Climbing the walls

When Frances was younger, starting as a toddler, she would climb anything and everything. It was quite impressive even though it was frightening.

When I mentioned this to her wonderful doctor (a developmental paediatrician), a few years later, he asked: “Has she ever fallen?” The answer was that she had not, and still has not, ever fallen.

But I couldn’t leave her alone, even when she was six years old because, though she had never fallen, the possibility was there that she could, in fact, fall one day.

The dark humour of this story is that, whenever she bolted or wandered away from me at the park, I knew to look upwards, not just around, to find her.

She has always been in constant motion–skipping, jumping, running, twirling, spinning–this has never changed, and I honestly don’t foresee this changing.

By age 9, though she would frequently be unaware of potential dangers attending her movement and behaviour, she wasn’t really climbing as often.

The danger has been, and still is, more that she will stand with her feet at the edge of the top of the stairs facing backwards while talking or moving, or she will sit with her back flush with the edge of the high mattress, or even try to do donkey kicks on the sofa facing the ground.

Lately, however, a month-and-change away from her 11th birthday, I’m always finding her standing on high things, balancing while squatting or standing on the edges of furniture, trying to climb stair railings…

So, it’s back, folks! Climbing behaviour is back. We’ve come to accept that HF ASD for our family means that behaviours don’t always disappear forever. Some never disappear at all, such as sitting in dangerous positions, and sitting in the squatting position exclusively, but climbing will come and go. We just go with the flow.

My best guess is that the sensory input that she gets from climbing helps her in some way to cope with what goes on inside her body and mind.

The only difficulty is a practical one: she now requires even more supervision than she did last year.

I don’t mind because, as I’ve mentioned, I think it helps her cope somehow. What I do try to establish is a rule that I must be present when she climbs.

We’re working on that.

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Questions, questions…

 
I do not know if there is a connection between autism and water, if a possible connection is merely speculation or if based on data drawn from a study*, but, to me, there does seem to be. I do know that Frances’s fascination with water can be frightening at times. If there is water nearby, she will find it.

We were at an outdoor family gathering last year, and I found myself automatically tallying the neighbouring pools — I was instantly exhausted when I counted four within bolting reach.

Now, Frances was occupied alongside other children but such tolerance of being around others expires quickly; and, though I would have been vigilant with any child, Pink Cup Dad and I took turns being hypervigilant. Her fascination with water combined with an uncanny talent for climbing makes us very nervous.  

All of this when considered in light of another of her talents — noticing every element of danger in any situation — gives me pause to think. Because this latter talent borders on super-power ability — including cautiously crossing wooden bridges to avoid splinters — I wonder why it does not include water and climbing. There is a startling lack of awareness of danger.

At any rate, I do not even know if her lack of awareness in these two respects is in any way connected to being unaware of her environment in general when she is technically present but decidedly “absent” or unengaged.

It would be very interesting to know if other parents have these questions, too.

*I always intend to read the latest literature, most recent studies, etc., but the time always eludes me.