April 2001 page 2 of 2
Monday 16 April

Dance and Jingle started up again after a two week hiatus. I told Damian we'd be going, and he kept repeating throughout the morning: "going to Dance." And he hurried to the car when it was time to go, and had no problem being at his former preschool (he'd balked last time when we went to pick up his locker contents).

He enjoyed Dance and Jingle immensely, participating more fully than any other kid there. With a few minor bobbles: he wanted to touch the bunny puppet the teacher was holding, but held back when he saw the other kids crowding around -- things like that. His social fear getting in the way. But oh, when the teacher said "now we jump", he was so very happy that he knew how! He started jumping right away.

About ten minutes before the end, though, he checked out. Left the circle and went over to look at his reflection in a mirror. I couldn't coax him to re-engage in the group activities. And when it was time to go, he was out the door in a flash. I don't remember a specific trigger, so I have to assume he just reached overload and shut down.

His yes nod and no shake are now firmly entrenched. All you have to do is ask "yes or no?" and he'll let you know. I think back to early February when both gestures seemed so hard to achieve, and he'd only do them after a lot of prompting/modelling on our part. It makes life so much easier now that he can communicate approval or disapproval. And it seems to help him learn about communicating in general -- he's talking more and more now.

He has some problems with decision making. If he feels strongly about something (ie: eating pasta rather than fish), he'll point or nod or whatever. But if you ask if he wants a red lego or a blue one, he'll freeze up. It makes certain computer games very difficult -- the kind where you're supposed to click somewhere and see an animation -- he can't decide where to click so he just sits there. A little disturbing. So we've been offering him lots of choices lately. Which book to read next, which food to eat, which toy he wants in the tub... We're working on it.

He was better with Kim today, but as with Jami on Friday, he kept saying "bye bye Kim" and waving to her. He checked in with me often but was easily coaxed away.

He wanted Dan home something fierce. We sat on the porch and he kept saying "Daddy going to come." I talked about Dante and how hungry the cat must be (Damian had refused to feed the cat earlier). Damian just said "Daddy coming." He fed the cat after Daddy got home. And boy was that a great look on his face when Dan's car pulled into the driveway!

Tuesday 17 April

This morning after Damian woke up, he and I lay on his bed making noises at each other. First a sort of "huh" and then "psst!" It was very silly, very fun, and rather significant. Any back-and-forth, especially vocalizing, is A Good Thing. Teaches communication.

OT today. Damian took his shoes off without a single fuss. He knew it was the program. He slid down the slide sort of on his own, and was better with the swing, too. He still wanted Heidi to sit with him (his back up against her), but didn't mind the swinging motion. Speedy progress. After we left there, I gave him a gummy bear vitamin and he said "gummy bear" to request it. Out loud.

I told him in the car that we'd be taking our shoes off when we got home. And Heidi had told him at her office. So when we got home, I said we should sit on the couch to take our shoes off. And he did. And didn't mind. Later, he brought me his slippers and whispered "put on slippers." So I helped him put them on. He's been violently objecting to slippers the past few months, insisting on sneakers and nothing but sneakers. This was a major improvement, and all at once. Occupational therapy is teaching him to not be afraid. It's rather extraordinary.

He kissed Jami goodbye today, and I wanted to get it on film, so I asked him to kiss her again. The damned flash is too slow, though, so I still didn't get it. I asked him to kiss her again. He did, and this time he held the pose until the picture was done! Smart kid.

