March 2001 page 1 of 2
Thursday 1 March

Not enough sleep, thus no real interaction to report from this morning at school. However, he got upset about a toy not doing what he wanted. He reached for me. Miriam helped him instead and he was fine with that. Overall, though, a not-good morning this week equals a pretty good morning from a few weeks ago. A useful comparison. I'm glad I'm keeping this journal to keep it all fresh in my mind. Progress equals hope.

Something happened toward the end of the morning that upset me: Jonathan tackled Michael and they both fell into Damian, who ended up flat on his back on the bottom of the pile. He was freaked. I calmed him. I know it's no big deal, and that it's the sort of thing that happens, but as I said to Miriam, we've been working so hard on his confidence and connectedness, and this could set him back. And, in fact, the rest of the morning, he was remote. He'd sort of checked out. It wasn't until early evening that I coaxed him fully out of his shell.

I consider this progress, actually: I spent an hour in floortime play (ie: very interactive). The first half was tough. He lay down, he pushed trucks back and forth, he was non-communicative. Shut down. But I caught his interest with pretend food, and after that he was fully engaged, even talkative. Dan tells me this lasted through their evening play together. Damian was even answering "what is that?" questions. I'm very pleased that it's become easier to reach him when he's closed down. That's a very good sign. I do worry about Monday at school, though. I hope his confidence isn't shaken. He's been doing so well this week.

He had a so-so visit with his new sitter Kim. I sent her home early -- Damian wanted to snuggle with mommy. But something VERY noteworthy happened while she was playing with him:

She wrote "HI" on a Magnadoodle. Damian looked at it and said "hi."

The kid can read. Two years, nine months old and he's starting to read words.

Friday 2 March

I was wiped today. Damian came to bed around three a.m. and woke up three times in the next five hours. Yeesh. Today I discovered why: a runny nose, sneezing. I deduce a slight cold.

This morning as I was changing his diaper, Damian was singing/whispering "two little monkeys sitting on a bed" -- Miriam sings that sometimes in circle time.

Lots of echoing language today, and lots of spontaneous language too, but the latter was all in whispers and I didn't catch much of it. He used to talk more in a normal voice. Then again, he wasn't as aware of people listening. He's more connected and therefore more self-conscious, I think.

Damian and I stopped by Terri & Mel's before heading to the bank. I told Terri what's been going on. She said all the right things ("What an intense thing to be dealing with, but he's so connected already, he's going to do really well.") She also said he seems more connected than he did the last time she saw him (two months ago). I think that's true, too. He had one bad moment, though: Max was being possessive and aggressive about it, in the way that two year olds can be ("MY toys!") Max yelled at Damian. Damian fluttered his hands, which I now recognize as a self-soothing autistic reaction. I felt so bad for him. I almost never see him do stuff like that. Terri spoke to Max about his behavior and shooed him away. Damian was okay then, but we left soon after.

I wanted to wash Damian's hands, so I invited him into the bathroom to play with a mixing cup under the sink faucet, then I put a stopper in the sink and bubble bath in the water. He got his hands washed despite himself. Heh.

He skipped his naptime. Around 5:30, I was so exhausted, I lay down sideways in the armchair. Damian needed a nose wipe, so I persuaded him to climb onto the ottoman so I could do it without moving. He came all the way over to me and clambered on top of me. Fell asleep within seconds. So we took a cozy nap together.

We're skipping baths for a few days. Getting him into the tub has become too much of a battle, we're trying to let him forget his anti-bath angst. (He always loves the bath when he lets himself forget it wasn't his idea.) So he lay on my lap and I undressed him and got him into his PJs. He pulled his own socks off. I thought that was kind of neat. He's been shrugging his shirts off lately, too.

