Back Home at the Beach
The Homing Roaming Instinct

Sounds (a Crash) and Sense

Getting ready to roll

Charlie woke around 5am Sunday morning and, after staying in his bedroom for awhile, went downstairs, knocked everything off my desk and sent a bookshelf crashing down around 6.30am. Clearing tables, knocking over shelves, throwing plates (as last Sunday), seem to be the latest 'interesting' (ok, 'challenging') behavior that Charlie has been doing.

If you've followed Charlie's story for awhile, you know that, while the above are far from ideal ways of expressing frustration, anger, anxiety, and the like, they are an improvement over some things Charlie has done in the past (head-banging, to name one). The clearing/knocking-over has been going on at school, too: While once we used to get into drawn-out (and uncomfortable) back and forths with school personnel about a behavior only occurring in one place or other (i.e., home vs. school), now we just expect to see the same things in school and at home. Perhaps it sounds odd, but I also see this as an improvement, Charlie being equally comfortable in both settings and a general spirit of working together prevailing between his teachers and us. 

On Sunday, we went downstairs and moved a few things around and, well, the crash that began the day by no means characterized the rest. 

Charlie understood that he shouldn't have done what he did and (to fall back into 'behavior-speak'----years and years of ABA and special ed will do that to you) things didn't escalate. The mess was cleaned up, giving me a fine opportunity to dust and discover a few misplaced items. Charlie got himself some breakfast and let Jim use the electric shaver on his cheeks and waited, sometimes pacing in the front yard or running up and down the porch stairs, while I went jogging and Jim did some work on his computer.

A fine bike ride (12 miles and very fast) followed in Jersey horse country. Indeed, Charlie was quite raring to go soon as he got out of the car and pedaled off before Jim. He had the same over-the-top energy for an evening bike ride after dinner. Jim and I observed to each other, while Charlie has no official diagnosis of ADHD (as Jim does) there are certainly moments when he bears more than a few traces of it, with his energy levels going up and down unpredictably. Charlie also has some bipolar and obsessive-compulsiveness in his diagnostic picture, the former seeming to have something to do with his occasional bouts of intense energy, accompanied by a lack of sleep.

But the knocking over of things recalled something else to me besides these diagnostic musings. When Charlie was a toddler, and around the time before he was diagnosed with autism in July of 1999, his favorite (to the point of, yes, obsession) toy was a set of ten stacking cups. He loved to stack them up, or watch us stack them, and then knock them over, after which he often broke into peals of laughter. Who knows but he still has in him a trace of that joy of seeing things knocked about in disarray? Though, now, he certainly knows that knocking things about is not something he's supposed to do.

Yesterday Charlie also kept saying---as he had on Saturday---'dog, dog, dog, dog' from the late afternoon and into the evening. Once he gets a word, a thought, an image in his head, it's hard for him to shake it; Charlie even said 'dog, dog,' etc., aplenty while riding bikes with Jim Sunday evening, to the consternation of some pedestrians. At one point he said 'brown dog' which led me to think he was talking about the little brown dog who belongs to his aunt, Jim's older sister, whom we used to see sometimes (with her family and the dog) on Sundays, when we went up to Jim's parents' house. Charlie had been curious about the dog (her name is Portia) at first, but then became very fearful of her and used to run out of his grandparents' house soon as Portia came running. and barking, in.

As for the early morning 'shelf-capade': Who knows what Charlie had been thinking about, dreaming about, in his sleep? Maybe some memory had been triggered and, on waking, he'd had something he had to express, and, at that hour of the morning (and still half-asleep),  that was the way it got expressed.

Perhaps it sounds like I'm making too many excuses for 'bad behavior.' But as Charlie grows older, and his thinking and understanding evolve and grow, the fact that his communication skills lag far behind must make things more difficult for him. So many thoughts, ideas, feelings, stories, ponderings, so few words. 

On the other hand, with Charlie, just one word --- 'dog'--- can be enough, can say a lot more than it seems to; can speak of fear, fascination, memories.

For sure, whatever Charlie tries to tell us in whatever ways, we'll be listening. 

(Just hope we don't hear too many more crashing noises, at least not at 6.30am.)


Charlie and Jim return to the bike trail


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