April 2001 page 1 of 2
Sunday 1 April

It was absolutely impossible to get Damian to respond to questions with words today. We had to give up each time we tried, consoled in the knowledge that he'd closed many circles of communication. He's sure got those head shakes and nods down cold, though. Even if he does tend to open and close his jaw when he nods, like a little marionette.

He jumped! For the first time, too. We were walking through a parking lot, he held both our hands, and he jumped. It was distinctly different from an "I'm holding your hands so I'm swinging off the ground." He jumped on his own, using us just slightly for support. We got excited and underlined the action with words. Later in the store, Damian said, "Jump!" Later at home he did it again, this time not holding onto anyone's hands. The moment I said "you jumped!", though, he started doing his first-one-foot-then-the-other hop-skip version of a jump. He can jump but only if he doesn't think about it overmuch.

Damian's getting good at problem solving. Yesterday he was pushing a train on the track and plastic zoo animals kept getting in the way and jumping on the train (courtesy Daddy) so he put them back in their box. Pretty proactive.

Monday 2 April

Yesterday in the car: Dan and I were discussing our financial woes. Needless to say, we sounded tense. From the back seat, Damian started talking in his "I'm upset" strangled tone, saying things we couldn't understand, but then he changed to a more normal sort of upset tone and said "Mommy and Daddy." This is significant: he was reacting to our distress with distress. Emotionally connected and tuned in to the tone of our voices. I turned around and told him that we were upset but not mad at each other. He calmed right down.

This morning I had Damian "help" me get my shoes on "so we can go out." Then he got down off the couch and ran off down the hall. Came back a moment later carrying his own sneakers. Ready for the next stage. Planning and executing. He's actually pretty good at that. Still, cool to see.

We went to Shane's Inspiration, a playground for disabled kids to play alongside able bodied kids. A wonderful place. And, it turns out, a perfect playground for Damian. He has a lot of fears that kick in in regular playgrounds: fear of heights, fear of unstable mesh flooring of the jungle gyms, fear of swinging. Fears that come and go but have been all too present of late. Well, this playground has a lot of fun stuff on ground level, which warmed him up to the other stuff. And it has huge bucket swings, I can comfortably swing with him sitting on my lap. And it has low jungle gyms so he could get a taste of the thrill without committing fully to the experience. And it has long ramps leading up to some of the higher jungle gyms. Damian loves ramps. So he ran up and didn't realize where he was headed till it was a fait accompli. And then there were lots of rails so he could feel completely safe with something to hold onto. This was the best part; before long he was running free on the jungle gyms: look ma, no hands!

We stayed 2 1/4 hours and Damian would have been happy to stay longer. It wasn't all joyous for me, though. It's hard to see Damian with other kids in that environment. He still backs away whenever someone else wants what he's got. He runs far ahead of me and rarely looks back. For the first hour, he seeemd oblivious to my presence. He didn't look at me and barely tolerated my attempts to play with him. And he was completely silent. I think he was too involved in simply being there, but the difference between him and the other kids was sobering. After a while, though, he started to tune back in to my presence and then we had a great time playing peek-a-boo and chase and any game I could think of. For example: he was riding on a bouncing fire truck (picture a rocking horse style deal) and I made siren noises. I told him if he pressed one side of the front, the siren would sound and if he pressed the other side, it would shut off. So he had fun making me make siren noises and shutting me up.

After a few chatty days, Damian's been very quiet the past few days. And when we asked him to say something, like asking for juice, he often repeated the same now-meaningless phrase, "Only the red." As if he knew he had to say something but that was the only thing he could easily summon. Disturbing. Dan and I talked about it and decided to pull back from demanding language, just concentrate on closing multiple circles (in other words, still don't give him juice when he points to it, make it a game). There's another piece of it, though. I think Greenspan's idea is to elicit language by heightening emotions (fun or mad or whatever) and allowing the words to spontaneously come then. In which case, it may be better to surround him with the words, but not outright ask him to say them. IE: "Juice? You want juice? You mean this juice?" etc. So it's there in front of him (the word, I mean), but not forced on him. I don't know, I have to ask Dr. Red tomorrow. It just fits better with the philosophy. In which case, what Laura does with him in ST doesn't have a large enough dose of silliness/playfulness/surrounding with the words, and it's not surprising he's not gaining much language from her. (Though that may instead be the way these things progress, from connection to verbal communication. We just don't know. But we're concerned.)

