If you've been around awhile, you may remember that the way we helped pull him out of his own world enough to begin genuine communication was by pretending to be Mama Kitty and Baby Kitty. We spent much of a summer on the floor, being animals. Baby Kitty would ask for water and Mama Kitty would give it to him. Baby Kitty would ask for food and Mama Kitty would provide. After a few weeks of this, Human Charlie, nearly 3, realized that he could ask for water and ask for food and that Mama Human would provide. It was such a fantastic alternative to hysterical crying while I guessed.
From there, we progressed to the dragon stuffed animals. We have a Mama, Daddy, Baby and two Sisters. With the dragons, we could say things to Charlie that he couldn't hear us say to him. When Mama Dragon showed Baby Dragon that it was a dangerous thing to stand in the road, Human Charlie stopped running out to stand in the middle of the street and look at the shiny part where there was a penny in the asphalt, oblivious to all cars.
A year ago, when Charlie entered speech therapy, one of my goals was to be able to have a conversation with my son. His articulation was fine--you could understand nearly anything he tried to say--but the back-and-forth of conversation is something that his autistic brain doesn't find very valuable. As I've written recently, a lot of interaction with Charlie still goes back to animal role play. He doesn't connect well as a human some days.
This is where the Wii saves the day. On a Wii, you have a Mii, a character you make to look like you and then use in all your games. You pick your favorite color for it's shirt and you change it's features to resemble yours. On the Wii Fit exercise program, it automatically makes your belly and booty to match, a feature I'm not so fond of. Charlie is fond of every aspect of his Mii. To put it mildly, Charlie identifies with his character more closely than anyone I've ever met.
There are no limits, as far as I can tell, to how many Miis you can have. Melody, unwilling to choose a favorite color, has seventeen in varying hues. Dixie has a couple for her and has also created one for each pet. Charlie has quite a few Big Characters and they all have different personalities.
First is Regular Charlie. He looks like Charlie and does ordinary Charlie things. He has regular eyebrows.
Next is Sunday Charles. That is his superhero name. Sunday Charles is tall, has brown hair and green eyes and likes to play the adventure games. He has handsome eyebrows.
My favorite is Charlie Alien Bagohead. (Bagohead=Big Ol' Head). He wears a green cap and they used the features adjuster to push his eyebrows far above his head and they look like antennae. These are called Stickin' Up Eyebrows.
There are a few more who don't get as much use, but are all quite important. Now when Charlie chooses a character to be in real life, the Miis have entered his repertoire. Just as his cat is markedly different in behaviorisms than his dog, Sunday Charles and Charlie Alien Bagohead are nothing alike.
As strange as this all can be at times (he spends the car ride home from school each day quizzing me on the various attributes of each Big Character) it's exciting to me that Charlie can express himself in human form. Not quite the traditional approach, but we're unconventional people here.
Oddly enough, when you try to call him a nickname, he gets all flustered. Last fall, my assistant principal told him 'You're a cute pie' to which he responded, "I not a Pie, Miss S. I just a Big Boy Named Charlie." Now she calls him Charlie Pie and hears, every time, "I still not a Pie. Dest a Chawlie."
(Surprisingly, Big Boy Named Charlie has not become a character. I think BBNC is who Charlie is when he's being Charlie).
He also responds this way to all the other nicknames we have for him. Yesterday, he explained it like this: I do not like nicknames. Nick is not in my name.