I talk to chip clips.

“Chip clips! How are you? Are you happy today?”, I ask with open enthusiasm.

The chip clips, affixed to a bucket by magnets, are moved to nod in answer to my questions.

These inanimate objects might as well have names, personalities, families and jobs. They are an intricate part of our family, at least. They live on metal pail given to J the Easter before last and are one of his stim items. The simple act of looking at these two chip clips on their pail from various angles is peaceful to him.

So I talk to chip clips.

This is not the only thing I talk to or with. Stuffed animals come to life, displaying exaggerated reactions and emotions to reflect to J how emotions work. Cars with busted parts in the parking lot to a garage requiring reassuring J that while said car does have a boo-boo, it will be okay, someone is going to fix the boo-boo. Trees must be greeted and occasionally hugged on the way out of schools. Light poles are said hello to as well.

My child struggles with social skills. There was a long time of his life where he displayed few and seemed distant, even removed. The progress he has made is substantial and part of that progress entails living in a manner most unexpected yet most oddly pleasant. We end up going a lot slower through life and seeing a lot more. There are details he catches that I would have otherwise missed, all because we stop at all those trees.

It’s tempting some days to hurry him along with the thinking that come on, we said hi to those trees already earlier today… It’s becoming more clear that when there’s no emergency, there’s no need to hasten or skip these things. These habits, they only linger while they serve a function even if that function only is obvious to J himself and to forcibly remove them is fixing what is not broken. That ends well for no one.

So next time you see a bedraggled mom with a sweet-faced little boy stopping to chat with trees or talk to chip clips, remember that as odd as it may be to you it might very well be very important to them.

Besides, chip clips are fine conversational partners when they are voiced by a nearly 4-year-old who formerly had near zero functional communication skills. Fine partners indeed.