Wednesday 18 April

Today was Damian's first day at the special needs preschool. I have mixed feelings about it. The teachers are great, no question, but of the five kids there, Damian was clearly the highest functioning. At one point in circle time, May (the head teacher) asked the children one by one to put a felt fish into a bag. Damian was the only one who did it promptly with no confusion. It was a no-brainer for him. I wish he could get more from his classmates, and it was disturbing to see one kid have meltdowns at every transition. On the other hand, it was such a joy to see teachers who knew how to approach Damian and who wanted to involve him in things. He got far more interaction with the teachers, at least, than he ever did at the other place. And he liked being there -- he ran around with a smile on his face, making happy sounds. He jumped on a trampoline for the first time. I thought he'd be scared, and he was at first -- until he realized there was a convenient handlebar. Then he was happy. And when he saw another kid jumping on it, he got up on a chair and jumped next to her. All in all, probably an excellent place for him to be. For now. Right now the intense teacher support and undemanding fellow students make for a good environment, but not forever. I want to talk to them about putting him in an inclusion class at some point, though, and think about kindergarten or even pre-k in a normal school setting. He's developing so fast now, and he's already toward the high end of the spectrum, it doesn't seem right to hold him back any longer than necessary.

Today in OT, Heidi got Damian to sit solo in a bucket swing rather than on a flat swing with her and eventually he even enjoyed the swinging motion. And he walked barefoot on squishy mounds that allow him to feel his way to balancing, therefore being more able to sense his body in space. And she took his shirt off; I'm still not sure why, but I found it interesting that he was okay with that. She's pretty amazing. I get the sense that she's always thinking about how to push him just a little farther each time, to the edge of his comfort zone and then beyond.

He held a fork correctly at Heidi's, and tonight when he painted, I noticed he was holding the brush correctly too, not fisting it the wrong way around anymore.

Before ST, I talked to Damian about how I sat in the waiting room on Friday and he went into the room with Laura and I joined them at the end. I told him we'd do that again today. He thought about this and whispered, "Mommy wait." You got it, kid. And when we got there, he went into Laura's room without a peep of protest. Wow. Again, I think the daily pictures are making a difference in how he sees the world.

We were roughhousing on the couch, doing various things. Mostly, he was clambering up to the couch back and I was rolling him back down. At a certain point, though, he shook his head to the idea of more rolling. And shook his head to everything else I suggested, but clearly wanted me to do something, play some game. I said I didn't understand, and I truly didn't. He finally came out with it, said "tickle" in a loud, distinct whisper. So he got tickled. He's come a long way in a short time, he really has. I know how much more distance he has to go to reach the verbal back-and-forth etc. of his cohorts, but it's starting to seem like a reality instead of a hope.

Thursday 19 April

Damian was very unhappy in the car as we pulled out. I assumed it was fear about school. It wasn't. He calmed when I talked about missing Daddy. Later, he got upset again, this time because he nodded to "are you hungry?" but shook his head to every suggestion that I made offering food. I was stymied. Then I remembered that I'd brought yogurt. I asked if he wanted it. Big nod. He waited till we got to school, then he got his yogurt breakfast. I hope he's realizing that head shakes and nods can only take you so far, and words are much more useful. I think he is, actually. He was pretty talkative this afternoon and evening. Something clicked.

School wasn't quite as good as yesterday, primarily because Damian was exhausted and therefore less involved. But it was still good. The teachers are right there with each kid at least half the time. And I may be able to transition out without too much trouble. He freaked in the bathroom when he realized he was there without me, but I think he was also overwhelmed by too many kids in too small a space, and he didn't want his diaper changed right then. But LaBelle brought him inside after yard time before I realized he was gone, and when I came into the room, he was sitting on her lap; apparently she'd been dangling him upside down on her lap and he'd been smiling and happy. He got anxious when he saw me, like , "wait, I'm with the wrong person here!" I don't expect it to be a completely easy transition, but I'm hopeful that it will be possible without much trauma. What a luxury to have that time back!

When we got home, Damian and I ran around the house together and had fun. At one point, he started making "mmm-MMM" noises and I followed along, mimicking him. Then I changed it to "haa-HAA" and he did too. And then he changed it to "ho-HOOO". We followed along with each other, making various out-loud sound combinations. A really excellent vocal back-and-forth, a non-verbal conversation. Paving the way.

He was yawning, I was zonked too. I tried rocking him. He was game, but wiggly. And after a bit, he whispered, "mommy turn off music." (Or maybe "mommy, no more music" -- I definitely caught "mommy" and "music" but the rest is inference from the context -- damn whispering is so hard to hear.) So I turned it off and he got down and ran off to play.

