Frances: Sarcasm — isn’t that just lying? (Nov. 17/17)
People with ASD can experience difficulty with figurative language. What I have discovered is that “not understanding” can, in a sense, mean “just getting to the bottom line” of the matter with Frances.
Ordinarily, she has difficulty interpreting euphemisms, idioms, gestures, etc. Here, her struggle appears to concern purpose or utility: Why would one use sarcasm? Why does one, oftentimes, use sarcasm as humour? In other words, why is it considered to be funny?
It’s really amazing that, even though she struggles with non-literal language, she is very witty and understands figurative language when it is her own, when she, herself, produces it.
For example, when she was newly six years old and was feeling unwell, she once said:
I’m feeling as sick as a tornado can be loud…Is that a lot? (May 28, 2013)
Frances has always kept me on my feet — in more ways than one — and always at least one step away from knowing everything about her.
She’s absolutely fascinating — I am her mother, after all — and her ability to get straight to the heart of any matter is just one more thing that impresses me.
Give Frances paint, paper, and lots of space, and she’s happy.
Frances: I think people are getting bored of me talking about horses at school.
Me: You’ve got to let others talk about themselves.
Frances: I let Sally talk about her guinea pigs, but it was so boring.
Me: You have to let yourself be a little bored, and then others won’t mind being a little bored when you speak of horses.
I wanted to include this conversation, which happened before school, because I think I’ve found another way to reach Frances. (Also, it illustrates a difficulty that children with ASD may experience.)
I’ve heard professionals advise Frances to do a “social fake” where the child pretends to be interested in what someone else is saying. It doesn’t work with Frances. She doesn’t believe that her conversations about horses aren’t always riveting to others. So, I tried another approach by asking her to be bored for a few minutes.
By letting her know that others feel a little bored sometimes just as she does, she may start to realize when people don’t want her to speak and interaction could go more smoothly.
It’s just a thought. I’ll let you know if it does, or if it doesn’t, work.
Frances recently gave me this advice:
Frances has a very dry sense of humour that appears at really funny times.
For example, every weekend, she and I have a sleepover: we usually camp out in a fort in the living room, watch a movie and eat popcorn.
Recently, my bed was the site of the sleepover, and I found myself often teetering on the edge about to fall off because she kept moving closer and pushing me. I even fell over once.
When I mentioned this to Frances, she simply said, “Well, they say if you love something, you should let it go.”
So, she was letting me go over the edge?
She was seven years old at the time.
One fascinating aspect of 10-year-old Frances’s personality is that she remembers facts so well and that she shares them kind of…randomly.
For example, the following recent conversation was brief but interesting:
Frances: The atomic number of copper is 29.
Me: Okay, thanks.
There was no preceding conversation. We just happened to be passing each other in the hallway, and we both went our own way afterwards.
Part of me knows that I’ll have to help her understand that she can’t start conversations like that with, for example, someone walking past her at school; another part of me does find it adorable.
At her riding lesson, Frances interrupted grooming her pony to remind me of something: It was the birthday of her friend’s guinea pigs and she wanted to record her birthday wishes — with the pony — in a video.
Though it was a very serious occasion, I found it difficult not to laugh at the cuteness of the situation.
I also couldn’t help considering it from a guinea pig’s perspective…