Tuesday 3 April

Damian slept in, a total of eleven hours. I went to his room to wake him and found the light on (!) and him curled up but looking at me with a sly grin. So we cuddled and I got him up.

After we got up, he wanted to cuddle in the armchair. I got him to give me a hug and he spontaneously gave me a kiss. I said that I loved him, and that when he kissed me it was him saying he loved me. So he kissed me again!

He was wearing his heavy pj's; he said "hot" and tried to take his socks off. This from a kid with a shoe-and-sock fetish. Probably a good sign.

Damian and I went to the Regional Center to meet our service coordinator. There wer not enough toys. Damian got bored and fidgety and tried to push me off the chair and lead me out of the room. I don't blame him: the meeting lasted two hours. For no real reason. The guy could have filled out a bunch of the paperwork in his office. But whatever. He was nice and will try to get us a lot of services. He declared Damian a cutie by the end of the meeting. And commented on his temperament. A lot of kids with these issues (maybe even most?) are very tantrumy. Damian's not, at least not as a rule.

Jami was there when we got home. Damian was a little clingy with me but she coaxed him into enjoying playing together. But then I had to leave. Oh, the drama. He screamed. She tells me she rocked him and he calmed but conked out. So he took a 45 minute nap on top of his 11 hours sleep last night. Maybe he's coming down with something?

Where I went: to La Canada for the third meeting with Dr. Red. She said his biggest issue is auditory processing, that he has good visual ability and is a visual learner, that he has some motor planning issues and sensory integration as well, and motor underactivity (low tone). We felt like she was underestimating him, and her evaluation was based almost entirely on her time with him rather than what we said about him. Yes, he was way underreactive in her office. He does less well in new situations. Ultimately, it doesn't matter, though. He'll benefit from what she prescribed, which was a huge dose. School, floor time, ST, OT, a consult with a specialist who can help us with behavior issues including separation anxiety, something called Dyad therapy, some computer games that will help him with auditory processing and gear him up for eventual auditory integration therapy, and a full medical workup, including an MRI and an overnight EEG!

She suggested we buy a trampoline, that we do spacial/motor/sensory workouts (15 minutes or more, 4x/day), plus semi-structured problem solving (15 minutes or more, 5-8x/day), plus follow-the-child's-lead floor time (20-30 minutes, 8-10x/day). This in addition to everything else (ST, OT, school...). Tell me how there are enough hours in the day.

For a moment, I found myself longing for the days when I thought he was fine, just a little shy and quiet. I have a feeling that the more we implement of this program, the better he'll do, and that'll be incredibly exciting. But right now I just feel tired. Very very tired.

I know she's right in the essentials, though. I look at Damian and I see a boy who's sometimes very responsive but often very unresponsive. It's hard to see. What we know that she doesn't, is how very warm and engaged he can be. He didn't show her that side. I need to remember that.

Tonight at dinner Dan tried to get Damian's attention. He couldn't, not until he said "pssst!" like he was calling the cat. Then Damian got intrigued. He started practicing saying "psst!" Kept repeating it, with our echoes, until he got it right.

Wednesday 4 April

This morning Damian and I were on the couch. Damian started bouncing and said "bounce!" Completely out of the blue. A few other words in context, too.

We went to Damian's old preschool to pick up his stuff. Damian started shaking his head the moment the car drove into the parking lot. I told him we would only be there for a few minutes, I told him exactly what we'd do. He was okay after that, but still looked anxious. Nora spotted us as we passed another classroom; she came out to the door to say hi. He ignored her. I told her it was just because he was feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable, not because he didn't like or remember her. I can see the signs now. It was still sad and weird. The next time we'll go will be for Dance & Jingle in a week and a half, which will create a more positive set of memories for him.

Speech therapy for the first time in nearly two weeks. Damian went right into Laura's room the moment she opened the door. He didn't look back, so I stayed in the waiting room with the door open. I was delighted. He did notice after a while that I wasn't in there; he turned around in his chair and pointed at me (ie: "come, Mom"). I waved back. Laura distracted him. So I stayed out in the waiting room almost the whole time (when the next client came, I went in). This is a very encouraging step. Laura was pleased with the way it went: she said he stayed focused on her and that she got a lot of smiles the second half of the session. I think the time off was good for him; he realized he missed seeing her.

