February 2001 page 1 of 2
Thursday 1 February

He's responding to more verbal games. This morning at breakfast I started singing "apples and bananas", off one of his kid CDs. "ap-ap-apples and bananas, oop-oop-ooples and banoonoos" etc. Damian snickered.

I like Laura, the speech therapist. We met her this morning, Damian and I. He liked her toys. I think he'll warm up to her over time. He protested about leaving her office and all those great toys.

He had a very hard time dealing with being in school after that. He wanted me to stand in the center of the room holding him so he could look down. Got furious when I tried to sit down (still holding him). He did eventually calm down and have an okay time, but I think this is a lesson that we can't join the class midstream.

Damian has a job now: he holds my keys for me. He holds the car key all the way from the classroom to the car, and the house key from the car to the front door. You can tell he takes this task very seriously.

Sunday 4 February

Tonight Damian was sitting in Dan's lap, reading books. He pointed to the juice cup on my nightstand. We tried to coax him to say "juice." He subvocalized something that might well have been juice had his mouth been open. We acknowledged that and gave him the juice. Later, juice back on the nightstand, he said "I see juice." I handed it to him. He didn't want it, just wanted to comment on it. Later, back on Daddy's lap, he pointed to the juice again. We tried to coax the word out of him. "Damian, will you say 'juice'?" He shook his head emphatically. We laughed and gave him the juice. Hell, he communicated, gotta give him points for that.

More words today in general. This morning he was sitting in Dan's lap at the table, looking at pictures in a book (notice a trend here?). He pointed out a small sun on one page, said "little sun." After Dan acknowledged the truth of this, Damian added, "yellow sun."

Last night in the tub: Damian pointed to the seashells on the sink counter. He loves playing with them in the water. Dan said "you want the seashell?" Damian softly, indistinctly, said "seashell." Dan praised him, repeated the word. Damian added: "green." He wanted the green one. After he got it, he asked for the "other."

I think we forget how much Damian can do because he's not communicative. So lately we've started asking him to do more small tasks for us. I had him help me unload the dishwasher, put a bowl on the rolling cart, etc. Later he handed me a lollipop stick when he was done with it. I handed it back, saying he should put it in the trash. He trotted over and dropped it in. Simple. Satisfying. Reassuring. (He loved that lollipop, too. The whole time he was sucking on it, he kept taking it out of his mouth, looking at it, and saying "lollipop" in a very happy tone.)

Monday 5 February

This morning he took the phone away from me so I would play with him, he climbed on my back so I would be a horsie, and as I said things like "giddyap, Mommy", he said "I climbed" (I climbed on top of you.)

He said "want a banana" later, as he pointed to it.

At the tail end of a meltdown, I was sitting with him on my lap on the rocking chair, offering suggestions of what he might want, he shook his head at each one. We ended up going into my room and rolling around on the bed. Then I said I was hungry and started talking about food. He hopped off the bed and made a beeline for the fridge, opened it for me. And then waited impatiently as the pancake warmed in the microwave.

Tonight he did something that tickled me to death: I'd just been shopping with him. I put the grocery bags on the porch and then fetched him from the car. He walked with me to the porch. As soon as he reached the bags at the door, he grabbed the handles of two of the bags and said "I bring in the groceries." So I let him carry/drag all the lighter bags inside. Imitative behavior, wanting to be included, and the words, to boot. It thrilled me so much.

Tuesday 6 February

We took yesterday off from school (Damian had a cold) so I was worried about how it would go today, after four days off. It went better than I'd expected. He had a few rough spots but more contented play time, and he even let me go pee solo once. Of such things are victories made. of course, later I told him I was going the bathroom. Told him three times and then went. Figuring he was okay because he didn't react to the idea. I was wrong. He hadn't heard me. He freaked while I was in there.

In general, he seems more comfortable among the kids, except in the yard where they run wild and he still cringes and retreats to safety (me). But in the classroom, he came close to playing with Samuel. Played alongside Sammy and payed attention to what he was doing. And he smiled at one point when Tyson came and sat beside him.

He's been lying down to play far less frequently. Laura, the speech therapist, pointed out that it was a way of shutting out everything but the toy and that we should encourage him to sit up. We haven't specifically done that, but it's happened anyway, as he feels less need to shut the world out and more reason to include us in his play (we're more fun to play with than we used to be -- we're working at it now, big time).

Two disconcerting activities as of this week: he sticks his fingers into the flesh just below his eyes and he grinds his teeth. We're trying to curb both before they become habitual.

