Language and context

She sometimes says “thank you” instead of “you’re welcome”, or she might say “you’re welcome” before the other person has a chance to thank her.

My adorable little girl is learning language and context, so I always tell her the correct response.

But, as I’ve mentioned recently, in these moments I get a chance to appreciate who she truly is just as she is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that her struggle with pragmatic language often creates precious moments between us.



I know that it’s my job to make sure that Frances knows social rules and to help her make sense of them, but sometimes it is very endearing when she doesn’t remember.

For example, in the car recently, Frances handed her sister some food that she intended to share and then said, “You’re welcome.”

“You have to wait until the person says, ‘Thank you,'” I reminded her.

“Oops. I sometimes get the words confused,” she replied.

She hadn’t said “you’re welcome” sarcastically; the words that she needs in social situations just aren’t always available to her or she confuses words because following the rule hasn’t yet become automatic to her.

At those moments, even though I step in to help, I’m really aware of just how much I appreciate who she is.


When Frances verifies rules with me by asking questions (all day long), they’re often — but not always — correct. 

I know that there are much more recent examples, but I just happened to have seen the following while browsing my notes.

Frances: You wash your hands after taking off skirts, right? (May 1, 2016)

It’s the point at which a developmental difference is fairly obvious. When she gets it right, it sounds like a curious kid who is focussed on rules; but when she gets it wrong, it sounds like a very untypical question for a child of her age (or anyone) to ask.

She’s quite capable: intellectually, she is about 13 years old (socially, she is much younger), while her actual age is nine. Her questions just sometimes reflect a difficulty with generalizing.

Personally, I love her questions and verifying of rules, and sometimes I feel bad when I have to correct her.

On the bus

A couple days ago, as we waited for a bus in the pouring rain, Frances asked, “Who in their right mind would be out in this kind of weather?”

I boarded the bus and sat beside her. Frances leaned over, and in her best stage whisper (for she has no ‘library voice’) said, “Remember when I asked you who in their right mind would be out in this weather?”

I put a finger to my lips to indicate that she needed to lower her voice.

“Remember?” she asked more loudly.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Well, apparently? There are lot of people who are out of their minds in this town!” she said loudly.

I lost my composure and laughed out loud.

With great sincerity, Frances looked at me, annoyed, and said, “Shhhh. You need to be quiet.”

Decoding a culture

Frances’s questions are usually, but not always, delivered out of the blue or in rapid-fire style. 

There are times when her questions are kind of jolting in a personal way because they provide a glimpse of the ways in which she struggles from day to day. 

In this panel, at five years, she has trouble decoding culture-specific head movements to accept or to decline an invitation. (I had to be certain, of course, that she was not simply confusing the words shaking and nodding — she was not.)