All lined up

Lining Up
You can see everything you have, and it’s all in order

I’ve always enjoyed the fact that Frances lines things up. In fact, to be honest, years before she got her diagnosis, I started noticing that she did this. It didn’t concern me because, as I said to Pink Cup Dad once years ago, Frances “always has a good reason” for doing so.

“Like what?” He asked.

“Like all of her baby dolls are watching TV.”

“That’s not a good reason…”

I can actually see his point now. She would have lined them up and THEN decided that they were watching TV because she doesn’t have storylines or narratives when she plays. The lining up is the priority and not the activity of having them “watch TV.” Her behaviour isn’t, and wasn’t, typical play behaviour.

Nothing has changed about this activity as she has aged, except that she isn’t interested in baby dolls anymore; she is intensely focussed upon horses and horse dolls and horse riding and horse-doll collecting and horse documentaries…

While waiting for an appointment recently, she sat on the floor and lined up her (Schleich) horses. She didn’t have a story that preceded or accompanied the lining up of the horses; she didn’t have one afterwards, either. I think it’s just what a herd of twenty-plus horses would look like if they were going somewhere.

Frances actually has many RBIs (repetitive behaviours and interests), and this is my favourite: she’s been doing it since she was about 13 months or so.

The behaviour to me seems harmless; if she likes lining up objects, why shouldn’t she? Certainly, it can be messy: I’ve literally seen hundreds of my books continuously lined up and looped around objects throughout the entire house because my 18-month-old daughter was THAT focussed. I was very impressed even as I picked up every single book.

I know that it’s a behaviour closely associated with autism and ASD. I like it.

Literary critic

I just found this gem of a conversation. Frances had just turned four.

Frances: The ugly duckling is really a swan? The swan egg got accidentally into the duck nest? How could that have happened? That doesn’t make any sense…!

Me: Uh…

Well, does she?

  
Frances asks me to read Amelia Bedelia (by Peggy Parish) to her this afternoon.

Amelia Bedelia is a domestic helper who interprets language rather literally much to the initial chagrin of her employers.

  
For example, “undust the furniture” makes more sense than the instructions to dust the furniture do, but she dusts the furniture at any rate.

  
At this point, Frances asks: “Does she have autism?”

She, then, proceeds to show me how each page of our vintage copy differs from the more modern version in her classroom, right down to the period and the colour differences of objects depicted in the story’s rooms.

In the end, the owners of the house decide that Amelia Bedelia should remain in their employ and they adapt to her language difficulty.

Does Amelia Bedelia have autism? I don’t know, but Frances, who does not laugh throughout the reading, believes she does.

Escaping the confines…

We were leaving a bookstore when my six-year-old daughter’s frantic little voice reached me. Frances excitedly  waved a book from her favourite Mo Willems series in my face:

It was as if she had always hoped that the author’s characters would develop greater self-awareness. I couldn’t stop myself from giggling.