I'm feeling much better about her as his ST, too. She's good with him. And after talking to Dr. Red, it sounds like Laura's doing exactly what she should be doing, but that we shouldn't be copying her at home. We should be the fun floor time playmates, not additional therapists. I'm not letting up on coaxing language, but I'm letting go of it quickly and doing it playfully. And I've noticed that words are coming back: he said juice today in the car; I only prompted him once.

After ST, we went to the park. I feel so much more able to play with him in parks now that I know what his issues are and I can enter into his world. We had a really good time, good high energy.

Then we went to a local hospital: they have this twelve week program, sort of a Mommy & Me for the autistic set. We were there for an evaluation. They have four slots and have to choose from ten kids. They choose partly by how well the set of kids fit together. Damian played with a therapist on the floor (floor time, essentially), while I sat on a chair with another therapist and two more observed behind a two way mirror. The therapist was very upbeat and it didn't take her long at all to get him engaged and playing. He made choices, he fed a doll, he got upset when she blocked him (this is a good thing -- he didn't just avoid the confrontation), he was his usual inquisitive self, he made good eye contact, he nodded and shook his head appropriately in communication, and he waved goodbye. The supervisor told me she was very impressed with him! And that he has great potential. Unfortunately, he doesn't fit with the likely group this go-round (all at least six months older and more advanced; ie: talking communicatively). But she wants to place him in the September group if that group's makeup is what they expect it to be. And she kept saying I should feel free to get in touch and ask her for help putting together his treatment plan (though when I mentioned Dr. Red and some of her suggestions, she said it sounded like he's got that covered).

I put some pasta on the table for dinner. I told Damian about it. He got upset, pointed to the plate. I think he wanted me to bring the past to where he was playing. I brought him over to the table (led, not carried) and sat him on my lap. Then he was fine with eating dinner there. He gestured to a stack of photos on the table; he wanted me to page through them and show him. (They're recent shots of him -- I'll scan and post them as soon as I have the energy -- yeah, I don't know when that'll be either.)

Thursday 5 April

Today was tough. Damian had a cold. I know just how he felt, I had it too. Actually, he and I had some good morning time, but then Jami came. That was not so cool, according to Damian. Not nearly. When I told him she was coming, he cried and led me to the bedroom. I still don't know what that was about, but I guess he wanted to hang out in there with me. When she came, he cried some more. A lot more. He tried waving "bye" to her, he tried physically pushing her out the door, and he once again led me to the bedroom (?). He did something else, though: after trying to get her gone, he kissed her. I've been telling him kisses are a way of saying "I love you." I think he was telling her he did love her even though he wanted to get rid of her. There's no other reason I can think of for him to have done that right then. I told Jami and she told him she loved him too, very much.

They settled down in the armchair, reading. But then I stood up and said something to Jami, and he started crying again. So I packed up my PowerBook and headed out. Gritting my teeth at the wails. Jami says he calmed down pretty quickly, though, and it sounds like they had fun together.

He was very possessive with me in the evening, though. I rocked him to sleep, and every time I'd think he was fast asleep and try to put him down, he'd wake right up. It was driving me nuts because I had work that had to be done that night, so I let Dan rock him. Damian screamed. Dan and I ended up getting mad at each other. I ended up taking Damian to bed with me. He lay on top of me to fall asleep. At first he would lift his head every minute or so and look at me. I hugged him and told him that even though Daddy and I were mad at each other, we still loved each other and it would be okay in the morning, and that we loved Damian too, even though we'd been pretty mad at him. And on like that, lots of reassurance. After that, he settled down and drifted off to sleep.

One more thing: he spoke aloud more today than he has in months. First, in the morning, he wanted me to fetch Dante out of the top of the cat tree -- he whispered his desire (after I said it first) -- then I did take Dante out, and he said something about the cat, I forget exactly what now, but it was a complete sentence, and he repeated it, and in his excitement/joy, he spoke aloud. Only it wasn't exactly aloud, it was more like loud-whisper-loud-whisper, edging up and down the vocal scale. And then in the tub, Dan got him to say he wanted something (marbles, maybe), and say it aloud. His "aloud" voice there was sort of pinched, the way it gets when he's upset. It comes from his throat instead of his chest.

Friday 6 April

Today's ST session was exciting. I told Laura about Damian's speaking aloud, and she pushed him till he did in her office. And did again. He wanted out of the chair he was sitting in, he was so uncomfortable with her pushing. He kept looking at me for succor, so Laura used that too and got him to say "Mommy, help." In that strangled throat voice again, but she and I were both very happy and I gave him lots of hugs. I think she's established enough rapport with him that she can push him more now and I do think that that's what it takes. Better her than me. Though in truth we do the same thing sometimes during floor time, not about eliciting language, but about getting a reaction, pushing him till he interacts.