Saturday 3 March

We went to Griffith Park today, ostensibly to meet up with other MayMoms in Travel Town (old trains). We got there late, though, and basically were coming as they were going. But Damian took everything in with wide eyes. He was repeating everything we said like a little parrot, but a parrot with intent. He was soaking it all up. Then we went to a new playground, Shane's Inspiration -- the concept is to create an environment that's accessible for disabled kids to play alongside able-bodied kids. It's a wonderful place. Damian loved it. We tried him on the merry-go-round, too, but that was a little too overwhelming for him. He didn't cry, just clung to Dan tightly the whole time.

His echolalia -- repeating what we say -- is clearly with some awareness of the words. In the playground, Dan said "the pump is red." Damian said "the pump is red." Dan said "the pump is green." (It wasn't.) Damian said "the pump is..." and stopped before saying something untrue.

Dan says he was playing with a toy lobster in Damian's room. He said "Lobsters don't fly." Damian thought about this and shook his head. Agreeing.

I asked Damian if he wanted juice tonight, then said yes and nodded. Damian immediately nodded. Sometimes we have to work for several minutes to get that, sometimes we never get it. So satisfying to get a response right away.

Tonight. Oy. Damian didn't want Dan to read to him. I think Damian was afraid that if he sat on Daddy's lap instead of mine, it might mean Daddy would rock him instead of me. Dan tried to show him that he was upset by Damian's rejection. Damian refused to look at him; he steadfastly ignored his father. It hurt to see. He doesn't understand or respond appropriately to other people's emotions. Not never, I shouldn't say never, but still... it's hard to see that.

Dan ended up reading to him while he sat between us. And later, after I did rock him but gave up in frustration, Damian let Dan rock him to sleep (I stayed in the room with them). So maybe he did understand that he'd hurt his father's feelings.

Sunday 4 March

Tonight Damian brought me an unopened package of seaweed chips (hey, I like them). He was nodding his head, which clearly meant "Open it, I want some." I thought that was pretty cool, that he used the "yes" nod to signal something somewhat different. He was stretching the language he has fairly easy access to (ie: nonverbal). Makes me wonder if we should teach him some basic sign language, but I'd honestly rather work more on verbal communication.

Verbal ability is getting somewhat better too. This morning I was drawing on the Magnadoodle. Simple shapes: star, moon, circle, square... I was saying "it's a" whatever and then "bye bye" whatever. Well, I drew a triangle, said "it's a" and Damian -- unprompted -- said "triangle." Then he said "bye bye triangle."

His new delight is running away and then running back with a huge grin -- it's engaged -- great eye contact -- can't complain. He did it this afternoon and said, completely spontaneously, "hi!" Then ran away again.

We went to Diane's this afternoon for Sophia's birthday party. We were concerned how Damian would handle the group. Would he check out or get upset? Neither. He hesitated outside, but once he came in, he enjoyed playing with her toys. More important, he stayed fairly present. He responded to what we said, an when a toddler tried taking a toy from him, he got upset. Appropriately upset. Meaning he didn't passively let the toy walk away the way he used to. He didn't make much eye contact with strangers or even Diane, though. He's not there yet.

We got Damian back into the bathtub tonight on the strength of new tub toys. He was nervous but didn't cry when I undressed him, and of course enjoyed the bath once he was in.

Monday 5 March

We had an appointment to talk with Beryl (the nursery school director) and Miriam this morning. I knew it was about my attitude with the other kids. I was right. They were very nice about it, but they feel like I'm an advocate for Damian and therefore I don't necessarily discipline the other kids appropriately. They're absolutely right and it's been a major concern of mine, but I've felt like I have no choice. The teachers aren't aware enough of what's going on with him, and someone has to watch out for him at all times. He doesn't have social coping skills. That's part of his problem. Anyway, the meeting was very worthwhile because I walked in with a proposal of my own: that Miriam and the other teachers work on getting the kids to interact with Damian, to help him feel more comfortable with them. I also underlined that I think it makes a huge difference to Damian when the teachers spend time with him. On the days when they do, I can see him relax into being there.

