Charlie likes his routines. Or rather, Charlie needs his order, to the point of demanding that things always be the same way.
In the past several months, we've noted that when we adhere to those "orders" (playing certain CDs over and over in the car, driving down a specific road)---because Charlie keeps asking that we do---he's had some really intense (banging and biting) neurological storms. And both when (1) we do something different and (2) when we keep doing what he asks.
It's not a surprise that Charlie gets upset in the case of (1). But (2)---Charlie getting upset even when he's got precisely what he says he wants---is harder to understand. Lately I've been thinking that Charlie himself gets tired, weary and even sick of the tightly-wound structures, the strictures, he creates for himself. And because his default mode is to stick to his known way of doing things, it's extremely difficult for him to wrench himself out of these. So he's always more likely to ask for more of the same, regardless of what banging unhappiness may ensue.
Case in point occurred at the grocery store last night. We do tend to go the store a couple of times of week, each time just buying a few items; seems to work for us better than doing one big shopping (plus, any food lying the house tends to get eaten). The night before (Monday) we'd gotten brownie mix and Charlie was very happy about that: He really likes making brownies, in part because he seems to enjoy the process of getting the bowl and breaking the eggs and seeing it all get mixed up, and in part because he prefers to taste the batter than the finished result.
Last night we passed the cake and baking aisle and Charlie looked at me. "Yes? Yes." And down the aisle he went. I followed. Charlie stood before the shelves of cake mixes and frosting and looked expectantly at a red box (Becky Crocker brand) of brownies, and said "yes, yes," many times, and more and more insistently.
At first I said "we got it yesterday." "Maybe tomorrow." "We still have brownies at home." Then I just stood and occasionally shook my head: Too many words can (we've learned) fuel Charlie's anxiety.
Not surprisingly, Charlie persisted, even to the point of picking out a box of mix and trying to put it in his shopping basket. Getting the sense that the more we got the brownie mix when we went to the store meant that grocery shopping was going to start meaning ALWAYS GETTING THAT BROWNIE MIX, I pointed out the other brands and indicated, we could certainly get one of those. "Duncan Hines, Pillsbury....," I reeled off the names.
These suggestions, designed to gently steer him out of what's become a box of a routine, were all met with "No." I persisted in not saying anything and started thinking of what Charlie might do if he got really upset. (It's happened at this particular grocery store before.) I made sure I had my hand on my phone in my bag.
After several minutes of staring fixedly at that red box, Charlie started inching himself down the aisle, but just barely. I mentioned sprinkles, which are a few shelves down. Of course, two people were having an intense conversation right in front of the shelf with the sprinkles (which they had no apparent interest in). I prompted Charlie to say "excuse me" and the man and the woman moved apart (and kept talking). Charlie selected a container of blue sprinkles and we moved down the aisle.
He darted ahead of me on the other side of the store near the freezer cases, having detected a row of large-size sprinkle containers. "I want," he said, holding up one with Critter Crunch---multicolored mini dinosaur-shaped sprinkles.
"Sure," I said. "But then we don't need the blue ones." And Charlie left them on the shelf and, carrying the basket in both hands in front of him, got in line to buy everything.
And I was quite glad to be wiping up those random pastel-colored mini-mini-mini dinosaurs after a rainy walk through slush and ice and Charlie moving some more of his stuff (two purple plastic Little Tykes chairs bought when he started home ABA in September of 1999) out of his room. It's good to do things differently.