Jami was here today. I had the luxury of three sitter afternoons this week. I needed it. I'm burned out from Dan's hours! Anyway, Damian got very upset half an hour before Jami was to leave (exhausted boy) so I came out and once we calmed him down, the three of us hung out for a while. I told Jami I thought Damian liked his new school and then realized, duh, I can ask the boy himself. So I did, "Do you like this new school?" And he nodded, then whispered, "I like school." Coolness.

My mother arrived this afternoon. I'd been telling Damian about her visit and I showed him pictures earlier. When she got here, he was napping, and then she went to lie down herself. So his first sight of her was lying down on the guest bed. He came right into the room and stared at her with great attention. He waved hi to her and crawled up on the bed along with me. Throughout the evening, he's been very aware of her and pretty responsive to her, to boot. We went for a walk. He ran ahead and I kept pace with him. He kept looking back to make sure she was coming. He also helped her push the stroller.

He wanted to use the spoon himself to eat his yogurt tonight. I helped him a little, but he's using the spoon better now. He used to tilt it sideways and everything would of course fall off, which I think is why he's wanted me to do the spoon-handling for him. But I've been working with him on proper spoon-holding (holding his hand and showing him the right method) and I think it's paying off. He did very well with it. I think the fact that he wanted to try it solo is a result of a growing confidence that he can.

Friday 20 April

Damian hadn't eaten breakfast; I brought foods he likes to his ST session. Laura got him to talk ALOUD. He said "uh huh" and all sorts of other things too: "mango", "fish" (goldfish), "I want", etc. She started with the kinds of things I'd told her we've been doing, saying "mmm!" and so on. He responded in kind. Then she made it "uh huh" and went from there. I was in the waiting room so all I knew was Laura saying "fantastic, Damian!" and "that's great!" and other non-Laura utterances. When I came in late in the session, she illustrated. When I heard him say "uh huh" in his adorable little voice, I cried. I couldn't help it.

I repeated the process throughout the day, getting him to say "uh huh" instead of nodding yes. And he did. I noticed that anything he says just after he says "uh huh," he also says aloud. Usually just repeating what I've said. It may be too hard right now to talk out loud and say something original. But god how thrilling.

He uses a strange intonation when he speaks aloud now, not his old voice except for the "uh huh," which sounds like him. And the words are slurred, not completely clear. He's rusty. Clearly.

He's starting talk out loud again. Thank the gods.

Saturday 21 April

"Uh huh" is coming along nicely, along with whatever follows. (Uh huh juice, uh huh dolphins, uh huh help me, uh huh daddy put dolphins together. Sometimes quite distinct enunciation, usually more like skimming the tops of the words. ) And a few times today he spoke aloud on his own, completely unprompted. "Cat", naturally (Dante was boinging around the house), but also "Thank you"!

He also whispered "you're welcome" to me when I said "thank you" to him this afternoon.

We wandered over to Melissa & Terri's after a bank visit this afternoon. Damian wanted to stay. And stay. And stay. He kept shaking his head when I asked if he was ready to go to the library (a place he likes). We all went across the street to Laura's; the kids all played in her back yard. Damian was uncomfortable around Max and Dahlia, but he played comfortably side by side with Quinn, Linda's son. Quinn is a gentler soul than either of the other two. I think Damian senses that.

At Terri's, Damian led me by the hand over to a toy box. When I proved boring (I simply wanted him to choose a toy and he wouldn't), he wandered off. Very soon he found Grandma Leya and took her by the hand, leading her to the toys. She was more cooperative and they got involved in play together. He's really bonding with her, it's heartwarming to watch. He smiles at her, he seeks her out. They played chase through the house tonight and he was burbling with delight.

Sometimes a great interactive opportunity comes when you least expect it. Damian and I were lying on his bed. He got up to turn the light switch on and off. Perservative. Mindless. Repetitive. How the hell to enter that game? I started a running narrative: "Intrepid adventurer Damian sets out on a daring mission: he's going to turn the light switch off! Can he do it? Will he succeed? Or will the Mommy Creature keep him away?" All while getting in his way, putting my hand in front of his on the wall, maneuvering to block him, etc. He loved it. It involved a certain amount of rough-house, always a winner with Damian. But I think he liked the idea of the challenge and meeting that challenge. (Because of course he knew I'd let him do it eventually.) It was fun.

