This past week 

For so many years, as is often the case in families affected by ASD, our autism sibling has been more independent as her sister’s needs have been addressed. It has been as if she is on the Frances Show where it’s all Frances all the time. 

This has recently changed, and both she and Frances are adjusting rather well to the change in family dynamics.

We have discovered that Pink Cup Sister has special needs as well — though not the same as those of Frances — and she has been receiving the lion’s share of attention recently.

How has Frances coped in situations in which I can’t pay her as much attention? She’s done really well. She doesn’t usually leave my side, but she will give us privacy when Pink Cup Sister, Pink Cup Dad and I have to speak of matters personal.

This isn’t to say that we’re not still working on goals with Frances, too: she struggles with issues of food, coordination when dressing, following sequences without verbal prompts, communicating when she feels unsafe at school and a host of other issues that would fall under the “social” category.

Recently, I was saddened and surprised to learn that a child in her classroom isn’t very patient where Frances’s interest in horses is concerned.

Now, as is sometimes the case with ASD, my daughter’s interest is all-consuming, and she will speak about horses frequently because that is the means by which she has discovered that she can relate to others.

The other child will frequently challenge Frances on horse facts and tell her that horses are weird, etc. He’ll say anything to bother her.

I’ve learned that another boy sticks up for Frances and refuses to let the mean boy’s behaviour go unchecked.

I think she’s had enough though this week: she tells me that she had the “perfect storm” for a meltdown when loud noise, too many people, too much movement and the mean boy’s comments combined and caused her to be overstimulated. She cried uncontrollably, and her wonderful teacher helped her through the episode.

The teacher did inform me that the boy is, in fact, being mean to Frances, and that she is keeping them well separated to avoid any more conflict.

There was also a change in her schedule that probably contributed to her meltdown, too: her father was away on business for the week.

Let’s just say that it has been a long week for all of us.

I’m so glad that it’s Friday. Yay, Friday! 

 
 

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Catching up

Frances has started Grade 5 now with guarded enthusiasm. She is receiving homework for the first time and isn’t too happy about this turn of events.

I think she’ll settle in — we just have to get her into a routine of doing homework.

Routines are good for us. 🙂

A hard day

Yesterday? Yesterday was hard.

I took Frances to school. As we walked past the cubbies, she noticed each one had an invitation to a party. When we got to hers, she discovered that she didn’t have one.

“I don’t have one,” she said as students gathered near her while talking about the exciting party to which they had been invited.

It was getting to be a challenge to tune the other kids out after a while.

“Frances didn’t get an invitation,” I said to the group. “So maybe you should stop talking about the party right beside her?”

They resorted to whispering as I emptied Frances’s school bag.

“Frances isn’t invited because she’s too bossy,” the birthday boy whispered. Frances didn’t overhear, fortunately.

“I rarely get invited to parties,” she said sadly.

The school really discourages the exclusion of children from parties if it’s more than two children being invited.

In this case? All of Frances’s classmates (except for the grade ones) had been invited except her.

After school, she said, “I don’t understand. I thought he was my friend. I’m the only one who doesn’t tease him.”

So, we had a conversation, which included Pink Cup Sister, about how to know if someone’s your friend or not.

Broke. my. heart.

(While I did point out to her that she didn’t invite this particular boy to her party — just a few girls — she then pointed out that she didn’t invite all of her peers except him. I had told her not to talk about her party (which is the school policy) and I emailed the parents of invited kids in order to be discreet. I just wish the boy’s parents had been more discreet.)

Achieving goals

The Pink Cup household is never boring. There is always a bustle of busy-ness around here. 

But, it is important to note change when it occurs, and there have been some pretty positive goals achieved in the past couple of months:

  • Frances will get her own breakfast now if I’m sick
  • Frances reluctantly agrees to take showers
  • Frances showers without any assistance 
  • Frances reluctantly agrees to wash her hair
  • Frances washes her hair without assistance
  • Frances reluctantly agrees to stay in rooms by herself 
  • Frances reluctantly stays in rooms by herself 

Though she is having trouble adjusting to big changes in her classroom, there is definitely more independence as she approaches her 10th birthday this month.

An unexpected change

Frances had a bit of shock yesterday: her teacher, who is due to give birth in April, has to go on bed rest; so, today is her last day.

Frances is presently in a multi-age classroom, from grades one to four; next September, she will be graduated to the grades five to eight class.

The teacher wouldn’t have been her teacher next September. So, Frances has been prepared for an eventual change, but the rapid changes next week will mean a difficult transition for Frances. 

The transition will primarily involve changes in her behaviour: she doesn’t tell us when she has anxiety (by which she is highly affected). She is exceedingly verbal, and, as she ages, she is able to communicate emotions and states of mind better, but we still rely on looking at her behaviour to know how much anxiety and difficulty that she is experiencing. 

So, I’m just crossing my fingers that next week won’t be as difficult for her as I think it probably will be.

Snowman

Winters are cold here. While I wouldn’t say that spring is in the air, today is actually quite nice at -2C with noticeable sunshine.

Increasingly, Frances asks to play outside on the weekends and after school.

She ended up making a snowman on her own this past weekend.

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.

Text support

Frances went to a sleepover this weekend involving two of her classmates. I was worried that she wouldn’t make it through the event, and, frankly, I waited for a call requesting that I pick her up. 

Fortunately, the sleepover parents were really good about letting Frances have her wifi-only phone in the room with her during the night.

This meant that she could text me which she did, at around 11:30 p.m., to let me know that she couldn’t sleep.

She asked me to text her a story about her favourite horse (as I make up a story every night at home) and I did. 

When I woke up the next morning, I checked my phone and found this text. It made me smile so much that my face hurt!


I’m so grateful for texting!

(I have to say that I’m also grateful that the host parents are very good with Frances! They have experience with Aspergers and high anxiety and are very sensitive to Frances’s needs, so allowing her to go to a sleepover hasn’t been as hard for me as it could be.)

A fine line

I went into Frances’s school with concerns that a boy in her class was having angry outbursts and making her feel unsafe.

The school denied that he was having outbursts, and they didn’t think Frances was in any danger.

I mentioned a recent incident in which Frances was hit by a ball thrown by him.

A witness says he merely threw the ball with the expectation that Frances would catch it. 

So, here is the problem: Frances has great difficulty discerning motive or intention in others. (It was first noticeable during her year of junior kindergarten, and it has not changed in degree or severity during these past five years.)

If a kid brushes past her in the hallway, she thinks it was done on purpose. Every. Single. Time. If someone walks past her table and causes a crayon to fall off, she thinks it was done intentionally. Every. Single. Time. 

You can reason with her and explain the events as accidents, but she won’t believe you. She actually doesn’t know why someone did something, and thinking the worst, in a way, protects her. (It’s not hard to imagine the ways in which someone who doesn’t read motive in others could be led into danger.)

So, you can understand how she might not have known that the boy intended to include her in a game of catch.

People, social situations, interactions, expectations, and rules: they confuse and frighten my daughter.

As a mother, you want your child to be believed and to know that she is believed; however, when your child has ASD with this particular challenge, you walk a fine line with everyone: (1) you can’t accuse the teachers of lying, and (2) you can’t tell your child that something she experienced didn’t really happen.

What did I do? I concluded that, regardless of the reality, Frances needs to feel safe, and we came up with a plan of action that Frances can take when she doesn’t feel safe at school.

Then, I went home and cried. 

When Frances got home, I made no mention of her ongoing experiences with the boy, but I told her of the plan that she can use when she doesn’t feel safe for any reason.

Then, for much of the night, I wondered who was right.