Frances and school

I’ve heard other parents of children with ASD say the same thing: their child catches every cold going around. The same is true of Frances.

I grimace when she mentions that a student at school is sick because, invariably, I know that Frances will be sick very shortly thereafter.

So, last week, my dear 12yo started coughing, had a sore throat, and was quite warm to the touch. She ended up missing a couple of days of school.

This didn’t sit well with her Grade 7 teacher — at all. She let me know that her class moves quickly, and that Frances would have a hard time getting caught up, that she couldn’t stop or slow down for Frances, etc.

So, I asked if I could help with the writing classwork; the teacher didn’t give me an outline, so I couldn’t help.

I asked about math — apparently, Frances couldn’t move on because she hadn’t done the previous lesson correctly.

I’m sure you know me by now, and you will not be surprised to learn that I ORDERED the damn math textbook on Amazon, and it arrived the following morning.

Anyway, the lesson that Frances had done incorrectly? Well, it quickly was evident that she knew how to verify equations perfectly well.

So why the drama? It isn’t necessary to make a child think that she could fail her grade simply because she took two sick days.

I hope that this isn’t a sign of things to come. 🙄

The funniest part of all this is that, during my eagerness to ensure that Frances was up to speed, she said, “You seem like the kind of person who enjoys doing math…”

(She LOVES math, so it wasn’t an insult.)

I can assure you that nobody has ever said that about me before now… 😂

She did ask for it…

So, recently, Frances and her class went to an art gallery. Pictures of the field trip were promptly posted online, and one, in particular, caught my attention.

Among her classmates, Frances is sitting opposite the presenter or guide for the tour. Quite clearly, Frances is speaking, and the guide is listening.

Frances speaks her mind...
Only ask if you really want the truth…

Out of curiosity, I asked Frances if she could remember what she had been saying. I mean, the photo suggests that it is an interesting conversation, and I love that someone had captured the precise point at which she was speaking, too.

Frances: The lady said that she was used to dealing with much younger children, and that we should tell her if she speaks to us as if we’re kindergarteners.

Me: Yes…But you were speaking. What did you say?

Her: I said, ‘Um, just to let you know — you’re speaking to us as if we are kindergarteners.’

(Her honesty, though legendary, is spoken in neither malice nor rudeness; she simply took the guide’s instruction at face value.)

😂

On Valentine’s Day

I almost let a holiday go by without mentioning my inimitable 11-year-old’s reaction to it this year.

Frances: There’s too much “love” involved — and happiness. And pink. Blech.

This is a first. She used to enjoy Valentine’s Day (although it was probably access to the candy, now that I think about it).

I can’t wait to see what she says tomorrow… It’s my birthday. 😬

Honesty

Me: How was your day?

Frances: Meh.

Me: Oh…that’s too bad. Now, you can ask me how my day was.

Frances: I’d rather not

😂

It’s a good thing that I was leaving the room at the time because this exchange made me giggle. Frances is all kinds of amazing!

As she grows, I believe that she will find friends who appreciate her honesty as much as we do.

This must be Thursday…

Welcome to Thursday...
“I never could get the hang of Thursdays.”

The weather here has been ridiculously cold. We’ve all bundled up under extra blankets for windchills in the -20s and -30s.

We’re approaching the end of January, and, unfortunately, Frances has been pretty sick for much of the month which has prevented her from enjoying the snow whenever it appeared.

In fact, my highly active, super-humanly energetic child has been lethargic and disinclined to do much besides watching her documentaries and playing iPad games.

She keeps asking, “Mummy, why do I feel so sick?”

Because it’s winter. Because it’s cold-and-flu season. Because the flu shot isn’t 100% effective, but it’s best to get one to lessen the impact of the flu. Because you’re young and you haven’t been exposed to many viruses. Because kids at school are sick…

And so unfolded our Thursday conversations throughout the day (once I returned from Pink Cup Sister’s appointments).

The good news on this particular Thursday is that I finally took the ornaments off the Christmas tree. I had been preparing Frances for this event for some time, but she was still a little shocked and perturbed as I carefully packed up our glass ornaments.

There is usually a meltdown when Christmas decorations slowly disappear throughout January, but Frances has done well.

Happy New Year!

Each year, I end up writing about Frances’s reaction to the festive season. This year, there was a noticeable increase in stress for her, as school finished up and decorations appeared, compared to other years.

There is always some degree of stress for her; however, we were seeing daily meltdowns at least 3x per day, and I was tempted to pull her out of the school concert.

In the end, we had a great, exciting Christmas. Frances received a stack of Breyer horses as tall as she is. It was, overall, just a delightful experience.

I do think we have to do a better job next year of shielding Frances from stressful situations. I mean, we did do so, but we’ve more clearly identified triggers as of this past holiday.

She recently said to me:

“Mummy, I don’t like uncertainty in my life. I run on a schedule…”

How insightful she is! Thankfully, horse riding is year-long, so that part of her schedule remained very close to the norm for her. In fact, like most “horse” people we know, Frances and I were there more often because of the break from school.

Picture of pony

One notable difference this holiday from my perspective was that, at the Christmas dinner, she spoke eloquently about her interest in writing and her ideal projects. She actually sounded like an adult! I have to remind myself at those times that she is only 11 years old.

Anyway, I hope to provide more updates and anecdotes this year than last: family emergencies and some serious health issues for me meant less writing.

But now that I’m back up and running, so to speak, do expect more from A Pink Cup 🙂

Purposeful activity…

I have to do a lot of convincing to get Frances on board with the idea of going to social groups. Usually, she will say things like, “I don’t mind groups; I just don’t like the people.” Though it sounds funny to us, she is quite serious.