Miriam listened. During the morning, she spent a lot of time with him and engaged him with other kids, too. At one point, she had Sammy and Damian both making sad faces and happy faces. Damian then ran over to me to show me his happy face (big smile). This is actually significant, because we've been working a lot on identifying emotions, and using the Thomas the Tank Engine videos, with their exaggerated simple facial expressions, to help show that. Spectrum kids have trouble reading emotions on people's faces, so this is important. And Miriam's game shows that Damian's getting it.

He unfortunately sort of lost it the last hour of class, though. Very clingy, and kept trying to get me to leave with him. I thought it was because he was overwhelmed with the new methods, or maybe the fact that the other kids were having meltdowns left and right, but it turned out to be because he was exhausted. He took a two and a half hour nap, and only woke up after I nuzzled him and talked him into sitting up.

We bought Damian a dollhouse yesterday; after this and a play kitchen (still on the agenda) we'll have a complete set of floortime tools. (For now.) Dan set it up last night and they enjoyed it together. Today I put the first set of furniture in: a kitchen set (we're adding furniture one set at a time to prolong the newness). Damian was mildlly interested. I did get him to put the baby Bendo in the sink for a "bath." But mostly he wanted to run his miniature truck and train around the empty rooms and ceiling. What do you do with that? How do you enter that? I took the Bendo dog and had it bark excitedly and run after the truck/train, trying to grab one. Got the truck. Tried for the train. I switched to language: "those barks mean 'I want I want I want the train! Can I have the train please please please???'" and so on, in an excited doggy voice. And then I said "and Damian says 'No! You can't have it!'" I was pleased that Damian agreed with the sentiments I'd voiced for him: he shook his head emphatically.

Another "no" tonight, this one verbal: He wanted a puzzle. I offered him another puzzle. He said "nope."

Sometimes it's hard to describe changes, they don't seem significant to anyone but us. But tonight Damian fell pretty hard, catching himself with his hands and knees. He thought about fussing (made a small sound) but then got up and went on. Time was when that same fall would have meant tears and wails and much need of comforting. He's learning he's not as breakable as he thought. I think it's a confidence issue.

One of Dan's games with Damian: Dan hands Damian a Brio track. Damian connects it to the track and builds a new and different track layout. Tonight Dan was getting ready for bath/bed time, and took apart the Brio. The tracks were all in neat piles. Damian wandered into his room and found them. He sat alone in the dark room, crying. I went in and discovered he was rebuilding the track on his own. But still crying. My heart went out to him.

Tuesday 6 March

The teachers didn't play with Damian this morning. I saw a direct correlation with his mood. He was very clingy with me, very non-interactive with the other kids, and kept trying to get me to go home. I told Miriam I was worried about him and what I thought the cause was, and she spent some time with him. He was in a much better frame of mind for the last hour. Much more present.

Gabriel kept coming over to Damian and giving him toys. He gave him a plastic chicken leg, and Damian "ate" it. He gave him books and Damian looked at them. I asked Damian to give Gaby back some things, too, and Damian did.

Hallway game: "ready, set" and Damian said "go." Subvocalized.

Dan offered Damian a Starburst. Got a "starburst" and also a "yes" out of him. Good.

Wednesday 7 March

I forgot to mention a disturbing moment from yesterday. I don't want this to be a pollyanna-only account of "look what he did!" so I do want to tell about this. It was early afternoon. I was trying to rock him to sleep. He got restless and started fidgeting. Acted out a bit. I think he must have kicked me, because I do remember I was upset with him. I told him so. He avoided my gaze. When I let my voice get upset, he got this slight smile on his face and still avoided looking at me. I kind of lost it. I'd just seen him banging his head against the footboard of his bed a few minutes earlier. I've never seen him do that before, and it is so autistic it makes me feel ill. That combined with his inappropriate reaction to my emotion and avoiding my gaze... I wanted to scream at him. I didn't, but I did get pretty vehement in telling him that I was very upset and that what he was doing made me feel mad. I pushed until he heard me. I knew he heard me because he looked me in the eyes and he cried. I comforted him immediately and we were square again. The interesting thing about all this is that he'd been very out of it before that, very disconnected. But afterwards, he was present. My emotion and my insistence had brought him back. So I guess I did the right thing, even though it felt awful to do, like I was losing control even though it was kind of on purpose.