A big step forward today: Damian led me to his room, wanted me to climb on his bed with him. I could tell he was tired, and I thought it was a great idea to lie down together. So we did. And I closed my eyes. I opened them periodically to see him looking at me, but before too long, he was fast asleep. So we took a nap together. No rocking necessary. I think that's exactly what he'd wanted when he led me to his bed, just like his used to lead me to the rocking chair. This is an important step toward his falling asleep without rocking, and he led the way, not me.

He looked interested in my veggie lasagna at dinner. I offered it. He ate four bites. Not bad.

In the bath, Damian said "give you the marbles" when he wanted Dan to give back his magnetic marbles. Looks like he's got pronoun reversal. I never thought so, but now he's not quoting as much, it's starting to look like he does.

Saturday 7 April

We went to Good Guys to buy a digital camera. We're going to use it as a therapeutic tool: showing Damian pictures of the day's activities helps with abstract thinking and may elicit language as well, and Dr. Red wants us to use the PECS system (cards with pictures of everyday things so he can bring us a card of what he wants). (Just so you know it's not a frivolous purchase... ) At any rate, Damian clearly did not want to be there. He was happy running around outside and he was basically okay in the less crowded areas, but it was striking how much he didn't want to deal with the overstimulation of that environment. It's odd to me that some places are okay and others aren't when they look the same to me.

When we got home, Dan took Damian for jaunt around the block on his tricycle. Damian pedaled all around the block. This is a first. He's just started even trying to pedal, and I don't know if he's ever gone forward more than a foot or so. Something clicked in his brain and he got it. Such determination on his little face, too. He was putting his whole self into it. In fact, here's a picture.

I brought Damian into the kitchen to refill his juice; he helped and then took the sippy cup, but moments later came to me, saying (whispering) "cooking" and leading me to the toaster oven and saying "cooking" again. I asked if he wanted a pizza pop-tart (health food store combo of two junk foods). He did. So I put it in the oven. When I said it would take a few minutes and he had to be patient, he went to the fridge and reached for the yogurt. So he had both.

Bath time: he told Dan to "go get the maables." (Marbles.)

Sounds like a good day from this description, but he was on edge and on and off fussy much of the day. I think he's still under the weather. I know I am. I'm impressed, though: a month or two ago, when he was sick, he'd just check out. Not this week. Grumpy, yes. Spacey, not so much.

Sunday 8 April

A lot of lying down to play today. Frustrating. Maybe he's just feeling low energy, but maybe he's having a regression period. Dan got some good play time today despite that. I was less successful: weekend burnout.

He's getting very forceful about wanting to go out. Proactive, as it were. Trying to turn the doorknob, etc.

Also getting forceful about when he wants to eat. He didn't say "cooking" today, but he did pick up the box of pasta and hand it to me, then to Dan.

That was a funny one: he wanted me to open his miniature Pooh's Honey Pot house (it comes closed and latched). Handed it to me. I pretended to misunderstand. So he got frustrated and took it back, handing it to Dan. Hoping for better luck with him. But no, Daddy was dumb too. Damian started nodding vigorously, trying to get his point across. So Dan nodded his head too. So Damian came back to me and whispered, "Daddy open." I told Dan. Dan opened it.

I spoke to a developmental pediatrician today who told me she's known some seven year olds who still whisper. That struck horror into my soul. But Damian's only been whispering a few months, I can't imagine it'll be that hard to break him of the habit. Right? (Just nod your head. I'll take that as a yes.)

Monday 9 April

Yesterday was a kissing day. Dan was reading to Damian in the afternoon, a book about a father and son. Damian suddenly tilted his head up toward Daddy with his mouth puckered. He wanted a kiss. The first time he's initiated that with Dan. Dan got tears in his eyes.

And then at night, I was rocking Damian. I rubbed my cheek against his affectionately. He tilted his head up to mine for a kiss, a direct response to my affection. These are simple things, but they mean so much. Especially because they were heretofore so rare. For one thing, he's only been kissing for a few weeks, but even before that, his hugs had started to be about giving more often rather than always receiving. It's a new kind of emotional awareness for him.

