Chapter 181 starts with the sentence, “I see everything”. In his opinion, other people just glance, they don’t really look. Christopher explains this by giving an example of his thoughts as he stands in a countryside versus what most people see. Christopher counts the cows and memorizes their patterns, counts the houses in a village, notices the highest and lowest points of the field and the direction the cows are facing. In the hedge, he notices a plastic bag, a soda can with a snail on it and a long piece of orange string. He listed 7 details that he noticed, but mentioned there were an additional 31 things that he could have listed. Again, it’s all about the details and sticking with the facts! Most people take in the ‘big picture’ noticing the simple things like green grass, cows, flowers, a village in the distance, the fence and the sunny weather with some clouds. Christopher says that then people stop noticing and think, “Oh, it is beautiful here,” or “I’m worried that I left the gas cooker on”. Christopher knows these things because he asked Siobhan. Christopher clearly has a different way of seeing the countryside than perhaps, you or I would see it! What a way to take in all that the world has to offer. This serves as a glimpse inside his brain and how he processes new places. How exhausting, right? Asking Siobhan about what other people think does point towards some theory of mind and perspective taking. How can we apply this to our interactions with our students?
At the end of the chapter, Christopher compares his brain to a computer. When in a new place, his brain has to make account for EVERYTHING he sees. When people are added to the new place, he states that it is like a computer crashing. “People do things you don’t expect”. He has to close his eyes, place his hands over his ears and groan. This is equivalent to hitting CTRL+ALT+DEL on a computer to shut down and reboot. I’m sure most of us have experienced a student “rebooting”. I found this comparison most interesting!
Chapter 191 begins with Christopher remembering his toy train set to make sense of his surroundings. He recounts his journey for a train ticket to London to see his mother in this chapter. Christopher was scared, it was a new place! We understanding how overwhelmed he must be feeling based on his descriptions in the previous chapter. His first obstacle was entering the tunnel full of people and weird smells. He convinced himself to make it through the tunnel by using self-talk so he could sit down, think and make a plan. His brain was in overdrive with all the new things in his path. At last, he finds a chair and sits to think and reboot. He had trouble thinking clearly, so he starts doing maths in his head. He had been there for 2 ½ hours in a trance when a police officer approaches him to ask questions and offer help. The police officer walks Christopher to the cashpoint machine and shows him the ticket office. Unfortunately, this required another trip through the tunnel. Christopher felt safe with the police officer around, but when he got to the ticket window and no longer saw the officer, he became scared again and started pretending he was playing a game where you had to solve lots of problems to get to the next level. He successfully buys the ticket and it was back through the tunnel again with all the people, noises and smells. Christopher says it was like the signs around him where shouting inside his head. Once again, he uses self-talk to venture back through the tunnel visualizing the game he was pretending to play. Before he knew it, he was on Platform 1, pushed open the doors to the train and stepped inside. He did it! He was on his way to London to see his mother! Christopher should be proud of his ability to handle all of the uncomfortable situations he encountered along his journey. He was able to apply many strategies that Siobhan had taught him. It left me with an appreciation for Siobhan and the impact she has had on Christopher’s ability to navigate his world. She must have felt rewarded reading these words. I wonder what her role is at school. Is she a general education teacher, a teacher assistant, a special education teacher or perhaps a speech-language pathologist like us? Regardless of her position, she clearly has made a difference in the life of her student, Christopher.