Monday 23 April

Damian has a salicyte (sp?) allergy, it seems. He gets red cheeks if he eats strawberries and we've switched him from apple juice to pear juice, and he seems much more present. At first the difference wasn't that noticeable, but now it sure as hell is. Yesterday he ate strawberries at the farmer's market and was in an autistic zone for hours. Today he ate raisins at school. I forgot raisins are dried grapes, which are high in salicytes. His cheeks flushed immediately, and he was kind of out of it the rest of the day. Hard to reach. Hard to get his attention. And he started waving his hand in front of his face tonight at dinner. Stimming. Spooked the hell out of me. No more salicytes!

I think there may have been another reason, though. He had a somewhat challenging morning at school and then we came home, he took a nap, and woke to find Kim here and not me (I was off at the house inspection). I think he felt insecure and retreated into zone mode. So I sat down with him on my lap and asked him if he felt scared at school, yes or no? He nodded. I talked about how it's okay to feel scared and sometimes it's good to do things that scare us and that Mommy will always make sure he's safe, etc. I don't know how much difference it made, but he did seem more responsive to me after that, though he was odd with Dan when he got home to give Damian his bath. Poor kid was out of whack. I'm starting to understand that his symptoms come out of an intense sensitivity, at least in part.

He's been talking aloud a lot and his words are gradually getting less slurred. He's also starting to say things that aren't just echoes. It's disconcerting to have him echoing every single word you've just said. "Do you want juice, yes or no?" for example. This has been the norm the past couple of days, but it's gradually being replaced with real thought. He handed me a carton of goat cheese at dinner tonight, for instance. I thanked him and put it on my head. He said, "Mommy, open the box." Aloud. Clear as a bell. Major coolness. And Kim said she was talking about what my mom and I were up to and why we weren't here, and he replied, "Mommy and Grandma be back soon." Which she says she didn't prompt. Again, he spoke aloud. So real progress even on these salicyte-clouded, emotionally difficult two days.

Tuesday 24 April

Another banner day for my little boy. I left the classroom about twenty minutes into the session. I said goodbye to Damian, told him I'd be back in a while, that mommy always comes back, etc. And I hugged him and left him there crying. Ouch. My mom and I sat in the teacher's lounge and listened to him cry. For one minute. That was all. I couldn't believe it. May gave me a couple of progress reports; it sounds like he did very well in there, participating in group time, language group, etc.

I ended up staying away nearly two hours, and then I couldn't bear not seeing how he was doing. He was in the yard. He'd decided it was time to go home and was trying to get LaBelle to open the gate for him. See, it was ten thirty, the same time we left yesterday to head to Dance & Jingle. Kid's got a built-in clock, I swear. So I came over and explained the difference between today and yesterday and then he was basically cool with it. He clung to me briefly but then was okay integrating with the class for the final stretch.

We had lunch on the Santa Monica Promenade overlooking the ocean. Damian liked the view very much. He ate yogurt but also a significant amount of my rice-cake-with-avocado-and-goat-cheese. This is significant in its way because he always used to denude any cracker of its cream cheese coating and god forbid he let a sandwich touch his lips. So he's making progress on that front.

Occupational therapy was a revelation. This was the major breakthrough. First Heidi said he could swing, and which swing did he want? He chose the dolphin swing, which is the bucket swing, a real commitment to swinging. And enjoyed it so much he didn't want to stop!

But that's not the breakthrough. This is: Heidi sat him down at a table, sans shirt, and sprayed the table with shaving cream. No way was he going to put his hands in that mush. So she put it on her hands and on his. He did not like this, not one bit. She put paint on the shaving cream on the table, invited him to swirl the paint around. Nope. So she did. Then she put a bit of paint on her finger and invited him to touch it. He did. Before long, he was swishing his hands in the shaving cream on the table! This is big. Big big big. Heidi said it often takes three sessions to make that kind of progress. Then she cleaned up the shaving cream and showed him how to make handprints on a piece of paper. In no time at all, he was painting his own hand with the brush and putting it down on the paper! My jaw was on the floor, I swear.

