An instrument of communication 

A recent candid class photo

From about the age of four, and the start of junior kindergarten, the abacus became the go-to toy for Frances when leaving home.

She could count to 100 by 5s and 10s, as well as add and subtract, and it was a means by which you might reach her in conversation because she might demonstrate, without eye contact, if you asked.

Nowadays, she is very protective of her abaci, though she doesn’t travel with one very often anymore. (She will take her stuffed bunny which has been with her non-stop for the past two years.)

Rules

I don’t know what other ASD parents, or professionals, call the process or behaviour, but Frances almost constantly “verifies rules” or extracts them from both real and imagined scenarios — and this is undertaken very seriously.

She has been doing this since she started speaking, and her language is, as is her pattern, in the form of questions.

The rules usually pertain to danger, and always occur (to the listener) out of context.

One example, from a few days ago:

“Are cows dangerous? Well they are bigger than me, they have a strong kick. So stay away from cows, right?”

Or:

“Never eat anything bigger than you, right? It could be dangerous.”

Personally, I find it very cute, but I know that she has to learn other ways of starting and holding conversations. (She did some work on this difficulty over the summer.)

More poetry

 
“How old was she?” Frances, when she was five, asked me of the lost Lenore.

Among many poems that I’ve read with my daughter, The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe really stands out.

I haven’t read it to her as often as Prufrock, but it’s a close second. 

She loves the imagery and the musicality in The Raven

She even named a giant Ugly Doll stuffed animal ‘Lenore’. 

(Nowadays, her sense of the gothic can be seen in her appreciation of Tim Burton films: she loved Coraline, the Nightmare Before Christmas, and the Corpse Bride.)

Here is Wikipedia’s entry on The Raven.

Here is the poem itself on the Poetry Foundation’s site.

Born philosopher…

My eight-year-old daughter, in the car today, said:

“So many things amaze me in life — like why people chose cars and why they tamed dogs and horses. But it is also annoying — no matter what answer I come up with for why humans exist, it isn’t enough.”

Prufrock

“Read to me some of what you’re reading,” my not-quite-three-year-old would say at bedtime.

When she first asked, I thought that I would seize the opportunity to read something that she would find boring enough to fall asleep to while listening: Virgil’s Aeneid.

Unfortunately, as I read on and on, she grew interested in it. She’d actually foiled my plan to induce sleep by epic poem.

“Okay,” I thought to myself. “If I’m going to read something to her, I may as well read something that interests me.”

 
At first, I started reading T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, but once The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock popped into my head, I abandoned the longer poem in favour of Prufrock.

To my utter surprise, she loved it. She asked questions; she asked me to repeat words and to repeat lines and to repeat stanzas. I read through it more than once that night — then, I read it to her every night for years.

I wrote down many of her statements and questions about the poem — here are a few.

April 29, 2012 (5 years old):

Me: ‘Am not Prince Hamlet…nor was meant to be.’

Frances: I think he is lying; I think he IS the prince.

Me: Do you mean that he is more like those people than he realizes?

April 16, 2013 (5 years old):

Frances: Who is he talking to? Maybe a princess who is about to be married?

August 24, 2013 (6 years old):

Frances: Are there other voices, other songs of Prufrock?

  

Recommended books

I just added a page that lists books that I’ve read in which ASD (autism spectrum disorder) or autism is featured, and beside each title I have indicated the perspective from which the narrative is written (e.g., parent, sibling, etc.)