Shortly after we came home from school today, Damian led me to his toy chest to play. At his signal, I took out the big red train. He started pushing it around. I then took out the smaller brown train that looks just like the big one. I said "this is the baby train and that's the mommy train" and then I acted out the baby train zooming back and forth frantically, very upset because it couldn't find its mommy. Damian laid the mommy train on its side and then took the baby train from me, laying it on its side in front of the mommy, touching their fenders/noses. They were kissing (we often mime various toys kissing each other). Then he snuggled the baby in beside mommy, lying next to each other. Very sweet.

Actually, speaking of "kissing", he's started doing something he hasn't done for a long time: rubbing noses with me. I call it a "nose kiss". I think it's because we're having his toys rub noses to kiss. He's never kissed us for real, this is his way of doing it. So nice that he's started again.

Wednesday 7 February

School: Damian tuned out a bit less, got intimidated by other kids being aggressive a bit more. I talked to Miriam about having all three teachers keep a closer eye on the kids so they can intervene more.

Damian held Miriam's hand walking down the hall. Small steps.

Our second speech therapy session. First hands-on session. Laura speaks carefully to him, enunciates clearly, in very simple sentences, and describes everything he's doing. Also engages with him. It seems almost to simple, but he responded to her nonverbally and even spoke a few times, repeating her.

We've started noticing that Damian's subvocalizing requests and responses sometimes. Like tonight. We wanted him to ask for juice. He seemed to say the word with his mouth closed. And when he was done, he handed me the cup with an emphatic "mmm mmmm!" sound (all done!). Just a step away from opening his mouth and saying it. Which feels exciting.

Thursday 8 February

Last night in the tub, Damian was enjoying the running water. Dan turned it off. Damian got mad. He made mad noises and then said "I MAADD!" I came into the room to celebrate his using words to describe his emotion. He got all happy that I was happy about it.

School today went well. Funny, because we almost didn't go. I have a cold and Damian woke badly at 3 am, so we were both tired. But he was awake and perky in the morning, seemed into the idea. Didn't fuss about going to the car, went straight into the classroom, and let go of my hand readily once in the room. Big change there.

At one point during free play, he was sitting alone in the book corner, playing with a cloth activity book. Tyson sat down next to him. I mean, right next to him. Legs touching. They read quietly like that for a minute. Then she picked up a board book and started reading it aloud! It was a book about various dinosaurs. Tyson's interpretation went like so: page one, "Dinosaur." Turn the page. Page two, "dinosaur." And so on. Damian got interested, looked over her shoulder. So they sat, Tyson reading to Damian. You have to realize how much this means. I don't think he's ever had an interaction like that with another kid.

Unfortunately, Michael got interested. He sat down on Tyson's other side. That was okay, but then he started being bossy about what book to read next. Damian got up and left.

Yard time started badly: Damian wanted to stay in the "baby" yard, where the equipment is lower and safer-feeling. But the other kids were in the side yard. I stayed with him, let him play alone for a few minutes. Then I suggested he might like to play with the bus and telephone in the other yard. He hopped up and led me to the side yard. Heh.

There's a device in the side yard. Hard to explain. Picture a merry-go-round. Okay, now picture that instead of horses, it's got bicycles. Okay, now think of it more like a wheel with spokes, and each spoke has a seat and pedals. It's a bike-go-round, you could say. Anyway, the kids love riding it but Damian absolutely refuses to try. He likes standing next to it and spinning it, though. He started doing this at one point. I narrated the action: "Push bike. Push bike. Push bike." Ella spotted the motion, came over and climbed on. I narrated: "Push bike. Push bike. Push Ella." Damian said "Push Ella." Then Tyson came over, climbed on. I said: "Push bike. Push Ella. Push Tyson." Damian said "Push Ella. Push Tyson." Then the other kids came over and the bikes filled up. We still stood pushing them around for a few more minutes, then Damian got tired of the game. Still. I consider this a huge step too. He's getting more comfortable around the others, more interested in knowing who they are.

He didn't like it when Tyson took his hand on the way to the library, thought. Can't win 'em all.

I think he's thriving on all the floor play we're doing. He's talking more and he's happier, and he seeks us out to play with. Used to be he'd just seek us out for the companionship. Now it's more interactive.

Friday 9 February

Last night it was time for bed (post-bath and books). We asked Damian if he wanted Daddy to rock him. He shook his head emphatically. I asked if he wanted Mommy to rock him. He held his arms up to me. So I rocked him.

Not a great day today. Damian didn't seem interested in most of my overtures to play together, and he rarely met my gaze. I felt depressed and overwhelmed. I think part of my problem is exhaustion, part of the problem is that we don't have enough interactive toys. We need to buy a dollhouse and dolls and pretend food, etc. There's a limit to how many ways you can make trucks interact. And, too, I need more practice and information on how floor time works.

