Language and context

She sometimes says “thank you” instead of “you’re welcome”, or she might say “you’re welcome” before the other person has a chance to thank her.

My adorable little girl is learning language and context, so I always tell her the correct response.

But, as I’ve mentioned recently, in these moments I get a chance to appreciate who she truly is just as she is.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that her struggle with pragmatic language often creates precious moments between us.

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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…

When it’s quiet…

One day, when Frances was about 18 months old, she took hundreds of children’s books off a set of shelves in the living room and stood on top of the haphazard pile to get more.

She sometimes lined the entire house with a path of books that encompassed the dining room table and led back to the front room.

From the time that she was seven months old, she perused books with an unusual intensity and focus.

As a toddler, she would push a book into my abdomen or my neck or my hands and say, “Read!”

By the time she was 2.5 years old, I was reading stacks and stacks of books to her daily (usually 20 but as many as 30 or 40 at times).

At the library, where most parents might be encouraging their children to choose books, I was popping throat lozenges and encouraging her to go play just so that I could give my voice a rest.

She cried if books got damaged in the tiniest way. She protested loudly if anyone had written their name inside a book. If she became angry with me, she would threaten that we would no longer be able to visit my favourite bookstore.

She always had a book in her hand (for comfort, I assume).

The local bookstore knew us so well that Frances was allowed to take a book and read under a table where she wouldn’t be disturbed.

When Frances is reading is pretty much the only time (besides sleeping) that it is quiet in our house — the ONLY TIME.

She’s a nonstop talker with a more-than-average amount of energy and bounce in her running steps.

The other day, after school, there was a prolonged period of quiet (say, five minutes). It was very noticeable which could only mean that she was reading. Then, I heard her say to herself:

“This book is not very instructive on drawing horses.”

I knew that, within a minute or so, the house would be virtually alive again with the sound of her chatter and laughter and objects banging around again as she searched for something that she absolutely needed.

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.

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.)

Contrast

Frances appears much younger socially than her almost 10 years, but she speaks like a much older child:

Me: How was your day? Was it really, really, really good?

Frances: Moderately.

I’ve read that this isn’t uncommon with ASD.