So. Today. School. Not so good at first. Damian so didn't want to be there. He basically fussed, insisted on sitting in my lap on the floor, fussed some more, tried to hit and poke me, fussed some more. Not fun. I finally brought him to the teacher's lounge and told him (again) that it was okay to be mad but not to hit and I knew he didn't want to be at school, but it was important to stay. And then we cuddled for a long while in the relative quiet (we could still hear the class across the hall). When we went back in, Damian was much better able to handle being there, though he still clung to me until yard time.

Yard time was an unexpected time off from school. The class went to the "big yard," next to the side yard we've been using. Problem is, the main (only) attraction there is a big jungle gym. Damian doesn't do jungle gyms, not since he realized the metal flooring was mesh and you could see through to the ground. So I brought him to the side yard and he got to run around all alone. He had a blast. Then I helped him get on the bicycle merry-go-round and pushed him around it. I said "ready, set" and he subvocalized "go," just like last night. Only this time he added "ready" and sometimes "set." So funny to hear "ready set gggggg." He enunciated the first two words clearly and then just subvocalized "go."

Gym was good. When Damian ran off on his own, Miriam went after him. I watched her: she went up to him and engaged him in looking at/exploring whatever he happened to be near. And somehow her doing so brought him back into the world, and he'd then run back to sit on my lap and rejoin the group. He did most of the stretching exercises, too.

After class we stayed for some Miriam-Damian time. She joined him in playing with cars on ramps. She reported some fascinating dialogue to me: She asked him what color something was. He told her it was pink (it was purple). She said it wasn't. He asked her 'what color is this?" She said "what color do you think it is?" He said "I don't know." She tried hiding a truck inside a pile of blocks. He found it right away. (Autistic kids sometimes can't do that, depending on their issues.) She commented on the road he was building. He said "it's a city." Everything he said, he said in a whisper.

He talked a lot in speech therapy today too; again, all in whispers. What I noticed in particular was that, like with Miriam, he used a lot of spontaneous communication. He asked Laura to "open" a box, for instance. She tried to distract him with other stuff, and he asked her again and again until she opened it. He asked me to "open the box" later in the day, too.

Seems like his language is starting to blossom. I'm waiting for him to speak in a normal voice, though. It's awfully hard to hear a whisper. I've only once gotten him to repeat something in a normal voice, and I think it was because he was really motivated to communicate (he wanted the object pretty bad).

Meltdown city tonight. I suspect all this progress has an emotional backlash, making him feel more insecure and out of sorts.

Baths are still a chore. I got him undressed in his bedroom tonight. Which was fine, and we had a conversation about his penis (he repeated everything I said, but was clearly quite intrigued by the subject). But when we got to the bathroom, he got upset. Dan and I tried everything we could think to entice him in. No dice. I finally got in myself and held him in my lap. Worked like a charm. Now he's in there on his own; I snuck out after a few minutes. People keep asking me if he has a transitional object (teddy bear, blankie). I say I'm his transitional object. It's far too true.

Thursday 8 March

Damian came into the bedroom at 5 am. Lay down between us happily enough, but insisted on stroking my arm and my breast (his new obsession is touching my breasts -- needless to say, I've been trying to discourage this! It's a little weird in public and often rather uncomfortable). It took him a long time to accept that no, he really did have to lie still and fall asleep. So I decided we should play hooky from school. We slept in till 10. Happiness.

This morning we were in his room, fooling around with a wagon filled with alphabet blocks. I picked up the H block. I said "H." Damain said "hhhh" (the sound H makes). Cool. Then he picked up D and put them together: HD. And said "hot dog." Hot damn.

He loves the song "app-app-apples and bananas." At the dinner table, he picked up two apples and two bananas and sang/whispered the song.