I did my own sensory integration therapy session tonight. Damian has had a hair-washing phobia for the past months. He needed his hair washed tonight. This usually involves gritting our teeth and doing it fast as he screams. Tonight I told him I was going to do it. He shook his head. I explained that I'd seen him rubbing his forehead today; his hair itched because it was dirty. Washing would help that. I wet his hair and offered to have him touch his head. He didn't, but did calm, especially as I explained it was water from the tub he was sitting in. I soaped up my hands and let him touch the suds. I said they were little tiny bubbles, like the shaving cream he played with at Heidi's. He touched them. Then I said I'd put that on his head. I basically walked him through the whole process so none of it felt like an invasion. I even had him touch the washcloth so he'd know what was scrubbing his head. He didn't cry at all. Heidi gave us a gift today, no question.

Wednesday 25 April

I told Damian on the way to school that we'd be doing the same drill as yesterday at school; ie: I'd go in with him but then leave "for a while." When we got there and got out of the car, Damian skipped down the street doing a little dance. Clearly in a good mood. What a remarkable difference from his days at the other school! Then we got to the classroom. He stayed close by me for, oh, half a minute, then got intrigued by a toy and off he went. I waited about ten minutes. They brought out the Brio. Bingo. I said goodbye (in more detail than that) and walked out. He stood up and looked at me as I left. He looked upset and was clearly thinking about crying but someone was with him and it just never happened. And that was it.

I spied on him later, in the yard. He was wearing a smock (had been painting, presumably) and headed purposefully toward a ride-on car, pulled it out, and pushed it in front of him back the way he'd come. Looked completely comfortable. Without me. Amazing. I didn't see him again till school was over. He gave me a great big smile when he saw me. No anxiety at all. And he was in a good mood afterwards.

Occupational therapy went well too. No big sensory breakthroughs -- she focused on motor skills and muscle strengthening today. He had a lot of fun, though. Counts for a lot. She got him to sit on a swing shaped like adult/big kid swings but with more give/bounce. I thought "no way." Damian thought the same thing. We were both wrong. Heidi introduces him to things gradually but doesn't allow for denial without at least trying something. And yet he never cries. Amazing to watch.

He now knows how to open the screen door by himself and how to unlock it (not hard, unfortunately). So in the worst of summer heat when we need the ventilation, we ain't gonna have it. Big door has to stay closed and locked. Kid can handle that lock too, unfortunately. Don't know if he can swing the big door open by himself, though. Good thing we're (probably) moving!

Speech therapy went well. She worked on getting him to move beyond echoing when he talks aloud. I gather she did this by making nonverbal vocalizations. Interesting, because that's how I warmed him up to allow her breakthrough with him on Friday. Seems to be key for him, that nonverbal back-and-forth. When I came into the room, I witnessed her eliciting a non-echo "I want" from him (he wanted goldfish crackers). He did a little more tonight too, but he was completely exhausted. Got up early, no nap, kid was in the zone. He did pretty well despite that. I'm noticing too that his enunciation is getting back closer to where it was when he stopped talking aloud. This is very reassuring. The echolalia mode is freaky when he gets into it, though (almost exclusively when he's exhausted). He repeats every damned word. "Damian, where are you? Damian, do you want yogurt?" Every single word. But when he's less spacey/tired, he only repeats what he wants to use to communicate, and sometimes even turns around pronouns to make it his own. (And sometimes even speaks aloud non-echoing, like today at Laura's. More and more often but still not nearly often enough.) One kinda cool thing tonight. He was zonked. I was feeding him yogurt and really having to work for eye contact and verbal reponses, and they were all of the extreme echolalia form. But at one point, I said "More yogurt, yeah, more yogurt." He repeated me exactly but nodded when he said "yeah." So he was conscious of what he was saying.

