For years we have strategized to help Charlie overcome his anxiety about my parents' visits. We've tried social stories of the 'old-fashioned' pictures-on-laminated-paper sort and of the more new-fangled iPad sort, with photos and recorded voices. We've tried 'first-then' sorts of explanations (with photos). We tried not telling Charlie till the last possible moment. We tried telling Charlie two weeks in advance (resulting in instant anxiety as he made the conclusion, if we were telling him my parents would be visiting, they must be showing up immediately -- as in, right the next second).
I had made Charlie a calendar to show him how many days he'd have off from school after the October 29 snowstorm and due to the NJEA teachers' conference, I had added space for my parents' visit and the Thanksgiving holidays. I've showed him the calendar a very few times and Charlie has left it on the floor, his preferred place to leave important things. After a mention of my parents stoked a fairly big bout of Charlie-anxiety last Monday, we haven't brought it up.
Saturday morning, waiting for me to take the bikes out of the shed, Charlie said 'PoPo' -- Cantonese for 'maternal grandmother' -- over and over. Loudly, and while looking at me fixedly. I repeated 'PoPo' a few times back, without adding any words or information. I also anticipated Charlie saying 'PoPo' for a good hour but he stopped as he got the bike helmets and yellow jackets and put his iPad in the car.
It was later in the afternoon, after a crisp 11 miles on the bike path, a very hefty lunch and a nap that Charlie stood in the living room and said, 'GongGong PoPo coming soon.' Jim and I said a mild 'yeah' and Charlie got his iPad and turned it on.
He didn't mention my mom and dad for the rest of the evening. Which is not to say, that he is not thinking of them.
Charlie does have a strong memory that is most likely photographic: Once he knows what's going on, he knows it and why belabor a point already clearly stated. Perhaps, having once proclaimed the facts, that's quite sufficient for him -- no need for us to keep reminding him, in language or repeated readings of social stories that may well have been more for our benefit than they ever were for his.