I think he's been singing more, actually. Hard to know when it's all whispers, which almost everything is these days. But we were cuddling together in bed, and I heard him whispering in a sing-song way, and every few words, the sound would edge toward real voice. Which sort of makes sense if you're trying to whisper a song.

Bathtime: I started getting ready to get in the tub. Damian got upset. I thought he was upset at the idea of taking a bath. Turned out he was upset at the idea of not being included in the bath. He very willingly helped get himself undressed and into the tub.

Friday 9 March

Bad ST session. Really bad. Almost every time Laura tried to engage Damian, he wandered off to another toy. She finally suggested that I try. He didn't respond to me either. Frustrating. We talked a little. She suggested that we push him a little more, and a little more consistently, when he wants something.

I tried to do this in the grocery store later. It backfired as I've seen it do before. If you push Damian, no matter how nicely, if you insist he say something, he will completely clam up. It's only if you play with him without any pressure that he'll respond. Dan and I talked it through and realized that the way we should push him is not to demand speech, but to simply extend the two way communication -- ie: playfully push him, ask him "no?", offer the drink or whatever, and then sneak it away in a peek-a-boo game. Stuff like that. Not expecting a verbal answer, though certainly suggesting one. I thought that made much more sense for our little guy.

By the way, he was rather more verbal during the rest of the day. Even spoke aloud a few times tonight. And somewhat more present. There was one point in the early afternoon where he was in my lap, laughing and into the game we were playing but nevertheless looking away from me. It was disconcerting. I coaxed him every way I could think to look at me (short of asking, which will never work and defeats the purpose, anyway). It worked, and he made good eye contact most of the rest of the day.

We took him out to dinner. I thought this would be a good thing. It wasn't. He didn't eat. He got irritable. He had a huge freakout in the car when he dropped his miniscule toy truck on the floor and nobody could fetch it for him. He has to learn a little patience, but that's not easy for any kid his age.

Right now he's lying between us on the bed with the selfsame miniscule toy truck and bulldozer, whispering "it's a little tiny bulldozer."

Saturday 10 March

Damian's been in a pissy mood lately. We think it may be because we're pushing him harder. Tonight Dan was trying to play and Damian didn't want anything to do with him. Then I gave him dinner and he refused to either sit in his booster seat or on Daddy's lap. No, it had to be Mommy's lap. This seems to be part of it, that he's become so very attached to me lately. Can't stand for me to be in another room, even. It's been very difficult.

On the up side, he's started actually saying "no" today. Sometimes shakes his head, sometimes says no. Sometimes doesn't respond. Depends on his mood.

Dan gave him a strip of fruit leather after dinner. Damian ran around with it for a while, then I said "if you're not going to eat that, can I have it?" and he handed it to me. I was rather pleased that he could parlay a complex sentence that easily.

Funny thing, when we're out and about he fusses if I try to lead him off without Dan, but if I say "let's go to the bathroom" he trots along with me. He's accepted that this is something we do and then come back to Daddy.

Sunday 11 March

Three more things from yesterday (I was tired last night when I posted):

At Toys R Us, he wanted to play with a toy vacuum. Imitative play, great, right? Not exactly. He lay down on the floor in the middle of the aisle and pushed the now prone vacuum back and forth. A photo opportunity of the autistic kid in action. Ouch. Fortunately the moment passed and he came back to us.

After Damian refused to sit on Dan's lap at dinner, Dan got pretty upset and went to sit on the couch. I told Damian that Daddy was upset because Damian didn't want to be with him. That Daddy loved him and felt bad. Not trying to guilt trip -- frankly, I don't think you can guilt trip a two year old (thankfully), but trying to make him understand that his actions affect other people and that we have feelings too. Which are both things we've been working on with him. Well, he listened. He slid down off my lap and trotted over to Dan, laying his head on his father's lap. Then I went over too, and helped Damian up onto the couch. Damian immediately flopped onto Dan's stomach, basically hugging him. This is a huge step. It's probably the first time he's ever shown empathy for someone.

