The Egg Chair

Nicholas at four years old with his Alderwood Elementary preschool class
Nicholas (center bottom) at four years old with his Alderwood Elementary autism preschool class

When my son Nicholas was one and a half he lost all his speech. He couldn’t even make coherent sounds. He was already speech-delayed, but he lost all the words he had gained.

When he was three years old, he started in a preschool program for autistics in Bellingham, Washington, at Alderwood Elementary. Debbie Haney was the teacher’s name; Velva and Susan were the lead assistants; Jeni Strom was the speech pathologist … you don’t ever forget these things.

In that classroom they had several spinning or moving pieces of furniture: a chair hanging down from the ceiling, a hammock-type swing, and a spinning egg chair.

Nicholas loved them all, and he would essentially set up camp in the egg chair, which not only could be twirled around but also had a hood that would lower down, shutting out all the sensory input of the world. Not infrequently, he would fall asleep in the egg chair.

I bought an egg chair (it was from IKEA and is still available) for home, and I and my ex-wife Loree would use it as motivation for Nicholas to make sounds: make a sound, be spun around; make it clearly, be spun around three times! Say a word (door, car) have parents collapse in surprise and then be spun around five times. Plus a whole bunch of spins at the beginning and end, too.

Nicholas adored that chair. He would have lived in it if it had been a little larger.

1889642_724508710906191_1678862748_oYesterday we were at the wonderful City Lights Bookstore in Sylva, North Carolina, for a memorial for Pete Seeger, and in the children’s book room there was an egg chair. I hadn’t seen one since Nicholas physically outgrew it so long ago.

It made me emotional, Nicholas less so. He is thirteen years old now; he’s way, way, way too big to fit in the chair or for it to support his weight if he were to lean back in it. The hood doesn’t fit over his head. I took these photographs, and I’ll send them to my ex, now living back in Washington state, and she’ll cry.

I could write this post making the egg chair, with its hood, with its spinning ability, with its connection to Nicholas, into a metaphor for one thing or another, but instead it just moved me, as I was attending a memorial for a man I’d met when I was just slightly younger than Nicholas is now.

Childhoods, of all kinds, pass by so quickly.



    1. This is a Great Story!! I myself have an autistic son whom is four yrs old now…he is high functioning but nonverbal at the present..its good to hear touching stories like yours! I am planning to buy an egg chair for him and this story has inspired me even more to do so! Just luv it! Thank u…god bless…


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