A play date

Frances went on a long play date today (without me). It’s the same family that hosted the last one, the one that is familiar with Frances and her needs.

It seems that the event went very well until two other, unfamiliar children showed up unexpectedly. If anyone had known this was going to happen, I could have explained the difficulty that Frances would experience.

She has trouble joining groups and staying in groups of children. She does well with one other child, but things break down for her when more children are involved. She also doesn’t interact with children that she doesn’t know unless she is helped to do so.

I see it as another in her series of developmental stages of relating to others. Recently, I made a list* that enumerates her social development:

1. at ages two and three, she seemed completely unaware of other children;

2. at age four, she screamed if children appeared to be coming near her at the park or on the playground or in the library; 

3. she had meltdowns and screamed at the park or library or social event every single time; nearby children and parents were often confused or alarmed by her behaviour (screaming and crying) if they tried to interact with her;

4. she allowed children to try to play with her or just be near but did not acknowledge them in any way

5. she acknowledged other children in some way, but only to complain that they were harming her or being mean to her or doing something wrong socially (when they weren’t);

6. she allowed children to play beside her but told them when to leave (usually after a couple of minutes);

7. she stopped telling other children when to leave but told them they were annoying her;

8. she sometimes let a classmate play beside her, but not usually, and stated that she wanted to play by herself; she still always complained about other children;

9. at age seven, she usually let a classmate or two play beside her but with much conflict and confusion; unknown children at social events could be near her but were still not interacted with; 

10. she played with classmates using her own rules and didn’t follow along with the others; attempted play dates always ended because of meltdowns;

11. at almost age ten, she plays with classmates as long as rules that she knows don’t change or another activity isn’t initiated midway and still plays primarily alone or beside others; she still has trouble joining groups and there is no interaction with unknown children unless it is facilitated. Play dates do not end because of meltdowns.

She has actually had a lot of occupational therapy to help her join groups and read the cues necessary to stay in them while at play. It takes time and practice to really master these skills.

Unfortunately, she had a huge meltdown after she came home but couldn’t tell us why. After a few minutes she mentioned the other, unknown girls joining but not the difficulty that she’d had.

But I knew immediately. She would have been trying her very best to join in, but she just couldn’t manage it, and the parents didn’t know about this particular difficulty of hers. (I didn’t think to tell them because they only have one daughter with whom she plays.)

I’m not surprised that she became frustrated and overwhelmed.

Anyway, she’ll be calmed down and back to her usual self tomorrow.

She is now watching her favourite movie with Pink Cup Dad while I marvel at the curly hairstyle that I gave Barbie at Frances’s request.


*I don’t know how Frances’s social development compares to other children with ASD. Also, I use the words play and interact interchangeably, and Frances’s idea of playing really differs from what is considered typical of children without ASD.

An unexpected change

Frances had a bit of shock yesterday: her teacher, who is due to give birth in April, has to go on bed rest; so, today is her last day.

Frances is presently in a multi-age classroom, from grades one to four; next September, she will be graduated to the grades five to eight class.

The teacher wouldn’t have been her teacher next September. So, Frances has been prepared for an eventual change, but the rapid changes next week will mean a difficult transition for Frances. 

The transition will primarily involve changes in her behaviour: she doesn’t tell us when she has anxiety (by which she is highly affected). She is exceedingly verbal, and, as she ages, she is able to communicate emotions and states of mind better, but we still rely on looking at her behaviour to know how much anxiety and difficulty that she is experiencing. 

So, I’m just crossing my fingers that next week won’t be as difficult for her as I think it probably will be.

Snowman

Winters are cold here. While I wouldn’t say that spring is in the air, today is actually quite nice at -2C with noticeable sunshine.

Increasingly, Frances asks to play outside on the weekends and after school.

She ended up making a snowman on her own this past weekend.

The new ABA group

Frances was near crying as the other girls of her ABA (applied behaviour analysis) group walked into the reception area.

“I’m not going,” she told me.

“I don’t want to go somewhere without you,” she said. She was pouting.

“You didn’t consult me. You didn’t even ask me if I wanted to do this,” she reminded me.

The ABA interventionist/group leader tried to talk to her, but Frances buried her face into my coat.

Then the group leader uttered the magic words:

“We have dolls!”

Frances looked up. “OK,” she said. “And Barbies?”

The kid didn’t even look back at me as she walked down the hall. 

That was last month, and she has only grumbled a bit beforehand since then; there’s a much smoother transition now.

Party of one more 

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Whenever the opportunity appears, I promote self-confidence and my daughter’s I-can-do-it-by-myself attitude; yet there are times when this isn’t possible, when we need to take a more gradual approach to independence.

I dropped Frances off at a restaurant-based party yesterday to celebrate the 10th birthday of a friend that she knows from horse riding lessons.

The people hosting the party are great — such kind, loving grandparents. I knew that Frances would be safe with them in a party setting.

But could I do it? Could I just leave her with people she barely knows and go back across town to my home until it was pickup time?

No, actually, I couldn’t — not this time.

For one thing, she had never been to a party on her own before. For another thing, they didn’t know that she has ASD and that she could become overwhelmed. These factors, when considered together, told me that it wasn’t the time for her to try to go to a party alone.

So, I sat at a separate table across the room and around a corner, eating a meal, for about an hour before she knew that I was there.

For that one hour during which my presence was unknown, I could see that she was doing quite well without me when she went to a buffet. (I actually could only see her when she went to the buffet.) She always had the birthday girl with her.

I noticed a few times that the girl would put her arm around Frances’s shoulders in a protective way.

When Frances realized I was there, she was a little surprised, but I assured her that I was only there because I’d had nowhere else to wait. She really didn’t seem to mind.

Mostly, I read the news on my phone and ate my supper in relative solitude; however, at the end, I joined the group for a piece of cake.

But, as Pink Cup Sister noted, Frances still hasn’t gone to a party by herself. She’s right. Who knows? Frances did very well, so the next party could very well be the one that she attends without me.

My little helper

Frances: Guess what’s the one thing I don’t want to do when I grow up? Laundry! But I’m happy to do it now…

I think she’s right: she won’t want to do laundry. It’s MY least favourite task, anyway…