Dan didn't come home for Damian's bath tonight. Poor guy's been working too late, I didn't think he should prolong his workday by that hour and a half. And we did okay without him. Damian cried and shook his head, not wanting to get in the tub even with me going in with him. Recently he's been like this but calming at the idea of sharing the bath with me. But tonight I stripped him down and brought him in despite the crying. And then started splashing and making it fun. He quieted and enjoyed himself after that. I'm learning. My inclination as a parent is to give him room, to have him feel a certain amount of personal power. I still think it's important to give choices and respect his desires when possible. But I'm also realizing that -- in part because of his issues -- I can't give in too much. For instance, if we skip a bath one night, it'll be that much harder to get him into the tub the next night and before you know it you've got a full blown phobia on your hands. So I'm becoming a more determined parent, albeit a very gentle one. I almost never lose my cool with him (except intentionally, to get him to pay attention to my emotion). There's too much at stake and I feel for what he's going through, so any anger I might feel is dampened.

Thursday 26 April

This morning when I parked near school, Damian didn't want to walk in the right direction. He kept holding his arms up; I thought he wanted me to carry him and I kept telling him I couldn't. He lagged behind, crying, and we'd wait for him to catch up. Finally the light dawned: I asked if he was a little scared of going to school, yes or no? (He sometimes still needs that prompt/reminder to respond.) He nodded. I asked if he had fun yesterday. He nodded again. I said it was okay to be scared, that I would be too in his position, but that if he had fun yesterday, he'd probably have fun again today. That did the trick. He held my hand and walked to school. And fifteen minutes in, I said goodbye and he was okay with it (a momentary look of panic but no tears). He apparently had a good morning.

We went to a floor time assessment today -- it's a place funded by the Regional Center; they do an assessment for funding purposes and then enroll you in the program. I was way impressed by the coordinator. She was way impressed by Damian. He talked aloud a lot, mostly echoes but often purposeful ones (she asked if he wanted a blue or yellow pad, he echoed the "blue" part), and filled in "go" after "ready, set" -- just as he's done for me, but aloud and perfectly enunciated. And he followed her requests and got involved in projects and picked up the rules of a complex new game very quickly. She said she thinks his cognitive skills are above his age group. This is the second time I've heard this. Lovely to hear. At the end of the session, I said, "He's on the high end of the spectrum, right?" and she said "Extremely high." And he had a very good time there, too. He was a little reluctant to leave. I think this will work out just fine.

Damian is extremely fond of his grandma. He lights up when he sees her, and if I suggest we go find her, he goes running off immediately. He gives her big hugs and pulls her along if he wants help almost as often as he pulls me.

Speaking of hugs, he seems to have gotten the knack of a real hug. No squeeze yet, but he puts his arms up around your shoulders instead of tucking them in between your belly and his.

Dan couldn't come home for Damian's bath. Damian didn't want to take a bath. I thought it was just bath phobia (it's been building) but then I thought I should check: "Damian, do you miss Daddy?" "I love Daddy," he responded, in a very upset voice. My heart melted. He said it a few times more. I talked about how Daddy loves him very much and will be home tomorrow to give him his bath then. Then Damian quieted and came into the tub with me. We splashed around and had fun. What a complete love he is.

Friday 27 April

I was going to write an entry about what happened this morning. Not sure I'll have time. Damian locked himself in his room. It took well over an hour to get the door open. I spent most of that time standing outside the window trying to help him not freak. He spent the first while panicking and then calming, panicking and then calming. Then -- this was the most frightening -- he went into his closet and pulled out a toy and started playing with it, ignoring Dan's voice and mine. Dan started talking to him about his fear and he snapped out of his shutdown mode and back to panic. Which was better, though harder in some ways. But then he came to the window. We touched hands through the screen and then he started trying to pull the screen open. I knew that wouldn't get him out -- the security bars were in the way -- but it did do something very important: it enabled us to hold hands. So we did. For half an hour or more. My wrist was chafed by the tight fit but I didn't care. And Damian calmed and listened to me and looked at me and was present. I was explaining to him about the locksmith and he whispered, "fix the door." He got it.

