LLAF or 1-5-3

“Simplicity is a consistency that resolves itself.”

I love this. It feels circular, but also like a road. I can’t tell you the origin, but the quote came from Bill Cunningham on one of his “On the Street” collages, prefaced by, “There’s a saying in the art world…”

Today I’m applying it to Jonah and his way of taking things in. Something about numbers and letters, of symbols as a whole, doesn’t absorb easily. Let him watch a video a couple of times, and he will quote you passages to near perfection. But it’s taken several years for him to recognize the letters in his name, and on some days still, it’s hit-or-miss. In many ways he’s just a late comer. The kid cried for a good percentage of the first nine months of his life. Looking back, we can recognize more clearly how his struggle with sensory integration made sleep and simple existence incredibly difficult, maybe even painful for him. So if you’re uncomfortable in your own body and your only form of communication is to yell about it, it makes sense that you’re not going to be taking in much of your environment. My theory—and it holds true in a variety of situations—is that Jonah is about nine months “behind” in regard to those benchmarks typical kids are supposed to meet. Of course, this is a generalization. In some ways he’s ahead; in others, even more delayed.

So for a good year now, his teachers and OT’s and intervention specialists have been doing intensive alphabet/number recognition work, incorporating writing by having him trace in sand or make letters with putty. Same as with his name, some days he can recognize five or six letters of the alphabet (other than the letters of his name), sometimes you’re lucky to get a “J” or an “O” or an “H”. Friday, unbidden, he started reading (from right to left) a hand-painted sign outside of his school: L, L, A, F. Three of those letters have nothing to do with his name! Yahoo! It helps that he’s been obsessing about when fall is going to come. And if it will still be fall at Halloween, and at Christmas.

Then there was a meltdown involving a castle he’d made out of poster board and toilet paper tubes and streamers that I had to jimmy into the buggy, which distressed him to no end because I was “RUINING IT!” We got through that by the promise of a lollipop on our arrival home. And no, I don’t feel guilty a bit about bribing my child with candy. But it does make me internally reference a post on We Go With Him, called The Eternal Autismland Conundrum.

J’s second triumph occurred a block from home. A neighbor had erected a new address marker, a stone carved with his house number. Unbidden, Jonah proceeded to point out (reading from bottom to top), “It’s 1 and 5 and 3.”

Maybe all that work with his teachers and helpers is paying off. And maybe it’s also organic, the way that anyone comes to understand things in their own time and way (the Montessorians call these intervals “sensitive periods”). It’s simple and it’s not, because it’s also mysterious. But maybe mystery isn’t as complicated as we think.

One more story: Jonah’s learned to ride his bike without training wheels (not so late comer here)—in very much the same way he started talking and peeing in the toilet. He just did it, without extensive training or much perceptible accumulation of skill. He spent a good part of today circling the three pine trees in our sidelot. “Can you hardly believe it?” he kept asking, and then repeated something he’d heard me say about John painting the hand railings on our porch: “Your dreams are coming true.”


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