January 2001 page 2 of 2
Tuesday 16 January

School report: as the principal warned me, Damian's illness set his transition back a bit. He wasn't happy about getting in the car to go to school, wasn't happy about the car pulling into the school lot, wasn't happy about going into his classroom... We walked up and down the hall and then I insisted he try going inside. He clung to me much of the morning. Sat in my lap a lot. I tried to be boring. It sort of worked, he did wander off to more interesting ventures, but he always came back. Oh well.

Tyson, an adorable girl in his class, gave Damian a big hug and kissed his cheek today. He looked surprised.

He sat across the room from "circle time" activities today, but he followed along anyway -- when Miriam led the class in a song involving clapping their hands, tapping their legs, etc, Damian echoed all the movements. I think keeping a distance felt safer but he was genuinely interested.

I went into his room to wake him from a slightly long nap this afternoon. He woke sluggishly, so I goofed around with him. He seemed amenable but when I tried to move the festivities to the living room, he pushed me into place on the bed, clearly wanting me to lie next to him and snuggle. I figured what the hey, just a few minutes of snuggle time, what's the harm? Half an hour later, I woke with a start wondering just how that happened. Sneaky little guy got more snooze time after all.

Wednesday 17 January

School report: Damian was the cling wrap kid at school today. He freaked when I went to the bathroom, even though I told him I was just going for a few minutes. I came out to find him in the hallway crying, the teacher trying to comfort him. Damn. I think (hope) it was just because he was exhausted, having gone to bed LATE last night (the ultralong nap yesterday made that inevitable).

Tyson hugged and kissed him again today. Sweet. This evening he was saying something about a kiss on the nose. I think he might have been talking about her.

He can climb into the car and then into his carseat now. He's become so mature lately that way. He does that, he also waits patiently for me when I need to gather stuff from the car. He also climbs into the booster seat at the dining table when he's hungry. Tonight he wasn't hungry for dinner but climbed into the seat an hour later, ready to eat.

Thursday 18 January

School report: Better than yesterday. Much. He checked in with me periodically, but was fine on his own. Well, if you ignore the fact that he no way no how was going to let me leave the room without him. He's started talking in school, too. Parachuted a toy down the slide and said "going down the slide", stuff like that. Even a hint of interaction: Samuel flew a toy airplane and looked at Damian. Who met his gaze, then picked up a toy car and flew it. Progress as measured in such subtle moments.

Miriam has discovered that the way to talk to Damian is very softly and up close. He responds to her when she does. She said she asked him a question and he said "yes." Hey, I don't often get that much from him. We talked about his speech issues; she suggested that he might have fluid in one or both ears. It would make loud or low sounds like indistinct rumbles. I'll ask the doc at Damian's speech checkup tomorrow. (Yeah. I thought it was time to get him checked out.)

Damian was playing with my computer keyboard tonight. He likes to turn the caps lock and num lock keys on and off. They were on and he said "green." Which they are. Then he modified it to"yellow green." Which they are. Yellow green. That's pretty sophisticated.

Friday 19 January

We went to see Damian's pediatrician today. The short version: he doesn't know what's up with Damian. Could be nothing, could be serious. He referred us to a speech pathologist (appointment Tuesday) and a hearing specialist (appointment still pending). Damian, of course, has been talking more today. Go figure. I have a lot of emotions about all this, needless to say.

Damian was pouncing and bouncing on me on the bed this evening. I said he was doing gymnastics, like in gym class. He said something about gym class and how he "ran around going aaaaaah!" ("aaaaah!" being a high pitched squeal). Which is exactly what he did in Wednesday's gym class. For a moment I had a kid telling me about his experiences. I wish he'd do that more. It felt good.

He climbed up into his booster seat while his salmon was cooking, so I gave him some cheese and apple slices. He devoured the apple. He slowed down after a bit, though, and set the littlest piece on top of the bigger piece and scooted it around his placemat, saying something cute I can't remember. I think the little apple slice was "talking".