Speaking of which, separation anxiety has become the problem of the moment. This morning he had a terrible time letting Dan go to work. He tried to stop him from going and then cried torrents. It took a while to soothe him. Funny thing, though, just before Dan left, Damian had been painting. So while he was crying, I tried distracting him by asking him to clean up with me. He did. Still crying. So it's sadness but not heartbreak.

Later in the morning, I put Damian on the phone with Dan. He was very intently listening, and then he waved. (Dan said "say hi to Daddy" so Damian waved.) And he got a small smile at one point, too.

When I gave him yogurt for lunch, I tried to get him to use his voice. I said "Mmmm!" He said "Mmmm!" (real voice) I said, "Mmmm! More yogurt!" He said, "Mmmm!" (real voice) "More yogurt" (whisper). Damn. I got him to say "more" aloud once, but then the phone rang. Double damn.

He had a real problem, of course, with the idea of Kim coming. Turned out to be less bad than I'd feared, though. They got involved in reading and he didn't mind when I snuck off to the bedroom, then he readily went out with her. He needed to be with me, though, when they came back. He'd had a diaper accident -- no, not that kind of accident -- apparently his diaper slid down his legs at the park and he freaked. Kim carried him the four blocks home. He needed some mommy comfort when he got back, then wanted to touch base a lot. But still, it felt like an improvement.

As Kim left, Damian watched her go down the street out the front window. Then he gazed for a bit, and said/whispered, "Daddy coming." Oh. Kid. Thing is, Dan's on this pilot and this is a killer week for him. So Daddy's not exactly coming home early these days. He is, however, coming home to be with Damian for his bath (but then going back to work). So I had to tell Damian Daddy was coming but not for a while. But that Daddy loves him very much. Damian said/whispered "Daddy coming very very..." and I filled in "late."

When Dan got home, Damian snubbed him, wouldn't look at him or respond to his presence. But they're in there now, and Damian's shouting "yikes" and laughing. He warmed up.

Tuesday 10 April

This morning I heard Damian before I saw him. He vocalized, "hnn", I think it meant "hi". I opened my eyes to find him standing by the side of the bed, smiling at me. In the past, I know he's touched my arm or just waited for me. The fact that he could summon an out-loud word to alert me is encouraging.

In fact, he was in good form this morning. When I offered to bounce him, he climbed on me and whispered "bounce" and then readily said "gnn" (go) after I said "ready, set." Felt like words were right there for him. He pointed to his juice on the nightstand and I misunderstood, offering various things. When I gave him the phone, he picked it up and made like he was talking into the receiver. When I offered my water, he nodded and said "drink" and then drank a sip. Said "drink" again. So I gave him the juice; I figured that was close enough.

He freaked when I told him Jami was coming. Oy. She and I tried to coax him out of his freakout, but to no avail. He not only repeatedly said "bye bye Jami" (in a very loud whisper) and waved bye to her, he not only tried to push her out the door, but he grabbed my pant legs and tried to clutch me like a determined little leech. And that was with me saying I was going to be in the room with them, just sitting at the dining table to work! So I had to leave or send Jami home. He was apparently okay shortly after I left. But tonight he got weirded out if I left the room to go to the bathroom, so he was still clearly suffering reverberations.

He got was tired tonight he got his bath early and then just sat there, not wanting any toys in the tub and not wanting to play. Totally shut down. He got his books and photo slide show and rocked to sleep in short order. But you know, there was no crying involved. Just zombie-tude.

Wednesday 11 April

This morning I heard Damian get out of bed and pad into our room. I kept my eyes closed and pretended to sleep. He came over to the bed. Stood there a moment, then whispered something. When that didn't work, he did the "hnnn" vocalization again and I "woke up."

This morning he was playing with his Fisher Price dolls. He's been doing that more and more -- sans vehicles, even. I got a photograph of him kissing Officer Marguerite (he's dubbed her Mommy). I caught him saying "mommy and daddy," referring to her and the guy we call Farmer Jose (farmer's hat, mustache, dark "skin"). Interesting casting choices.

He's been driving me nuts: if he drops ANYTHING ANYWHERE (but especially foodstuffs -- even crumbs forgodsake), he goes ballistic until someone can pick it up. God help us if he drops a corn puff in the car when I'm driving and can't stop.

I showed Gloria (housekeeper) some digital pictures on the computer. When pix of bread and toast came up, Damian said/whispered "bread" and "toast." So I'd say it can definitely elicit language. Worth the money.

