Worth a try

Frances: I think people are getting bored of me talking about horses at school.

Me: You’ve got to let others talk about themselves.

Frances: I let Sally talk about her guinea pigs, but it was so boring.

Me: You have to let yourself be a little bored, and then others won’t mind being a little bored when you speak of horses.

Frances: Okay.

I wanted to include this conversation, which happened before school, because I think I’ve found another way to reach Frances. (Also, it illustrates a difficulty that children with ASD may experience.)

I’ve heard professionals advise Frances to do a “social fake” where the child pretends to be interested in what someone else is saying. It doesn’t work with Frances. She doesn’t believe that her conversations about horses aren’t always riveting to others. So, I tried another approach by asking her to be bored for a few minutes.

By letting her know that others feel a little bored sometimes just as she does, she may start to realize when people don’t want her to speak and interaction could go more smoothly.

It’s just a thought. I’ll let you know if it does, or if it doesn’t, work.

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Periodic update

One fascinating aspect of 10-year-old Frances’s personality is that she remembers facts so well and that she shares them kind of…randomly.

For example, the following recent conversation was brief but interesting:

Frances: The atomic number of copper is 29.

Me: Okay, thanks.

There was no preceding conversation. We just happened to be passing each other in the hallway, and we both went our own way afterwards.

Part of me knows that I’ll have to help her understand that she can’t start conversations like that with, for example, someone walking past her at school; another part of me does find it adorable.

🙂

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! 

 
 

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. 🙂

Summer and structure

Frances needs structure — lots of it. In the past, summers have been very difficult for her for this reason.

So, school has ended for the summer break, and we have encountered a little difficulty in this regard: we had signed Frances up for a summer filled with day camp through her school; unfortunately, the school has cancelled the camp!

We’re down to four weeks of day camp from 10 weeks, and the deadlines for other camps have long since passed.

If I can get her interested, I thought reading Anne of Green Gables to her might help with her need for structure. There are many kinds of crafts or art that can be done with that theme in mind.

I’m definitely open to suggestions for helping to keep her time structured!

🙂

Impeccable logic

On this day in 2011, when Frances was merely four-years-and-one-month old, we had the following conversation:

Frances: Why do I have to go to preschool?

Me: Well, it’s to help you be okay spending time away from me when you go to junior kindergarten in September.

Frances: How long is junior kindergarten every day?

Me: Six hours.

Frances: How long is preschool?

Me: Two hours.

Frances: So how can preschool be helping me? It’s not.

Playing at school

Every day, we ask Frances who she played with at school and usually she says that she didn’t play with anyone.

Recently, she told me that she sat in the corner outside at recess time watching the spinning wheels of a toy truck that she was holding.

While she really enjoys watching things spin, she also had nobody to play with at school.

I think I’m going to have to make a pest of myself again and go down to the school at recess times to make sure that Frances is getting the help that she needs.

Among other things, she has trouble knowing when/if someone is being mean or bossy; she has trouble knowing what’s expected of her in improvised play.

I wrote a letter to her teacher last week but have not heard back.

Surely, they can do better than assuming that she just wants to play by herself?

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.

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.)