I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Frances lines things up. In fact, to be honest, years before she got her diagnosis, I started noticing that she did this. It didn’t concern me because, as I said to Pink Cup Dad once years ago, Frances “always has a good reason” for doing so.
“Like what?” He asked.
“Like all of her baby dolls are watching TV.”
“That’s not a good reason…”
I can actually see his point now. She would have lined them up and THEN decided that they were watching TV because she doesn’t have storylines or narratives when she plays. The lining up is the priority and not the activity of having them “watch TV.” Her behaviour isn’t, and wasn’t, typical play behaviour.
Nothing has changed about this activity as she has aged, except that she isn’t interested in baby dolls anymore; she is intensely focussed upon horses and horse dolls and horse riding and horse-doll collecting and horse documentaries…
While waiting for an appointment recently, she sat on the floor and lined up her (Schleich) horses. She didn’t have a story that preceded or accompanied the lining up of the horses; she didn’t have one afterwards, either. I think it’s just what a herd of twenty-plus horses would look like if they were going somewhere.
Frances actually has many RBIs (repetitive behaviours and interests), and this is my favourite: she’s been doing it since she was about 13 months or so.
The behaviour to me seems harmless; if she likes lining up objects, why shouldn’t she? Certainly, it can be messy: I’ve literally seen hundreds of my books continuously lined up and looped around objects throughout the entire house because my 18-month-old daughter was THAT focussed. I was very impressed even as I picked up every single book.
I know that it’s a behaviour closely associated with autism and ASD. I like it.
Since she was three years old, Frances has had an intense interest in all things medical 🏥. It shows up everywhere, especially at 11 years old.
The other day during March break, Frances announced, as she typically does (literally) in passing, what was on her mind:
“Mum, if someone were saying, ‘I can’t feel my face when I’m with you’ to me, I would say, ‘Stroke! You’re having a STROKE!’” 😂
Yes, one of the benefits of having a child who focusses so intensely on her subjects of interest is that you are fortunate enough to suddenly find yourself in the most entertaining (as well as enlightening) of conversations.
Recently, I was discussing with someone an event that had occurred while I was hospitalised last autumn and described the cautiousness that my care team had demonstrated regarding some cardiovascular and cardiopulmonary symptoms. Frances couldn’t help herself, she interrupted because she just had to know:
Did they give you TPA?
Did you hear, “Code Blue” over the loudspeaker?
Did anyone say, “Everyone to the resuscitation bay!”
She speaks now of becoming a surgeon which, I’ve told her, would probably allow her to continue her equestrian ambitions.
So, last night, Frances came into my room with a piece of Scotch tape and a washable marker, then proceeded to get my fingerprint.
She said, “Thanks for the sample” as she left. Very mysterious.
There are times when I just don’t press the issue. Take, for example, the time that the cat was a pretty shade of purple and nobody seemed to know why and, certainly, nobody confessed. The cat didn’t mind, so I eventually left the matter alone. But, I still wonder: who…? Why?
I wonder if I’ll ever know why she wanted my fingerprint… 🤔
Me: Can I give you a muffin?
Frances: Gypsy moths are an invasive species.
Me: Okay. Here’s a muffin.
Because it remains a challenge for Frances, her social/pragmatic language often produces very unusual exchanges between us.
This one caught me off guard one recent morning, and I had to stifle a giggle.
I will always help as much as possible to make being with others easier, yet this is one facet of her personality that I absolutely adore.
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.
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…