I made the bed. Cat, being a cat, jumped on before I put the blanket on. I told Damian I was going to put th blanket on the cat. I did. He thought it was very funny. He tossed the blanket off the cat. I put it back on. He tossed it off. We did this at least four or five times before Dante got bored and left. The coolest part was that Damian was saying "put blanket on cat!" In a normal voice. The only times he consistently vocalizes normally involve cat antics.

His first occupational therapy (OT) session today. Therapist's name is Heidi. He took to her immediately. A rarity but getting less rare these days, it seems. She took his shoes off (gym policy) and he fussed briefly and then was okay. Color me shocked. She put him on a swing. He was nervous but less so when she sat behind him. She set a toy on the swing and they played together. He was done playing when she started gently pushing the swing, though.

She tried him on a lot of things. Sensory toys (he disliked rough and squishy). Crayons (he holds them the wrong way in his fist -- she showed me how to correct that). A big exercise ball (he was scared at first but relaxed with it -- she said his ability to correct for imbalance with his body -- ie: throwing out his hands when the ball tips -- is just what it should be). A slide (he climbed up most of the steps but didn't go down the slide into the ball pit). An aquarium full of beans (he loved that).

She said his torso and hands are weak and he compensates with tension in his shoulder blades and in the way he sits (legs to either side). We have to work on that various ways. And he obviously has sensory issues and spacial fears. Strengths: He goes easily from toy to toy, no transition problems. He's very responsive to verbal requests. And he warmed up to her easily. She asked if that was usual. I said no. Hell, he let me go to the bathroom without him!

She kept saying how adorable he was, how serious when he was playing. I said, "Oh, he giggles too," and she replied, "We'll get him to laugh in here, then." She was very very good. Professional, obviously knows her stuff, but also warm and gentle and playfully -- almost effortlessly -- pushy. I'm damned impressed. At the end, she asked for a hug and he gave her one (well, without arms) and I suggested he kiss her. He did. She was tickled pink. Told the other therapist, "He's so cute! He kissed me!"

He ate tuna salad fresh from the fish store shortly after the session. First time in months.

Decent ST session this afternoon. Laura got him to go out of the room without me. He was briefly upset, but not very. Laura says Friday I should stay in the waiting room and let him deal with that. I'm not looking forward to it.

He's very into going outside lately. We went for a walk before dinner and then he wanted to go out again almost immediately. I told him we'd go after dinner and he held me to the promise. He even said/whispered "coming outside" to ask. He's completely over his angst about putting jackets on/off, which is a relief. So we went for a walk in the dark. I pointed out a house around the corner with red christmas lights still up. He had to go up close and check it out, then come back to it and check again. Saying/whispering "red christmas lights."

I put a tape in the VCR to dub over tonight. It was a dub of a tape of Damian from last summer. I could see he had some autistic activities, but he spoke. In a real voice. It gave me such a pang to hear his little voice. I miss it so much. I hate the whispering. I want his voice back. I know he's getting more expressive comunicative language, and that's a consolation, but I want to hear that voice again.

Thursday 12 April

Damian came over to me this morning and said/whispered "Mommy." Simple, right? No so.

He loves painting now, brings out the brushes nearly every day. Disdains markers and crayons, though. Not as easy, not as rewarding.

I told him our agenda for the day: shopping at Whole Foods in the morning, then lunch, visit Daddy at work, go to the playground. Well, while I was putting the groceries away in the kitchen, he came up to me and said "going to the playground." How do I express this? He remembered, he was thinking ahead, he was asking me -- verbally asking -- for something he wanted. I think our evening slideshows of the day's activies help him see the day as a whole, think about before and after. And the asking comes out of that and everything else we're doing. "Open" seems to come fairly easily now. It's the only verbal request that does, oddly enough.

When we got to Dan's cutting room, Damian looked in the window in the door and saw Dan. He waved and said/whispered "Hi Daddy." Completely spontaneous and unprompted in any way. I was thrilled to bits.

The playground was Shane's Inspiration. Last time we went Damian was practically fearless on the jungle gym, etc. This time I watched for it. What I saw was interesting but made sense: he ran up the ramp to the jungle gym, but as soon as he hit jungle gym flooring, he got nervous and tentative and needed me to hold his hand. We then did various things, including swinging together in the big bucket swing and going down slides together and running around chasing each other. Then he ran up the ramp and was absolutely fine running around on the jungle gym, didn't care a whit for the flooring issue. Seems like he needs the vestibular stimulation of swinging/sliding, etc., to feel confident with body/balance issues.