Saturday 20 January

Damian sat on Dan's lap and watched Lady and the Tramp in its entirety. He only got bored once, and then quickly got back into the swing of things.

Sunday 21 January

We had brunch at my step-uncle's today; his sister was in town. It was just the two of them and the three of us. Damian had fun and was rather outgoing and even talkative. At one point, he was tossing a ball onto the couch and yellling "yikes!" He allayed a lot of my worst fear this afternoon.

I think he's picking up on our concerns and trying harder. His echolalia has picked up a lot: he repeats a LOT of what we say now. He'll repeat the whole sentence just after I say it, as if committing it to memory. It's a natural stage in language evolution, getting the hang of speech, but he's turned it up a notch. We've also noticed a little more verbal responsiveness. I asked if he wanted help getting up from the changing table or wanted to lie there for a while. He said, "getting up." So I helped him up. And later, Dan was reading to him and Damian whispered, "I need a minute"; he wanted to linger on the page on his own.

Tonight we dubbed a tape from the camcorder to a VHS tape. This involved watching it. Damian sat, fascinated, for a few minutes watching an image of himself from last winter. The image on the tape was of him chasing me from hall to kitchen to living room, etc., and laughing wildly. Present-day Damian thought this looked fun. He got up and ran into the hall. Dan chased him around the house. Then they came back and watched some more. Damian-on-the-tape was plonking on a kiddie keyboard with his toes. Present-day Damian headed off to his room. Sure enough, he came back carrying the kiddie keyboard, and proceeded to plonk on the keys. With his hands, but also, yes, his feet. This happened a third time, too, when Damian-on-the-tape switched to playing with a toy garage. Present-day Damian switched too. Then we turned off the TV (time for bath) or who knows what else he would have done.

Monday 22 January

School report: Oy. No progress. Damian didn't let me leave the room without him and spent a fair amount of time on my lap. Oy. I'm consoling myself with the thought that he was very tired and I know that makes the bustle of the classroom much harder to deal with. I also noticed that he was over-reacting to slight bumps. A kid pushed a chair back and it hit him ever so slightly. He cried and came running to me. A kid pushed him ever so gently out of the way. He cried and came running to me. He's a sensitive kid but this level of sensitive? Not usually.

Tired. He was tired. And the main teacher was out sick, which may have discombobulated him.

He was a sweetie pie all afternoon, though. As if to make up for it.

He started spitting into his hand this evening. I thought this was kind of icky, so I suggested he spritz the plants instead. He trotted over to grab the spritzer and started spraying, saying "spritz spritz spritz."

Tuesday 23 January

School report: Much better. I still couldn't leave the room, but he mostly just needed to touch base and then went off on his own. Particularly noticeable: I was sitting on the ground in the yard, Damian came running over. I gave him a kiss and a quick hug, then he went running off. By story time at the end of the morning, I was able to go over to the circle with him, then gradually ease myself away from him and leave the group while he stayed right there, involved in listening to the story.

We went to see the speech pathologist today. I'm too fried and still processing it, but the bottom line was: no diagnosis but yes, he needs speech therapy. Twice a week. She also gave us tips on things to do with him at home. We shouldn't expect an overnight change, this could take a long time. It's important to do now, though, so he doesn't get farther behind. My emotions are all over the map. I'm hopeful and relieved that something will be done, I'm worried about the logistics and expense, I'm sad that he needs this at all, that this isn't going to just go away on its own. Dan thinks it still might, but that the speech therapy will help, so why not give it a go. I think it's vital for Damian to get it. We'll have to figure out how to make it work.

No cute stories today. He did cute things, but I'm not in a place emotionally where I can find the specific moments in my memory.

Wednesday 24 January

School report: I've had a major shift in my thinking about school. I think school is very hard for Damian to deal with. He needs to tune out the kids periodically and I'm kind of his lifeline there. If we do keep him in school -- we're not sure right now -- I'll probably plan on staying with him for quite a while. I think it could be a good thing for him, but it may take a long time before he's comfortable there. He's scared of it right now at the same time as he finds it stimulating.

