Frances lines up her many dogs…
From very young toddlerhood to now, she has always lined up her toys.
Last night, it was Pink Cup Sister’s school band concert, and she demonstrated bravery beyond playing the flute on stage.
Between pieces of music, from the stage, Pink Cup Sister mouthed the words: “Cover Frances’s ears: it’s going to be loud.”
I know it may not seem significant but, for me, it was wonderful.
I beamed with pride as I held Frances close to me while covering her ears.
At Frances’s birthday party a few weeks ago, one of the well-meaning coordinators remarked that she couldn’t tell that Frances has ASD.
Well, being very high functioning does help her in public, but here’s one of the (many) things that people can’t see…
Frances won’t go into a room, or stay in one, by herself, and it has been this way for several years at home and at school.
She developed differently in that respect. As a toddler, she didn’t respond if I left a room, and she didn’t mind being in a room alone.
As she aged, this changed dramatically, and it affects her life profoundly. Now, at the age of nine, she follows me from room to room (even waits outside the washroom), and refuses to play if someone isn’t in the room with her. We’ve tried a number of ways to help her overcome her fears, but nothing so far has worked.
High-pitched screams, nonstop crying, repetitive complaining and panic, prevent discussion in the moment; discussion outside the moment has not been remotely successful.
This week, we moved her dollhouse to the upstairs hallway so that she could play outside the rooms and not feel alone (and Pink Cup Sister, Pink Cup Dad, or I could still do our own things). It’s not ideal as someone always has to be upstairs, but it’s a minor improvement.
Because she won’t enter or remain alone in rooms, and she won’t sleep alone, she is my very cute, very constant companion.
She now has a behavioural therapist (who specializes in ASD) who comes to our home weekly, and we think that this could be a very positive thing. She has only had two sessions to this point, so it is too early to expect any changes.
Still, I’m hopeful because some change, no matter how small, always helps in some way.
Even though she has many doll houses and innumerable accessories, Frances has recently begun to craft (as above) her own using cardboard boxes, magazine pictures, and stickers.
She has been having such a hard time socially at school this year that I decided to help her today: I went through some old magazines, cut out photos and glued them to cardboard.
It’s not much, but I’m hoping that, when she comes home, she’ll be so happy for the surprise that she won’t revisit the difficulties that she probably encountered today.
(It’s really heartbreaking to think of her playing by herself outside for an entire hour at recess time because she is having difficulty connecting with others.)
I think the following is a good example of how a high-functioning child with ASD can really struggle.
Frances wanted to go to a classmate’s birthday party to which she had been invited because, in her own words, she doesn’t usually get invited to parties.
I worried about it beforehand for weeks because of her sensitivity to sound as well as her tendency to become overwhelmed by her environment in general. I was worried that any meltdown could put a damper on a little boy’s birthday party, too.
Yesterday, she went to the party. She participated in all of the laser tag games with the other attendees.
She stayed close to the father of the birthday celebrant during the games of tag, and close to me in the party room, and she seemed to have had a good time.
Unfortunately, the special vest worn during the laser game weighs about 5 lbs. — and it made Frances uncomfortable. Specifically, her shoulders were affected.
That’s all that she could focus on during the rest of the party, and she mentioned it to anyone who spoke to her.
I just kept redirecting her attention to whichever activity was occurring — emphasizing that we had to let her classmate enjoy his party — and that’s how we made it through to the end of the event.
All in all, I’d have to say that it was her first time making it all the way through a party, and she did well.
This morning, she didn’t want to go to school (no surprise) because of the discomfort in her shoulders — so, I kept her home for a couple of hours. She wasn’t happy to go, but I’ll know at the end of the day if she was able to get some enjoyment out of being there.
Frances: I love you more than a billion years of candy — peanut-butter-filled candy.
Frances (to me): If I could choose between a million chocolates and you, I’d choose you…