I fed Damian yogurt tonight. Said lots of nonsense: "Mmmm, yogurt. Yummy yogurt. Damian loves yogurt. Mmm." At one point, Damian said "Damian loves yogurt." Delayed echolalia, I suppose, but not precisely. I think it was an agreement with the thought.

Friday 13 April

Today Laura brought Damian into her office without me. I stayed in the waiting room. He cried for ten minutes. I counted. Such a relief when he stopped. She brought me inside ten minutes before the end of the session. He was happy to see me. He whispered, "come, Mommy." She told me she didn't push him for language, just mostly narrated his play and gave him access to the dollhouse he's been eyeballing for weeks. She wanted to set a comfortable tone for their alone time.

Despite no big push from Laura this morning, Damian's communicative language was fairly present today. I got him to identify colors by asking "what color is this?" and he repeated me when I drew on the Magnadoodle and said "It's a..." Even volunteered the answer a couple of times himself. And "open the tomato" (he's convinced a tube of tomato paste has some wonderful attribute when opened, but inevitably gets turned off when he sees what's actually inside).

Biggest one today, though, was when I told him that Jami would be coming to play with him soon and he whispered "Daddy coming to play." Changed it to what he wanted.

It went better with Jami here than it has. He clung to me a lot but didn't ever freak. I stayed in the kitchen and living room, so I was always within reach, and they had a good time together. He checked in quite often, but I wasn't in work mode (more taking care of loose ends mode) so that was okay.

When Jami was feeding him yogurt, he told her he likes yogurt. Unprompted. I think he was remembering my words from the past few days. Seems like that stuff is a little easier for him to access these days. The words he needs, I mean.

All whispers today. We're still trying to figure out what, if anything, to do about this.

Saturday 14 April

Damian came into bed with me (Dan was still at work!) at two a.m. Snuggled up next to my side and fell asleep almost instantly. Then he woke up at seven, full of pep and ready to start the day.

He brought me brushes, wanted to paint. So I set him up at the dining table. He filled three large pages in a row. He has a tendency to paint on one spot, toward the lower right corner, and fill it up with layer upon layer. I've been trying to get him to see the page as a whole, to see white space and spread the brush out. By the second painting today, he was actually getting it, with encouragement from me. He was using foam rollers, and he rolled out blue, then green in the spaces in between the blue, then purple in the leftover spaces, so he ended up with lines fanning out from a single spot (yes, in the lower right corner, but still). After he switched to red, he didn't put the roller down on the page. He was waiting for a new page because that one was done. Shows an awareness of the page itself. I'm all for process over product, but part of process is visual awareness. On the new paper, he painted a glob of red in his usual spot, then switched to yellow. I had to go for a few minutes while he painted with the yellow. I was delighted to come back and find that he'd painted the yellow around the red, spreading out. Of his own accord.

Later, he wanted to paint again (came up to me with a pot of red paint and whispered, "open the red paint"). I set the paints up on the table again, but this time chose brushes instead of rollers. I wanted to work on his holding technique. He held the brush in his fist and I corrected his hold the way Heidi (his OT) had suggested. He didn't like it one bit. He switched back to the fist method. I switched again. He decided he was done with painting. I felt bad. I don't want to take away his joy in art-making. But how is he going to learn if we don't teach him?

We went to Shane's Inspiration this afternoon. It took Damian a while to warm up to swinging with me, but he started vocalizing his enjoyment after a while (non-verbal, mostly, but aloud is good). Later we put him in the bucket swing and gave him fruit leather. He was emphatic about not wanting us to move the swing (firm head shakes), but was okay hanging there and even swaying slightly as he moved his legs. So. Small progress.

It's wonderful to be in Griffith Park on a sunny afternoon. Feels like the middle of the country. Damian got a kick out of it, ran far on the wide expanse of grass. He does check back with us periodically, just maybe not as frequently as typical kids his age.

We went to my cousin Kate's for dinner. Damian had a hard time with two year old David. He was passive and avoidant around him. Hard to see. But he did fairly well overall. He loves their fish tank. He followed the fish with his finger as they swam around. Rick (Kate's husband) put a stepladder next to the tank. Damian climbed up and whispered various things to Rick, presumably about the fish, though Rick couldn't hear him well enough to know.