Today walking to gym class, he let go of my hand and walked ahead of me. Such small things make such a big impression on me right now. In gym, he ran around the big meeting room. Loves that wide open space. The other kids had to sit quietly but now the teachers know not to make Damian conform. At least not yet. I feel both sad and pleased about this. But he had a great time off on his own. And he still got his turn doing the exercise (teacher-guided somersault). When he finished, the moms clapped. So Damian clapped too, and looked mighty pleased with himself.

Words report: this morning I asked him what colors his toothbrush is, and he said "yellow and green." He rarely answers that question, so that was encouraging. Didn't answer the colors question again today, of course.

Slow steps. Hard to define. Honestly, I'm torn about continuing this Damian journal. The forward/backward nature of what we'll be doing may be too difficult to record. I don't know. I think the answer may be to stop making it a daily exercise. Not sure.

Thursday 25 January

Damian didn't cry about the idea of going to school this morning, which he has the last couple of days, and he marched right into the classroom. Good signs. They're changing how they are with him, adapting to him, and I think it's changed his attitude about school.

But still. When the kids lined up to go out to play in the yard, I called his attention to it and he said, "Finally it's time to go home." Oh man. One the one hand, to hear him say a full sentence feels like such an amazing thing when he usually doesn't. On the other... I wish he wanted to be there. I know it's overwhelming for him. I hope he comes to enjoy it more completely.

One thing I've realized since our speech consult: we don't give Damian enough responsibility. Somehow his lack of interactive speech makes it hard to remember he can handle a lot more. So today I asked him to carry his lunch bag from the classroom to the car. He did, and was so serious about it I know he got a kick out of being asked.

I guess I will keep this up, as a record of what we're doing and how it's going.

Friday 26 January

He's been very clingy lately. Stress, I suspect. I don't blame him. I had to go to the eye doc this afternoon. Dan came so he could watch Damian. They came into the examining room with me. Damian would have it no other way. And when we dropped Dan off at work, Damian cried and cried. Cheered right up when we got home, though, because:

While we were in Beverly Hills, we stopped at a toy store and bought a pile of toys. Damian and I had a great time when we got home, playing with the toys. Two tiny airplanes: "Takeoff!" I said. "Takeoff! and flying and flying," he said. I'm noticing he does interact verbally with us, as long as we're not expecting him to. He almost never answers a question. Right now we're not pushing questions too much, just working on lots of interaction, lots of engaging, lots of back-and-forth, verbal and nonverbal. Thus lots of new toys.

Saturday 27 January

Good stuff: he's responding more with head shakes for no. Didn't much before. Last night Damian was in the tub and Dan said "you look tired, are you tired?" and Damian shook his head fiercely. Dan said "I think you're tired. You should go to bed soon." and Damian burst into tears. This, perversely, is a very very good thing. The more I think about this the more I realize it's mostly a question of connecting. So even a non-verbal deliberate communication that goes beyond "I want" type of pointing is a very good thing.

Sunday 28 January

He's been adding "yes" to his vocabulary. He says yes and shakes his head no, letting us know what he thinks. Thank GOD.

At dinner he started shaking his head and then nodding it, just in fun. We nodded ours too, and shook ours too, and said "yes" and "no" appropriately as we did so. Damian was very amused. He started waving his arms like semaphors. So we did too. It must have been quite a sight, the three of us waving our arms around as if signalling with flags.

Damian's been much happier the past few days. He's started sleeping through the night again, and he's had far fewer upset moments. I think it's because he's getting the help he needs and he can feel the strength of our love, too.

He sometimes says "happy halloween." Today I realized he says it when he wants to tell us he's happy. He said it twice this morning.

Monday 29 January

I should know better than to write "he's started sleeping through the night." Still, he came to bed at 2 and went right to sleep, slept like a rock beside me. Can't really complain.

