My art journal began well before our younger daughter, Frances, 7, received the diagnosis of high functioning autism spectrum disorder (aged 6), before I suspected or acknowledged that her development was not typical, and before Aspergers became known as HF ASD.
Keeping the journal has been useful in a few respects: it was sufficiently informational to myself and others to aid in the process of getting Frances diagnosed; it gave me something to do during the waiting periods between the necessary referrals in that process; importantly, I have been able to keep track of most of all the amazing things that my children have said.
Now, I realize that it has an even greater utility than I originally imagined: I feel fortunate to know our daughter, and I think everyone should know someone with HF ASD; by sharing the journal, I hope that it helps others to appreciate just how enriched our lives can be both by an awareness of neurodiversity and by neurodiversity itself.
The preceding graphic panel illustrates an aspect of my daughter’s HF ASD that is not well known outside our family.
Though all children that I have met are naturally inquisitive, there is something intensely different about my daughter’s curiosity: she is driven to ask questions, all day and all night, to the degree that she does so in her sleep; she even wakes up in the middle of the night to ask them.
Most markedly, she speaks in questions. That is, she interacts with others by posing questions but, for now, she leaves the impression that she would have asked those questions regardless of another’s presence. (My husband and I affectionately and privately say that Frances doesn’t usually require the presence of someone else for a conversation.)
Her questions are a constant source of joy and amazement for us, as they most often reflect a philosophical turn of mind, an abiding interest in science and animals and technology, or an outside-the-box perspective of an everyday thing.
Frances’s queries often catch us, my husband and myself, off guard, too, because they occur out of the blue and lack a point of reference for us.
They usually occur in rapid-fire succession, each following the other so closely that answering all of them is physically impossible. (I timed her once: 33 questions in 11 minutes.)
Admittedly, it isn’t always easy: her father, her sister and I have tacitly developed rules regarding, for example, driving with her. (Surpisingly, these “rules” are often only discovered when one of them is contravened.)
If you’re going to answer dozens of questions, you might as well steer them away from the topics that are the most difficult for you to sustain. In our case, Frances has an intense interest in dolls of all types (and babies) and, unfortunately, we simply don’t enjoy dolls as much as she does. So, under no circumstance is anyone permitted to mention or to give her a MapleLea doll catalogue or the latest BabiesRus catalogue while we are driving! (This rule was discovered when her sister and I looked accusingly at my husband during one drive: “Wait, what? Who gave her the catalogue?”)
On the occasions when someone does give her a doll or baby catalogue, the intensity of the ‘question experience’ is increased many times.
So, yes, Frances’s fierce curiosity can be slightly exhausting at times, but the gems that we receive as a result are invaluable rewards for exercising patience. These gems are now a driving force behind my journal.
At any rate, I hope you enjoy the questions and conversations — in journal entries — as much as I enjoy making them available.