When we got home, Damian lit up when he saw Dante. That was very cool.

Dan has started playing a conditional game with Damian in the tub: "If you give me the elephant, I'll give you these three marbles." So Damian hands over the elephant. He definitely understands if-then clauses. We've used them in normal life: "If you hit me again, I'll walk away" and he stops hitting. This is apparently a good sign.

Come to think of it, he's mostly over his hitting phase. Less overall frustrated, maybe?

Dan was just playing a new game in the tub: the marble spider (Dan's hand) was stealing marbles. He told Damian that the spider wouldn't steal the marbles if he talked to it nicely. So Damian immediately whispered, "Give that the marbles." (Give back the marbles?) Just like that. Dan thinks it's easier for Damian to come out with words in the context of the game rather than with our overt prodding. Got to work on those scenarios!

Sunday 15 April

Damian's been vocalizing a LOT the past few days. Nonverbal but out loud. Especially today, lots of MMMmmmMMMmmmMMMmmm. This morning in the car I turned it into a back-and-forth dialogue by copying him. He was amenable. Later, he was running around the house so I declared the noise a siren and said he was a fire engine racing to put out a fire.

My theory on the vocalizing: it's the vocal equivalent of a musician playing scales. Warming up the speech muscles. Getting ready to talk aloud again. I've seen (heard) evidence of this: he's starting to edge up toward out loud speech when he talks, at least a few times a day. And last night at Kate's he responded to my "mmm, yummy ice cream" with an out loud "mmm" and a whispered "yummy." In that unfamiliar setting, where he was clearly feeling on guard. It means it's more accessible to him than it has been. Very encouraging.

Last night we were saying goodnight to Kate & Rick & Susan. I suggested Damian give Kate a hug. He did, in his passive (no-arms) way. Then I suggested a kiss. So he kissed her. Then I suggested he kiss Rick goodnight. He kissed... Kate again. Heh.

This afternoon Dan and I were both zonked. Damian said to Dan, "Mommy and Daddy go to bed." Dan thinks he was trying to say he noticed that we were tired. Or maybe he wanted to take a nap too?

Soon after that, he spotted the two of us on the couch together. He got a delighted look and of course had to come join us. He gazed out the window and whispered, "Outside" so Dan went out with him. Damian tripped on the porch steps and fell pretty badly. Dan rocked him on the swing to calm him. Damian fell asleep. Didn't want to wake up. It was too late for a nap, so he had no choice.

We got in the car to head to the video store. He screamed after I put him in the car seat, then calmed as I held his hand. Then cried again when we got out and he stood on the sidewalk. His legs were wobbly as he walked, and he cried louder. We got very worried that he might have injured his leg, but of course he couldn't tell us. We carried him the rest of the way. When we got home, we asked him if his leg hurt. He nodded. He seemed to try to put my hand on his foot, but it was unclear if that's where it hurt -- he put my hand first on one foot, then the other. And nothing was swollen. We had several bad moments thinking about x-rays and emergency rooms and casts. So horribly frustrating to know that other children his age could tell you what happened and where it hurt and maybe even how much but he can't. He just can't.

Later he was running around the living room with me; obviously nothing was broken or even sprained. But hell, I can't wait till he can reliably communicate things like this. Sometimes he can, sometimes if I say "where does it hurt?" he can point to the spot. But this time he was freaked/tired/whatever, and he couldn't. his communication skills are still unreliable at best. Tonight in the tub, same marble scenario as last night. This time Damian said "Give me back the marbles" and then corrected himself: "Give me back my marbles." Correct grammar and all.

It's been about five (six?) days since he last nursed. I hesitate to say he's weaned, but it's looking like it right now. Watching the photo recap of his day has replaced nursing in the bedtime ritual. And, too, I'm rocking him to sleep every night, so he's not being deprived of Mommy closeness as he falls asleep.

Speaking of which, tonight I started to rock him, but he had ants in his pants. He tried sliding down off my lap, but I told him it was time to relax and rock. Then he reached out to his bed. I said, "Do you want to lie down on your bed?" He nodded. As we went over to the bed, he repeated my words: "lie down on your bed". So we lay down together. He was still full of beans, though, so after a bit, I put him on top of me. He tucked his hands under his tummy and gradually stilled. Fell asleep quickly. I eased him off and settled the blanket over him. The start of a new non-rocking trend? I was going to work on it starting in May (when Dan's hiatus starts) but it looks like Damian might have beat me to it.

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