School went much better. I explained to him that I'm there as long as he needs me, I'm right there for him. And the teachers are treating him more gently, Miriam is spending more one-on-one time with him and shooing the other kids away if they get too rambunctious around him. I think he's feeling safer. He's much less spooked by the experience. He even, dare I say it, seemed to be having fun today.

I told Miriam our "thought bubble" technique and she used it. Yard time, he was in the sandbox and started to try to get out. It's a steep climb down. Miriam said "do you want me to help you?" but she could see that Damian was determined to do it himself. So she said "No, I'll do it myself." (Filling in his thoughts.) He said "no, me." Echoing her but in his own words. I'm noticing this a lot. He picks up on the words and uses them to help himself form the sentences he needs. It's like he can't think of the right words without our saying them first. Or lacks the courage to say them aloud.

We stayed about twenty minutes after the other kids left this morning; Miriam read to Damian. It's part of a plan for her to help him bond and feel more comfortable. He zoned out a bit with the first book, feigned disinterest as he played with a truck, but he got completely engaged with the second book. It helped that A) it's about a fireman (Fireman Small), and B) I started reciting it from memory, got him interested. He picked up the book and started leafing through it. Miriam read it over his shoulder, so to speak. He turned the pages for her.

He had a hearing test today. Checked out normal except for some stiffness in his middle ear, which the audiologist said shouldn't affect hearing. (?)

This morning, we gave him a choice of shoes: "white sneakers or gray ones?" He whispered "gray." So he got the grey ones.

This afternoon I asked him which he wanted, "your blue slippers or your gray ones?" He said "blue boots and gray boots." He likes thinking of them as boots. So I said I'd make the choice for him and he was content with that.

Tonight I asked if he wanted bubbles in his bath. He remained mute no matter how easy I made it for him to answer. So I said "okay, no bubbles since you're not asking for them." He stared into the naked water and muttered something in an upset voice that included the words "yes" and "bubbles." I gave him his bubble bath. And praised him to the sky.

I wish I understood why it's so hard for him to answer. He still mostly clams up.

Wednesday 31 January

School: better overall. He sat in my lap during gym class instead of running wild in the room. He did all the exercises. In the classroom, he touched base with me far less than usual, and seemed more comfortable in the melee. He stuck around willingly after class to read a book with Miriam. She asked him what animals were on the bus (a picture in the book). He didn't say anything . She said "dogs" (pointing) and "cats". Then she asked him what animals were on the book again. He said "cat." I think this means he's feeling more comfortable with her.

I mentioned a few of today's highlights already. Another: we were putting four balls into a dump truck. I started couting: "one ball, two balls, three balls, four balls." He continued: "five balls, six balls..." all the way to fourteen. He faltered. I picked it up. He picked it up again at seventeen, went to twenty. Verbal back-and-forths like that is a rare and precious thing around here.

Dan and I have noticed that Damian's getting better at problem solving. Used to be something would happen (a block that didn't fit, a ball that rolled under the couch) and he'd just sit and cry. Now he fusses and then figures out a work-around. Mom won't come play trains with me in my room, so I'll bring the trains out to play near her. These matchbox cars won't fit in the car carrier truck, so I'll choose other cars that will.

Our dialogue over dinner (Dan worked late): Damian: "Bippety boppity bam bang." (from Charlie Parker Played Be-Bop) Me: "Bippety boppity boom bang." And like that for a few more iterations, both of us giggling.

He enjoyed these little cat-toy balls a lot tonight. Another game (besides the put-them-in-the-truck-and-spill-them-out-again game) involved opening plastic eggs (first tapping them to "crack" the shells) and putting a ball inside, then dropping the ball from egg half to egg half. Just like Mommy when she seperates egg whites from yolks. And then bouncing the ball in the air and saying, "the egg JUMPED!" (from Are You My Mother).

Yes, he's still my cutie.

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