When she was barely two years, Frances’s first excursion to the beach was uncomfortable: she cried whenever her feet touched the sand. The surface wasn’t hot, but she didn’t like the sensation.
When she was three, on her next trip to the beach, it was difficult because Frances was unaware of children trying to play with her and did not tolerate their attempts to play beside her. As a result, she cried often, and there were several meltdowns.
When she was four, we tried the beach again. At this point, we were 2.5 years away from a diagnosis, and a few months away from wondering if we needed one.
At the beach, as she poured sand out of a pail this day, I asked her to move over a few inches from a sunny to a shady spot. The meltdown that occurred, as she lay flat on her stomach, was loud and prolonged; other parents stared and shook their heads. I was quietly alarmed mostly by the fact of the meltdown and its trigger.
I honestly didn’t know what I was seeing, and I didn’t suspect that Frances had autism. Children have tantrums, but this seemed like more. I just remember thinking, “This isn’t typical, is it?”
In the above panel, she is eight years old, about 1.5 years after diagnosis, and happily enjoying the beach.