I brought a pile of picture books from the living room to the bedroom, preparing for bedtime. I left three behind that Dan had just read to Damian. Well, damn if the moment I set the books down on the bed, Damian struggled in behind me hauling all three books.

Okay, now today. Damian's school had a Purim Carnival. We went. I think the highlight for Damian was the petting zoo. He's remarkably unafraid of animals as long as I'm holding him. He petted a goat, a pony, a bunny, even a duck. He didn't go on the moon bounce or high slide. It's kind of sad to see the things he won't do, but then again, I don't think I would have done them at his age (or even older), so it's not just a PDD thing.

Damian's starting to use "dammit" as well as "I'm mad" when he gets pissed. It's rather adorable. We're encouraging it -- I believe that's what curses are for, to vent without getting physical. Unfortunately, he's also been getting physical. He's got a repertoire he tries now: hit, pinch, poke, bang Mommy (or Daddy) with his head. None of it hurts, but it's all entirely inappropriate. It's hard to stress using words instead when you know it's so tough for him to use them, but we have to keep at it. And it usually does work. He either calms down because he's being acknowledged or he starts talking. The other day I said he was upset (he still cried) or mad (he still cried) or frustrated. He quieted and said "I'm fruraet." Apparently that was the right emotion. (He uses a big voice for emotions, though he's still mostly whispering otherwise.)

One of the things Greenspan (and our ST) suggests is giving your child choices. ("Do you want the red crayon or the blue one?") This has almost never worked with Damian. He goes mute and doesn't even point, or he just repeats you. Well, today that changed. Dan was drawing a train track. He was going to color in the station house. "Do you wnat it to be red or blue, Damian." "Green," he whispered. So green it was. Then "should it have a blue or red door?" "Red," he decided.

Dan just came in to tell me a cute one. Damian's in the tub playing with two dolphins in life raft-type donuts. Dan said they were mommy and daddy dolphins. Damian said "go to bed, Mommy and Daddy."

Monday 12 March

Bad morning at school. Damian clung to me. Wanted me to carry him into school. Wanted me RIGHT by him at all times. I had to bring him in from the yard after about ten minutes because he had a poopy diaper and he didn't want to go back out. When the other kids came back from yard time, he fussed for a moment, then accepted the inevitable. He was hardly there at all. To make matters worse, Miriam interacted with him maybe once all day, and that for maybe thirty seconds. I got so upset I called Beryl (the principal) to talk about the fact that Damian needs more than that or he just isn't interested in being there. If things don't change, we'll have to pull him out. I'd hate to do it, but this is just too terribly hard on me and on him too. And I don't know how soon EI funding will kick in (three weeks minimum), or whether or how much they'll pay for a classroom aide.

After school we went to Whole Foods. Or tried to. Damian wanted me to carry him across the parking lot and I refused. He's too damned heavy to carry around everywhere. I know it's more of this separation anxiety at work -- Mommy's his comfort object -- but I can't take it anymore. He had a meltdown and we had to go home. He wanted me to carry him in, of course. When I wouldn't, he eventually did come in on his own two feet, crying all the way. In the house, I sat down on the couch and opened my arms. He came right in and we cuddled on the couch for a while. I told him I'll always cuddle him, but I just can't carry him around. Man, that was rough.

An hour later, we went to Whole Foods and everything was hunky dory (he walked through the parking lot, perfectly cheerful).

He's been using "need" consistently lately. And in a real voice, too. So we've got "no" and "yes" sometimes, or sometimes head shakes and nods (or sometimes not at all), and "I'm mad" and "dammit" and "need" and "go" (ie: ready-set-go). And lots of other words too, but those are the firm communicating ones, and are all essentially new -- or at least new in their consistent use.

When I crawl around with him on my back (playing horsie), he says/whispers "giddyap." I have to start teaching him to say it to get me to move. That's the next step.

