Alex makes sense of the world by numbers. Perhaps because words don’t come easily for him, he relies upon numerical values to quantify, rank, and understand how various elements relate to one another. Like a driver’s license, he requires vital statistics when it comes to people’s identities: age, height, and weight. Knowing a person’s blood pressure would be an added bonus for him. He’s even created his own system for defining people’s voices, based upon volume and pitch, which he calls “dropodos.” In fact, recently, he asked me to compile a list of people he knows so that he could assign each of them a dropodos value, and he reviews this list daily. Somehow this ranking he’s developed helps him to remember a quality he finds interesting about each person.
This past week, Alex has decided that he needs new measuring tools. One day, he asked me for a ruler, and when I brought him one, he told me that he wanted a red one. Since red is his current favorite color, I suppose his request wasn’t surprising. I think he just wanted a new ruler, and asking for something he knew we didn’t have was a way to get what he wanted. In addition, he decided he wanted “a really long tape measure.” Because I don’t want him to bend the tape or cut his fingers on a metal construction measuring tape, I had given him a sewing measuring tape made of plastic that was safer. Not satisfied with its five-foot length, Alex asked me to look for longer measuring tapes online. With a quick Google search, we discovered a quilting measuring tape that was like his sewing measuring tape but twice as long. Moreover, a little more searching revealed that our local Wal-Mart carried those 120” quilting tapes in stock for only about two dollars. I’m not sure what he planned to measure that was ten feet long, but he was delighted when we took him to Wal-Mart and found both a red ruler and the quilting measuring tape.
Besides measuring length, Alex also values measuring time. As I have described in previous blog entries, Alex loves clocks and finds the concept of time fascinating. A few weeks ago, he asked me to order a book on the history of clocks, and we found Time’s Pendulum: From Sundials to Atomic Clocks, the Fascinating History of Timekeeping and How Our Discoveries Changed the World on Amazon.com. This book seemed tailor-made for Alex, and when it arrived, he happily began reading about the evolution of devices that measure time. He even fell asleep that night holding the book. This week, my mom commented that someone who cares as much about time as Alex does should wear a watch. Over the years, we’ve tried to convince Alex to wear a watch so that he doesn’t have to keep asking us what time it is. Probably because of his sensory issues, or perhaps because he just likes to make conversation by asking what time it is, Alex has refused to wear a watch. However, this week, when I suggested that he might like to have a watch so that he can check the time himself, he was receptive to the idea. Once again, we went online, searching for an inexpensive watch that met his criteria—digital with time, date, and a chronograph, or stopwatch, function. I also knew that he would be particular about the texture of the watchband, so we found him one that had a softer fabric band with a Velcro closure he could adjust himself, instead of relying on us to loosen or tighten a buckle. With another trip to Wal-Mart yesterday, we found the watch he wanted, and he patiently waited for us to figure out how to program the watch for time and date (with directions that were about as complicated as those to defuse a bomb, I’m guessing!) and then proudly wore his new timepiece all day. When we explained that he couldn’t wear his watch in the shower or to bed, he seemed disappointed. Although we tried to convince him that he should put his watch on his dresser overnight, he insisted on sleeping with it in his bed, as he likes to do with his various prized possessions. As soon as he awakened this morning, he wanted help putting on his watch. Apparently, he has decided that wearing a watch is a good idea, after all.
Another more unusual request Alex has made this week goes along with his interest in measurement in a less obvious way. Earlier in the week, Alex asked me to find the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Although I couldn’t find a storybook of that old tale I used to read to him when he was little, I was able to find the text of the story online, which he requested I print for him. Reading the story to himself was not satisfying, though, because he wanted me to read the story aloud to him, complete with the voices of Mama Bear, Papa Bear, Baby Bear, and the nosy little Goldilocks. (Actually, I’m somewhat surprised he hasn’t assigned these characters with their own dropodos levels.) Nonetheless, he asked me to read the story to him several time, each time smiling ear to ear as he listened to me say the characters’ lines with different intonations. His favorite line, however, was every time Goldilocks finally decided after two extremes that something was “just right.” Since he seemed to enjoy revisiting this story from his childhood, I found a copy of the book at Wal-Mart (while we were buying the red ruler and quilting tape measure, which meant our total cost for Alex’s current whims was only about five dollars) with nice illustrations for him to enjoy as well as the story itself. Several times a day, Alex brings me the storybook and asks me to read “the book about porridge,” and I’m pleased to fulfill his simple request, especially since it seems to bring him so much joy. Yesterday, he asked me if we could call the bears and Goldilocks on the phone, and I’m guessing that he was hoping to hear their distinctive voices. I had to explain to him that they weren’t real, but were just characters in a book. Fortunately, he took the news in stride, and I found his childlike innocence endearing.
In trying to analyze what Alex likes so much about Goldilocks and the Three Bears, besides my reading with the varied voices, I think he really likes the idea of “just right.” When we run water for his bath or shower or check his food temperature, Ed and I always make sure it’s not too hot or too cold, but that it’s just right. When we buy him shoes or clothes, we make sure they’re not too big or too small, but just right. When we find him a pillow for his bed, we know that it cannot be too hard or too soft; it must be just right. In trying to make Alex’s life comfortable and safe, he, like Goldilocks, has developed a preference for all in life that is “just right” and knows that measuring will allow him to know the extremes as well as the comfortable middle he has trusted us to find for him. Now he’s ready to find what is just right for himself. Of course, he knows we will be right behind him, guiding him, praying, and making sure that he can find the “just right” for all things in his life so that he may enjoy all the good things life has to offer.
“This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.” Ephesians 4:13