She always has at least one group ongoing.

Of this group, the one that she has been going to weekly for several years, she says that she doesn’t like the people or the activities. We actually don’t give her the option of not attending. At this point, opportunities to socialize are opportunities to learn and to hone developing skills.

Also, at least once per year, her name comes to the top of the waiting list for a social group at the local children’s hospital (whose primary focus appears to be autism and ASD).

This year, the interventionists of the upcoming session asked if they could interview Frances on her own to determine her suitability for a group that starts this week.

I explained that she probably wouldn’t agree to an interview without me present and that the prospect of joining a group would not motivate her to be independent in this respect.

So, I had permission to be in the room while the interview was conducted. Her answers were not entirely predictable: she thought she had some friends (she doesn’t say this consistently), she liked to be on her own during recesses and lunch (she didn’t mention that she doesn’t know how to not be alone at these times), and she didn’t find this kind of group very helpful at any rate.

Near the end of the session, she truthfully said, “I’m really not much of a people person.”

Now, I completely understand this: she says it more often these days, and I believe her.

As clever and as smart as she is, however, she doesn’t believe Pink Cup Dad or myself when we tell her that social groups develop her social skills, that when she starts practicing and using her social skills she may enjoy interacting with people more than she does at the moment.

The reasoning behind development of these groups is that, as kids take social risks and interact, there are professionals on hand to intervene in order to start interactions, sustain interactions, and even end interactions. The children learn about cues and how to read them. They learn about what subjects are typically okay to discuss in different situations.

Personally, I like the groups even though it’s a struggle to get her to go; and, in this case, the parents will have their own concurrent group, too, which is a new development in the programming.

I jumped in at the end of the interview only to ask Frances if she had any questions for her interviewer about, perhaps, group size, the attendees, the activities or the expectations.

I also reminded her that there are times when she feels very lonely and that, perhaps, she could learn how to be less lonely by joining this one group.

I think that’s what did it; when asked a third time, she said she would give it a try. Yay!

The only downside is that this will mean that our time, from Tuesday to Saturday, will be busy: private group on Tuesday, horse riding lessons on Wednesday, hospital groups on Thursday, violin and flute lessons on Friday, and volunteering at the barn on Saturday. (She starts violin lessons on Friday just before her sister’s flute lesson.)

I’m actually starting to consider Monday to be a break! Except, of course, throughout the day during the week, there are appointments — one or two per day — that keep the girls and myself busy.

But it’s all good — it means someone (either Frances, Pink Cup Sister, myself, or, rarely, Pink Cup Dad) has access to a resource from which she or he will likely benefit.

Changes

Things have been insanely busy around the Pink Cup House, but I wanted to catch you up.

Frances, at nearly 11.5 years, is changing.

For one thing, she has become very tall and lanky, and she’s starting to appear more teenager-ish.

For another thing, she is now likely to share facts with people as a way to connect, and she takes advice about how to interact. The risks she takes often pay off. Recently, I overheard her approach a group of adults and say, “Hi. My name is Frances.” People spoke positively about her to me frequently throughout the evening.

Moreover, she now combines honesty and humour to affect someone. For example, with all four of us in the car one recent evening, we had the following conversation:

Me: One day, girls, we’ll get a new car.

Frances: When Daddy finally agrees to spend some money…

We all laughed out loud.

As I mentioned before, her teacher has described her as “delightfully sassy.” The other day, I asked Pink Cup Sister to go to the basement for a step stool. She came back empty handed because all she could see was something that looked like a bench. Pink Cup Daddy went down to the basement and grabbed the stool. At this point, Frances said, “Don’t worry, Mummy. You won’t have to be disappointed in me: I know what a step stool is.” 🤭

So, “ribbing” her sister, her father, and, sometimes, me has become second nature to her.

She still plays with horse dolls, skips from place to place, but she is growing up.

Honesty as truth speaking…

Yesterday, we had a support worker from a respite program come to our house for an interview.

We are members of an organization that offers this summer service (a support worker comes to take Frances out into the community for a few hours each week) as well as monthly opportunities to socialize at well-planned events.

As it turned out, we had met our support worker before, last year, at one of the few events that Frances had actually wanted to attend.

We had gone to a planetarium, and while waiting for the evening show, Frances had met London (about 17 years old) and stayed by her side. They were fast friends.

Frances even opted (unbelievably) not to sit with me during the show and to sit beside London instead.

London arrived at our house on time, and I showed her to the dining room.

Frances had arranged with me beforehand that she wouldn’t have to take part in the interview, but, as London and I spoke, Frances came in to the dining room.

“Hi, Frances! It’s good to see you again…”

Frances took a seat at the table.

“We had such a great time last time we met!” London said.

Finally, Frances spoke: “I think I vaguely remember you.”

😂 😂 😂

I love her honesty! Since Frances really does want to make friends and has such a difficult time doing so, we are working on learning when not to be so strictly honest (since she will not lie).

I wasn’t worried, tho’: London is familiar with this possibility when some people with ASD, Aspergers, and autism interact. Besides, many people find her honesty to be a refreshing change.

I have to say that, when she was really young, and we didn’t have a diagnosis, she would not have even acknowledged that London was speaking to her.

Greetings appeared in stages: at school, teachers insisted on speaking to Frances and greeting her. For years, Frances was not responsive.

When she did start to respond, it was usually indicated by a change in her position or moving her head away.

By the time she was around 8 years old, she would mutter a “hello” without looking up and without stopping if she were moving.

At 11, Frances may respond with a “hello” or “hi” or she may respond with an observation (that is or is not relevant to the situation). If it’s an observation, there will be brutal honesty. Either way, it is a response!