From my journal of January 11, 2014, when Frances was six years old:
What if I was the only kid on the planet…? Then, I would be lonely because I would be the only one in my class. The good part is that I would get a lot of time on my own…
I think people probably hear about children with autism being resistant to change, and, in our case, it’s true.
One morning this week, in order to get as much done at once before the children left for school, I decided to try to brush Frances’s hair while she ate breakfast.
She had an immediate meltdown: crying, screaming, and complaining to Pink Cup Dad that I’d interrupted her breakfast.
That was completely my fault: I hadn’t thought about the fact that brushing her hair during breakfast was something we’d never done before.
She notices even the tiniest changes in an environment — whether it be her piano teacher’s studio, her school classroom, or home — and her reaction ranges from complete distraction to meltdown.
With Christmas approaching, I will have to put up decorations slowly, and there is a meltdown every year when I have to take them down.
When the presents are under the tree, it is just too stressful for her for there to be “objects everywhere”.
On Christmas morning, we stagger gift opening, and we try to clean as we go along to minimize the visual stress for her. We do our best not to have guests on that day.
I think that Christmas brings just so much change for Frances — including the stress of anticipation — that, if I could, for her sake I would avoid it altogether.
She may enjoy Christmas without stress one day, but, at eight years old, Christmas (and the change that it entails) is difficult.
Today, upon receiving an invitation to a birthday party being held at a karate instruction centre, Frances said:
“I don’t want to do karate: I’m a girl of peace, not war!”
Today’s vintage quote is from November 17, 2012, when Frances was five years old.
We were getting out of the car to go into the house when she asked one of those questions that make her sound like a little philosopher.
Frances: Is this real or am I dreaming? How can you tell the difference between being awake and dreaming?
Last week, Frances started speech therapy. Language-wise, she is highly verbal; speech-wise, she needs some help: she has difficulty producing the letter “R” and she has a lisp. (Without the “R”, she sounds as if she has an accent.)
Last night, Pink Cup Dad and I watched her work very hard. The therapist and she were playing a board game, and each time she produced the letter “L” with her tongue in certain positions, she was able to take a turn. Frances loved the game.
(The therapist uses the letter “L” to get to “R”.)
For the first time ever, we heard her use an “R” and we heard it with vowels as well!
I have been teaching Frances how to say good-bye to someone at the door when she leaves the house.
This is not something that has come naturally to her.
From the time that she could speak, there were no greetings or goodbyes for anyone entering or leaving our home; there was no acknowledgement whatsoever. Even leaving her at school met with silence.
In January 2014, something wonderful happened: I stood partially clad at my cold front door blowing kisses back and forth with Frances as she left for school.
My daughter, who was six-and-three-quarters, had never blown me kisses before! Not once, even though I would blow her kisses; now she was doing it, and I was at once lost in the moment and aware of how joyously elated I was.
(To most people, such a typical demonstration of affection between mother and child would not merit a blog post.)
After that, as she left for her school day, she would occasionally say, “See you tomorrow!” I didn’t correct her. I thought it was cute, but, more importantly, I thought it was enough for the time being that she was aware that something needed to be said. That was a huge success!
One day, she said, “I get the impression that I’m supposed to say something else, but I don’t know what that is.”
At this point, I explained that she could say, “see you later” or “see you this afternoon”. She started using these phrases once in a while.
Within the past year or so, at eight years old, she started to say “bye” or “see you later” after I said it.
(And she still blows kisses to me.)
I’ve written about her intense interest in dolls, but not many people know this: Frances much prefers watching toy reviews on YouTube to actually playing with the subject toys.
She watches toy reviews at every meal (if we didn’t let her, she couldn’t sit still long enough to eat) and while she is actually playing.
As a result, her knowledge of toys (especially dolls) and toy brands as it appears in casual conversation can sound impressive.
Today, a family friend gave her an unopened Barbie, and Frances said: “This was released in 2011.”
Me: How do you know that?
Frances: I saw it in a toy review.
Me: What happens if you press these buttons when it has batteries?
Frances: She’ll start talking about Ken and other things.