I've talked a lot about N's pragmatic language issues, and that they are especially acute when it comes to various types of measurements; he doesn't really seem to get the difference between an inch and a foot or how many of one goes into the other, for instance. But the most obvious and frequent issue involves time. Quantities of time. Tenses of time.
"Remember when we went to the store tomorrow?" he might say.
"You mean when we went to the store yesterday?"
"Oh, right," he'll reply. "Yesterday."
Trying to find actual real examples of what I'm talking about, though, that's harder. So when I come across one, especially one that keeps getting repeated, I'm wont to write it down, so I can use it, so I can be specific when I ask people to help us figure out how to address it.
Recently, we've been listening to Wonder on audiobook. I mentioned it before, and at some point I'll likely mention it again, because it's been this wonderful (ha!) experience for both of us. It's eliciting so much conversation, and so much emotion.
It's also eliciting a perfect example of N's issues with time.
See, we listen to the book on my iPhone; the iPod function there has a 15-seconds-back function on it; you touch a little clockwise or counterclockwise arrow with the number 15 in it, and that makes the audio skip forward or backward 15 seconds. Because we only get to listen to the book a few times a week, there are long periods in between when life gets in our way, so whenever we turn it back on, I always instruct N to hit the 15-second-back once or twice.
Lately, because my son is nothing if not a creature of habit, he's beating me to the punch when I pull out my iPhone and hand it to him to get us started while I drive.
"Should I turn it back 15 minutes?" he said the other day.
"Seconds, and yes," I said.
"Right. Seconds," he replied.
Two days later:
"I'll turn it back 15 minutes."
"15 what?" I said, prompting.
"Oh, right. Seconds," he said, embarrassed, dismissive.
On the way to school the other day, when we'd been late leaving the house every morning this week (I adoreADOREadore Daylight Savings, but it sure does take me some time to catch up to the mornings), I bemoaned our tardiness.
"This isn't OK," I said. "We're so late. It's already 7:50!"
"Yeah," he said. "I'll have to remind you to leave a few minutes later tomorrow."
"Later?" I said, momentarily confused, until the coin dropped. "Do you mean earlier?"
"Oh, right. Earlier," he said.
That "oh right"? The one that comes with each of these corrections I give him? If you were sitting there, you'd know that they are not "oh, right"s. They are, rather, "isn't that what I just said?" They are, "I'll use repeat your words so you'll leave me alone." They are, "we just aren't speaking the same language."
I can see the disconnect, but I can't see how to cross that divide. I don't know where it's rooted. In language? In something deeper, some quirky biological sense that isn't, an actual inability to know the difference between 15 seconds and 15 minutes? Somewhere else?
Is it fixable? Does it need fixing? Can it be worked around? Is it the sign of some gift instead? Am I looking at it from the wrong perspective, from my time bound world, trying to tie him down?
When N was little, he used to talk about something happening "in a couple of whiles." I loved that turn of phrase, and I still like to use it. But, really, I think that's what time is for him. Just some whiles, all piling up in one direction or another. A couple of whiles here, a couple of whiles there. It's all the same. It's life.