I ascertained today that he knows his ABCs. He has an alphabet puzzle. He can put it together quickly, but that proves nothing except that he's figured out the shapes. So I started holding up two letters, one in each hand, and saying "where does the H go?" He always picked the letter I asked about, no matter what hand it was in.

When he's playing with Dan in his room, Damian gets upset when I try to come in. For some reason, I find this amusing.

Saturday 10 February

We went toy shopping today. We stopped first at Apple Pan for burgers. We tried this last weekend and Damian got upset, so half a block away I scooped him into my arms and we started talking about hamburgers and french fries. Damian said "hamburgers" but really he was far more interested in the fries. So much so that he got frustrated when we sat down. Everyone sits at a long counter so it's got a communal feeling. The woman next to me had a plate of enticing fries. Damian doesn't understand the concept of "those belong to a total stranger." Fortunately, the woman was a lovely soul who gave us half a dozen fries. Said she had grandchildren of her own.

Thence to shopping, and home bearing toys, very few of them with wheels (a first for us). Damian loved all of them, including a Fisher Price dollhouse. He set the family around the dining table first. Then I suggested the baby might need a bath, so Damian put him/her/it into the tub. I said "maybe Mommy or Daddy will sit with baby in the bathroom." Damian chose Officer Michelle from the traffic set we'd just bought. She climbed the steps to the bathroom, then sat by baby for a moment, then she went potty. That's when I realized: Officer Michelle has black hair; she looks more like me than Mom does. After their bath, Damian had Officer Michelle and baby snuggle up in bed. Then Officer Michelle got up to pee again. Yup. Definitely me.

The fact that he can play pretend games is apparently a very good sign. I'm encouraged; it's something we haven't seen much of until very recently, which is part of what's had us so spooked. The diagnosis may be the same but I'll bet it makes the prognosis much better.

He was so involved in his toys he didn't want to take a bath. He heard me running the bath water and came in to tell me so in a strangled voice. I couldn't make out the words, but he repeated them in the living room a moment later, so I know they were English and that he was pissed. I was just delighted he was using words to express his feelings.

I told him he could bring Officers Michelle and Patrick to the bathroom (along with a cop car and various traffic signs), and then he was okay with the bath after all. Dan said, "look at all the toys in here" and Damian said "and my marbles." (magnetic marbles which are his current favorite bath toys). Damn. A day of mostly just repeating our words or remaining silent and then coherent thoughts verbalized. I wish I had the key to open that door all the time.

Sunday 11 February

We've started working harder on getting Damian to respond to us verbally or at least with a nod or head shake. It's tricky, because if you choose the wrong moment you can precipitate a power struggle or a meltdown. But last night, like the night before, I asked Damian if he wanted Daddy to rock him to sleep. He didn't answer. After much coaxing, we got a single head shake. Good enough! Then I asked if he wanted me to rock him. Again no answer. We kept on with it, gently prodding, until he said -- oh so softly -- "yeah." So I rocked him again. And for lunch, Dan worked on getting him to say whether he wanted pizza; it took a long time but Damian finally did say "yeah." A few other times today too. It's hard work, and we have to keep at it very gently, almost playfully, but not let him off the hook. It's okay if he just approximates the word or doesn't even get it at all, as long as he tries. It has to become a habit, though. Has to.

He's not quoting books as much. I think his brain is trying to shift paradigms. I miss the quoting -- it can be delightful -- but I long for real communication, so I'm all for a change.

Monday 12 February

I find myself overreacting to Damian. I don't mean getting overly mad at him. I mean that I look for signs that he's present, that he's paying attention. I look for eye contact, I look for responses. When I don't get them, it bothers me too much, I think. I have to remember even the most verbal/connected kids space out sometimes. God knows I do. Not everything is a sign.

Yeah, not a great day. Good evening, though. As I relaxed, Damian did. A lesson there.

Damian went to bed at 10:30 last night, woke up at 5 am. Wide awake. Talking to himself as he padded down the hall. Talking some more as he got in bed with us. I distinctly heard "I want juice." Wow. Better believe he got his juice! Unfortunately, he was wide awake and wiggly as all get-out until 7:30, when he conked out lying on top of me (I'd been rocking him and then lay down).

School, needless to say, was not a great experience. He did remarkably well for a completely exhausted sniffly coughy (lingering cold) kid, but he ignored much of the goings-on and didn't quite seem present.

Later at home, we had a bit of a contretemps over a stick of cheese. I offered, he reached for it, I asked him to ask for it. He wouldn't and was in no mood to be cajoled. I waited till I got something besides crying (had to, otherwise he'd know he could get off the hook) and then I gave credit for the effort and gave him the cheese. But exhausted pre-nap boy couldn't stop crying. I changed his diaper. He still fussed and still gripped the (uneaten) cheese stick. I rocked him. He quieted gradually, but still gripped the (uneaten) cheese stick. I had to ease it out of his hand after he was asleep in bed. It had nearly melted from his body heat.

