Wordsmith 

In the year-long period following her almost overnight, incredibly rapid speech development, Frances was given to inventing words and phrases that served whatever purpose she might require at the moment.

She definitely caused a lot of stifled laughter.

For example, at the new age of three, when her older sister was sick one time, Frances held her own ear and claimed that she had “polka-dot earness”. My journal from that day reads:

“May 10, 2010

POLKA-DOT EARNESS

Acute condition of unknown etiology. Characterized by tears and sudden need for attention, relapses and remits in direct relationship to presence/absence of older sibling receiving attention. Refractory to treatment that does not include the application of ice.”

We haven’t let her forget that one unbearable ailment. ­čśë

Letter perfect

When she was 18 months, it seemed hard to get Frances’s attention. It always had been, but because of her interest in letters, I ended up noticing more acutely.

She carried around a bag of Bananagrams (letter tiles) all the time. She would shove it into my hands, and I would say, “Oh, you want me to make words for you?”

We would sit on the floor in the living room, and I would empty the bag of letter tiles. Then, I’d arrange letters into small words and read them to her.

By 24 months, she identified all letters and knew if they were upside down or sideways. 

Eventually, though our letter game continued, she needed me less. One day, I said, “Are you making a word?” (In a video of this conversation, I ask her many times.) Finally, she answered, without looking up, “Letters make words.”

From that point on, I was a little uneasy about the fact that she seemed deaf so much of the time, yet she COULD hear me as she clearly demonstrated in the video. (We knew that her hearing was fine as she had been tested.) It was very confusing.

When she was 27 months, while at the ophthalmologist, I explained that the picture set was unnecessary: she could handle the letters for her exam. She was able to name all the letters that she could see, and the technician was shocked. 

I explained that she wasn’t reading: Frances just knew the letters. What was even more unusual was that she had an incredible attention span with letters and could sit for an hour with her tiles (and then books).

By the age of three, though letters were still a big deal for her, Frances’s intense interest included numbers.