Kim was here this afternoon. It went well -- he left the house with her and allowed me to disappear to the bedroom for a little while. She says she didn't get good eye contact till about two thirds through the afternoon but then definitely did.

When she left, he wouldn't look at me and hardly responded to me. I had to really work him (thus the playing horsie) to warm him up. It worked. It does always work, thank god, but it always spooks me when he checks out like that.

Tuesday 13 March

Warning: graphic ick ahead. We got Damian ready for school. Were just discussing whether he was really well enough to go to school. Dan said Damian's stomach must be bothering him, as he's been smelling a constant gassiness. I looked down. Turns out that wasn't gas. There was a pool of diarrhea on the floor; it had run down Damian's leg. Poor kid hadn't thought to let us know. Needless to say, he stayed home from school.

Dan and I went to the first of three sessions with Dr. Red (yeah not her real name), a specialist in these issues. We're going back next Tuesday with Damian, and then once more for a follow-up. We both felt emotional and hopeful afterwards. It seems like she can really help us put the pieces of the puzzle together, both for diagnosis of his underlying issues and for treatment/therapy options. I had printed out a copy of all the Day by Damian pages, as well as the wordpix (monthly updates) from Damian's (now offline) photo album. So she's got some homework... It feels oddly naked to have given her these pages.

When I got home, Damian was sort of shut down. Tired, under the weather... he was like that earlier too. He lay down on the floor. I lay down next to him. He got a spark in his eye and climbed on top of me. He loves his bounce-on-Mommy game. We did the ready-set-go catalyst version. Got some "bounce" commentary from him too.

He and I then went grocery shopping. He refused to sit in the kid seat part of the cart so first I perched him on the cart rail and then got the idea to put him in the cart proper. I've done this before, but not for a long time. He found it fascinating, and it was a great chance for him to practice keeping his balance.

When we came home, we had a slight accident. Damian helped me close the car door. This meant the door wasn't closed all the way. I started to push it the rest of the way into place. So did Damian. At the same time. His thumb got caught. Owww. He cried a lot, not too surprisingly. I ran him into the house and put ice on it. I got the wrong thumb, though. He let me but when I asked him to put the hurt thumb on the ice, he switched hands. I was actually glad to see that he cried appropriately when he was really hurt. I had this weird thought that maybe now that he isn't overreacting to pain, he isn't reacting to it at all. Not so. He's simply reacting appropriately to the feeling rather than the fear.

I was reading to him. I finished a book and offered a choice of two others. He took a LONG time responding but finally did point to the one he wanted and then said the name in a whisper. I have to remember to be persistent and patient.

He wanted juice. We were sitting in the armchair. I "misunderstood" and reached for about five other things, offering them up in succession. Finally I "got" that it was the juice, offered that. As he reached for it, he said "want the juice." I praised him to the sky.

Something clicked for me at the doctor's office today. Damian can be hard to engage in something. He gets distracted sometimes. But it's important to help him along by keeping at him, helping him step by step. So tonight I had him carry the toilet paper package into the bathroom. It was a lot of work getting him to actually carry it -- he wanted to turn it into a vehicle and push it on the floor in the living room -- but I kept asking and he finally did it. I had to show him where to put it in the bathroom -- he didn't listen to me at first. Then we did a second one. It felt like a victory, in an odd way. To get past the resistance and have him actually follow through.

Once we were in the bathroom, I thought I'd experiment a little. I tried to get him to see that if he wanted to play with the water in the sink, he needed to stand on the stool to reach the faucet. The stool was just a foot away from where it needed to be. He's carried that thing around the house like a prize of war, but he could not take the cognitive leap to realize that he could move the damned thing a foot to position it where he wanted. Not even with my saying "move the stool so you can stand on it at the sink." I found this rather enlightening -- there's some connection not happening in his brain.

He was in his room. I was in the dining room. I said "Damian, dinner is ready! Come eat dinner! It's salmon!" No response. I said, "You can sit on Mommy's lap!" He came running in. Ate some salmon, too.

