary eyed when I read that Charlie was saying your name! I am going to take Big Brother to see that movie this weekend. When did Charlie see his first movie? Was he afraid? I want to try to take K.C. to see a movie someday but I expect he'll be scared.

Kristina Chew

Charlie was 6 or 7 when he first went to a movie and he had a really hard time sitting and not verbalizing---and staying focused! I know K.C. will go someday to one. I started by just having Charlie stay for a little while and then leaving---we always sit far in the back and Charlie gets up and walks some, then sits down again.


oh! i love that charlie was calling you by name! and that you had a sweet time at the movies. most kid's movies these days are so FRANTIC with disturbing special effects and all sorts of jokes for the grown ups. why do that? for the kids? glad this one had a softer sweeter pace.


I think I'll be watching that movie a little differently now. The students I have here have taken to watching "our" Charlotte's Web (the original) over and over on their breaks. We now have it memorized.

Yes, not only did Charlotte save Zuckerman's famous pig with her words, but she helped build HIS self-esteem and confidence, just like we do for our Wilburs!

Glad Charlie loved the movie!

The comments to this entry are closed.