We did better later. He adored the dinner of salmon and smiled at me all through the meal.

He sits in a booster seat at the table these days, no more high chair. He has this trick for getting down when he's done eating. He pushes his chair back from the table with his hands, then eases his body out of the chair while holding onto the table for support. It doesn't sound like a big deal, but watching him you'd swear he was going to crash head-first onto the floor. He's carefully calibrated the distance from the table so he can make it all work. Rather impressive, actually.

We bought Damian a miniscule Pooh's House dollhouse Saturday. He loves it. I suggested Pooh might like to rock and set the bear in the chair. Damian rocked him and then took him out, put him in the bed. Rock and then bed, just like Damian himself. I was kind of tickled.

Tuesday 13 February

We stayed home today. Damian had a relapse of his cold. He was pretty miserable this morning. Much administering of Thomas videos and warm snuggles. He perked up late morning and chased me around the house. Not much imaginative play today, or much talking either. Kid was sick, whaddayawant?

I think Damian shut me out yesterday after the Cheese Incident. We've decided not to push too hard to get him to answer. He seems to close up when we do, no matter how gently and playfully we do it. He feels the pressure on him and he loses confidence. Better to just ask but not press. Let it happen more naturally. We need to learn more speech therapy techniques, though. How to make talking fun. I led Damian in lots of "ker-plop" and "bang!" type utterances today. Anything to loosen those muscles.

He likes poking his fingers into the plastic insert on the tissue box. He says "press buttons" as he does. He actually poked holes this morning. He was quite pleased with himself.

He helped me make bread today (poured the flour in and later punched the dough down). He loves helping. I want to make cookies with him very soon. I think everything that gives him confidence is of especial value right now.

Last night he was lying on the bed between us (he signals when he's done with books by rolling around and burrowing between us) and he started whispering, "good night, good night, good night."

Damian's in the tub right now saying "don't break it" to Dan. I don't know what exactly "it" is.

Wednesday 14 February

This morning Damian and I woke up (he had a bad night, came to bed) and heard Dan puttering in the kitchen. I said "go in and say hi to Daddy." Damian padded into the kitchen and said "good morning." Significant that he didn't use my words but rather his own

Things I'm learning from Laura the ST: Narrate his actions constantly. Label everything with words. Ask him what he wants and wait and coax but then give in if it doesn't seem to be working (don't set up adversarial relationship). Use gestures as well as words. Floor time is far simpler than we've been doing: it's enough to put dolls into a car, for example, and then take them out. As long as it's both of you together; the main point is interaction. Verbal is best, nonverbal is okay too. Interrupt perserverative behavior (when he gets locked into, say, sliding a doll down a toy slide over and over again), turn it into something else, something that engages him in the world more. Get him to take turns, especially because he can then learn to assert "my turn." And don't let him lie on the floor to play, push him to sit up. This last is sometimes hard but I'm starting to agree that it's important.

He's very noncommunicative with her, it tears at me to watch. I want to shake him and say "wake up!" But then at home afterwards, he was very involved with me. I asked him to press the toy pig in its sty and when he did, I said "oink!" along with the pig. Damian thought this was very funny. We did it with all the animals. He actually said "moo" or (it was indistinct) "the cow says moo" after I/the cow did.

Dan gave him ice cream, Damian (with our urging) said "more ice cream" several times and also commented, "cold."

During bathtime, Dan tried to wipe Damian's face with a cloth. Damian shook his head and said "I don't like." It's so great to hear him give an opinion, you want to validate it completely. But we're parents to a toddler who needs to learn boundaries. It's a tough one.

Thursday 15 February

A hard day. Damian's cold has gotten worse. He was clingy and fretful most of the day. One notable moment, though, pre-nap. He was tired. He got mad at his toys for some transgression and started throwing them (no, not okay). He said "I MAD!" I was rather proud of him.

Also, when I was wiping his nose, he said "blow."

And tonight he was driving a race car on the floor. I tried to get involved, made a tent with my hands and said "it's a bridge, I mean tunnel." And he heard bridge and ran his car along my arm. I thought that was kind of neat.

He got mad later, though, when I tried to make him sit up while he was drawing with markers. He wants to lie down and shut out the world. It's sometimes quite a chore to change his mind.

I'm thinking of finding a new ST. I like Laura but I'm not sure Damian does. He hasn't warmed up to her. I'm concerned. I'm also not sure she's got the right playful energy. This is such a complicated thing, it's not just about someone being experienced and intelligent, there has to be a level of play, spontaneity, and intuition or it won't work.

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