He got mad at his trains tonight and started yelling "no!" Other stuff too (including throwing his trains, unfortunately) but I was happy about the verbal no. Actually, he said it a few times today, in different contexts. Shook his head readily too. No yeses, though.

He's developing a bad habit: when he's mad, he hits me or Dan. Doesn't matter if we did anything to cause it, he wants to hit us. We talk about his feelings and encourage him to say "dammit" and "I'm mad" and sometimes he does, but he really wants to get it out physically. At us. I don't know what to do about this except keep on urging him to find other ways to express it.

Wednesday 14 March

Bad day/good day. I kept Damian home from school. Did some intensive floor time with him, really challenging him and letting him get pissed at me. He was just too distant, he needed to be shaken up. It worked too, he did some very good things today:

He came up to me with a bag of cookies and said "cookie" to get me to open it.

He came up to me with a bottle of bubble soap and said "bubbles" to get me to blow some bubbles.

We were in the bathroom (blowing bubbles), and he got interested in his potty. He sat down on it. I got him to pull down his pants and sit that way, but he refused to let me take off his diaper. That's not the good thing, though -- after he was done sitting on the potty, he said/whispered, "I need a new diaper." Damn. So I led him into his room and changed his diaper. This from a kid who's had a diaper-changing phobia lately, too.

Thursday 15 March

Back at school after two days away. Feeling so conflicted about school. Even on good days, Damian doesn't really interact with the other kids except when they take the initiative (not often enough) and hardly gets any attention from the teachers. He's clearly stimulated by being there, though, so I'm hesitant to pull him out until we have something better. Or maybe an aide is the answer. I just don't know.

At any rate, he had a good morning. Miriam encouraged Tyson to say hi to Damian. Tyson gave him a big hug. He looked a little overwhelmed; he spaced out for a moment. But I think it was good anyway. And Miriam spent a few minutes with him, first at the painting table (he wasn't interested) and then at the Lego table (he was). I also spent more time than usual encouraging him. I didn't bring my computer in; I figured Damian needs me more than I need to write. At least right now. I may change my mind next week when I've gone crazy from not writing.

In the yard, he practiced tricycle riding. He was more interested in being in the big yard with the other kids than the side yard which has more accessible-to-him activities. He and Tyson did the same activity for a few minutes (swinging from the top of a waist-high cube) and I saw him make eye contact with her for a moment.

He seems to notice the discomfort of a full diaper far more than he used to. I think this is a good sign.

This afternoon I pushed floor time a bit less than yesterday, and did less pushy versions of it. It's exhausting. Thank god, he took a nap today for the first time in about a week. I needed a little time to myself. Dan's been working late this week.

Good ST session. No real talking, but he responded to Laura better than he has been. And he nodded his head to let her know he wanted something. He's done that a number of times today and yesterday for me. In the car (yesterday?) I asked if he wanted juice, and I did my usual "yes"-and-nod prompt. He nodded right away. Man, that felt good. He's been nodding more and saying "no" more (full volume, too).

I had him in my lap in the armchair. I held his hands and let him fall backwards between my legs, so he was upside down, and then I pulled him up again. He got a big kick out of it. I said, "Damian says 'down'" and let him drop, and then I said "Damian says 'up'" before I pulled him up. After a few iterations, I just said "Damian says..." and he started whispering "up." I was thrilled. Before long, he was also whisper/saying "down" and I didn't even need to prompt him. Then he started actually saying "up" with a real voice. Whispering "down" when he wanted down and saying "up" when he wanted up. I was so happy I almost cried. I let my voice show how thrilled I felt, and then when the game was done, I gave him a huge hug and told him how very proud I was.

It's strange, though. Such strides forward, and it probably seems reading this like he's doing great. But there are so many times he just checks out and you have to work like hell to bring him back, or times he enjoys the play but doesn't meet your gaze. And then he does and it feels so satisfying. It's a daily emotional roller coaster.

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