Growing up

I haven’t been posting much recently because I’ve been so busy attending to Pink Cup Sister’s needs, but also because it’s difficult to write about some things.

For example, Frances is acutely aware that her school mates are “growing up” and she thinks that she may be just as young socially as she was when she first started the school back in 2012 at age 5.

This isn’t accurate, but that’s how she feels. She actually has grown unbelievably, in leaps and bounds, from the little girl who never acknowledged people speaking to her and who never looked at anyone, into a young lady who is passionate about all things equestrian and very comfortable with the people whom she knows.

She is definitely older intellectually than her 11 years by quite a few years, and, yes, a little younger socially: she still wants to collect and to play (yay!) with horse dolls, while her school friends move into the more frequently seen middle-school behaviour of standing around while chatting on the school ground during recesses.

So, she’s gone from the little girl who didn’t want to/know how to play with other children to an older child who wants to play and usually has no opportunity to do so.

Recently, while at a horse show, we were surrounded by the people we know–her coach, the stable owner, other riders and parents–from the stable. Frances, though hoping for someone to play with, announced, “I don’t understand non-horse people,” and everyone said that he/she understood this very well. She then said, “I’m a ‘me’ person, not a ‘we’ person.”

But nobody agreed with her. I put my arms around her (because she sometimes allows me to do so), and I said, “I don’t know about that. These are your friends; these are your people.”

Maybe they don’t play anymore, but they all love horses and “the horse life”, too. We all share an understanding of what it’s like to muck around in dirt; we all know the physical labour involved in loving horses (some of us more than others). At that moment, the feeling of camaraderie was palpable in the spectator stands. I think she noticed as everyone was smiling.

As we fell asleep during our weekly sleepover, I confided: “Mummies and Daddies get a little sad when their children stop playing with toys. I hope you’ll play with toys for as long as you want to even if you only have yourself to play with.”

This seemed like a good idea to her, and we drifted off to sleep while the intense heat of the day eased off and a gentle breeze made us feel better about a lot of things.

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The birthday girl

We celebrated Frances’s 10th birthday this weekend, and there were no meltdowns during the two parties. 

She covered her ears during the “Happy Birthday” song both times, but we kept the numbers very small at both the party for friends and the party for relatives, so she didn’t get overwhelmed in general.

At the party for friends, in addition to a few classmates, she had two friends from horse-riding lessons which was really nice.

Guess what theme predominated the gifts that she received? Horses. She got every manner of horse toy for which a ten-year-old horse-and-doll-loving little girl could have wished, and it was really sweet.

The trusty Barbie unit of measure

We’re at the end of a snowstorm which could be winter’s last hurrah. 

Late yesterday afternoon, while explaining the amount of snowfall to Frances, I said, “Oh, it’s less than half a Barbie in depth.”

So, dolls really are everywhere in our life now.

But dinosaurs weren’t pink…Right?

I have two daughters (9 and 13) and the closest I’ve ever come to a non-girly themed celebration was the Backyardigans party that I arranged for Pink Cup Sister’s 4th birthday.

Now Frances, who is obsessed with dolls and horses, has just announced that she wants a dinosaur-themed party to celebrate her 10th birthday!

I’m glad that she has a new area of interest though I strongly suspect we are just going to be seeing dolls of the dinosaur variety.

Well, I almost don’t know how to have a party that isn’t just as pink and as glittery as can be, so this is going to be a challenge for me. (The photo image I’ve done in jest.)

In the past, I would have said that if I ever start blogging about dinosaurs, then I have been taken hostage and I’m crying out for help.

But, here I am arranging a dinosaur party that isn’t pink in any respect.

I will keep you posted.

Possible birthday card?

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.

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.