Appreciation 

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.

Driving and feelings

I’m not the only one in the family of whom Frances asks wonderful, out-of-the-blue questions. Occasionally, I get to overhear conversations such as the following (in the car, when she was seven years old):

Frances: You can’t touch feelings. You can’t see feelings. So, why do you believe in them?

Pink Cup Dad: I experience them.

Frances: If you experienced a vampire, would you believe in them?

Saying goodbye

Frances has always struggled with pragmatic language (social language and skills in everyday interactions with others).

Partings for Frances have always been difficult in the sense that, at first, she didn’t know that speaking is necessary when people temporarily part ways. 

Then, after some time, she realized that something needs to be said, but didn’t know what to say. 

For us, for a while, it was good enough that she sensed a need to say something at all because we could slowly introduce her to some parting words. (We didn’t want to constantly correct her and risk damaging her self-confidence.)

But even when she was learning parting words, she still managed to surprise us with her responses.

In the above panel, I wanted to show that, as an ASD parent, there are times when we’ve temporarily accepted as “normal” something that would probably strike others as funny.

As an update: in the three years since the date of the panel when she was six years old, Frances went through a phase of using almost appropriate language. For example, when leaving for school, she would often say to me, “See you tomorrow”. Now, she will often say “goodbye” or “see you later”, if she acknowledges that I’ve said goodbye to her.

Born philosopher…

My eight-year-old daughter, in the car today, said:

“So many things amaze me in life — like why people chose cars and why they tamed dogs and horses. But it is also annoying — no matter what answer I come up with for why humans exist, it isn’t enough.”

Lessons

 
Last Saturday, we drove to Frances’s ballet lesson, but we also tried to have a bit of a leisurely drive as well.

I’ve written about it before in a lighthearted manner, but I don’t mean to trivialize the fact that it is very difficult to drive with Frances. 

It is hard to admit that the constant chatter is, well, constant: the questions come at us so fast and furiously that I will not drive with her if I’m not also a passenger.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t endearing moments — such as the funny questions that I frequently record — but I would be lying if I said that I always feel patient.

I don’t know why it took me 1.5 hours to think of giving her my telephone. It helped to quieten her for that final half-hour.

At any rate, it was something of a relief as we pulled up to the grand, ancient building in which her lesson is held.

We waited together, Pink Cup Dad, Pink Cup Sister, and I, without talking in the tacit anticipation of one hour of absolute silence.

Driving 

My art journal began well before our younger daughter, Frances, 7, received the diagnosis of high functioning autism spectrum disorder (aged 6), before I suspected or acknowledged that her development was not typical, and before Aspergers became known as HF ASD.

Keeping the journal has been useful in a few respects: it was sufficiently informational to myself and others to aid in the process of getting Frances diagnosed; it gave me something to do during the waiting periods between the necessary referrals in that process; importantly, I have been able to keep track of most of all the amazing things that my children have said.

Now, I realize that it has an even greater utility than I originally imagined: I feel fortunate to know our daughter, and I think everyone should know someone with HF ASD; by sharing the journal, I hope that it helps others to appreciate just how enriched our lives can be both by an awareness of neurodiversity and by neurodiversity itself.

The preceding graphic panel illustrates an aspect of my daughter’s HF ASD that is not well known outside our family.

Though all children that I have met are naturally inquisitive, there is something intensely different about my daughter’s curiosity: she is driven to ask questions, all day and all night, to the degree that she does so in her sleep; she even wakes up in the middle of the night to ask them.

Most markedly, she speaks in questions. That is, she interacts with others by posing questions but, for now, she leaves the impression that she would have asked those questions regardless of another’s presence. (My husband and I affectionately and privately say that Frances doesn’t usually require the presence of someone else for a conversation.)

Her questions are a constant source of joy and amazement for us, as they most often reflect a philosophical turn of mind, an abiding interest in science and animals and technology, or an outside-the-box perspective of an everyday thing.

Frances’s queries often catch us, my husband and myself, off guard, too, because they occur out of the blue and lack a point of reference for us.

They usually occur in rapid-fire succession, each following the other so closely that answering all of them is physically impossible. (I timed her once: 33 questions in 11 minutes.)

Admittedly, it isn’t always easy: her father, her sister and I have tacitly developed rules regarding, for example, driving with her. (Surpisingly, these “rules” are often only discovered when one of them is contravened.)

If you’re going to answer dozens of questions, you might as well steer them away from the topics that are the most difficult for you to sustain. In our case, Frances has an intense interest in dolls of all types (and babies) and, unfortunately, we simply don’t enjoy dolls as much as she does. So, under no circumstance is anyone permitted to mention or to give her a MapleLea doll catalogue or the latest BabiesRus catalogue while we are driving! (This rule was discovered when her sister and I looked accusingly at my husband during one drive: “Wait, what? Who gave her the catalogue?”)

On the occasions when someone does give her a doll or baby catalogue, the intensity of the ‘question experience’ is increased many times.

So, yes, Frances’s fierce curiosity can be slightly exhausting at times, but the gems that we receive as a result are invaluable rewards for exercising patience. These gems are now a driving force behind my journal.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy the questions and conversations — in journal entries — as much as I enjoy making them available.