After he got out, we sat on the armchair for a long time, cuddling and watching Survivor (hey, it soothed both of us). He was fine the rest of the day, not overly clingy or fearful or shut down. I was quite impressed. And thankful. So thankful.

Saturday 28 April

This afternoon we came home from a toy store run (it's Damian's birthday next weekend). Damian did NOT want to come inside. He stood at the door, very upset, and said "I'm mad!" Twice. Aloud.

He will happily get on a bike with training wheels but won't ride a trike. Go figure.

This evening Dan was giving him something and asked, "more?" Damian replied "want more." So he's starting to use more of his own words. He always says "pet kitty" when he pets Dante, too.

He painted today with finger paints! And was happy to have his hand painted so he could make handprints. Heidi's sensory breakthrough has held fast. I'm so glad.

I was rocking him this morning and singing to him. When he didn't like a song, he nudged me with his head and if I asked "Do you want me to stop singing this song?", he'd nod. I sang a lovely song off one of his lullaby albums: "The moment I saw you I wanted to hold you and keep you warm on this cold gray morn/The moment I held you I wanted to kiss you and welcome you here on the day you were born." On the second iteration of the second part, I got to "I wanted to..." and he turned his head and kissed me. Awww.

Sunday 29 April

No strawberries for Damian this morning at the farmer's market. Whenever he wanted one, I offered him a (vitamin) gummy bear instead. That worked. I'm going to have to keep enticing sweets on hand to counter any potential salicyte sightings. I'm glad we avoided the berries, though. He's been much more alert as a result.

We went to a birthday party today in a park, for one of the kids from Damian's old preschool class. Damian had a hard time with it. He wouldn't play any of the games except Ring around the Rosy (holding my hand on one side, my mom's on the other). No London Bridge is Falling Down, no anything else. Too scary-vulnerable. And as we sat and listened to Daddy Doug play guitar, Damian kept checking out. He wouldn't clap for "if you're happy and you know it" or do anything else either, and kept looking down at the toy in his hands. Checking out. He relaxed when we got away from the center of things and then had fun, but on his own, not with any other kids. Made me sad. He has a way to go before he has the confidence and security to participate in that kind of group play.

Monday 30 April

Speech breakthrough! Last night, I was feeling sick in the gut by Damian's echolalia. Dan thinks Damian was doing it partly (largely) because it's what he thinks we want (ie: if he says what we tell him to say -- if he parrots our words aloud -- we've been giving him strokes). Makes sense. So the trick is to teach him to use his own words. But his own words aren't readily available. A conundrum. So. I wanted him to ask for the juice. He pointed. He wanted it. I said, "Damian says 'I want...'" and waited for him to fill in the blank. He simply repeated my words exactly. Ugh. So I started playing with the juice, holding it out of reach above his head, etc. Making him grab for it, turning it into a game instead of an 'elicit language' session. And in my teasing and yammering, I said "this is juice." After which Damian said "juice!" (IE: I want juice.) Plenty good enough for a start.

Today I worked on it some more. The best example: I held out a gummy bear. Said, "Is this a teddy bear?" He nodded. I said, "noooo, teddy bears are fuzzy and snuggly, this is sweet and you eat it. Damian says "I want a..." and waited. He said "gummy bear" and looked mighty pleased with himself. As well he should. I hadn't said "gummy" at all. After that, it was just there. I said "do you want some mango?" He nodded. I said "Damian says 'I want'" and he said "I want mango." Bingo. And on like that. It helps if he hears the word a sentence or two before the "I want" part, so it's easier to recall, but then there's that "gummy." So very encouraging.

And at Dance & Jingle this morning, he got all happy when helping to toss stuffed animals on a parachute, and he shrieked his happy little shrieks. Not an uncommon exclamation around here, but rare in public. Better, though, was after the class. I was talking with Janice and my mom pointed out that Damian was racing around the room and Gabriel (Janice's son) was chasing him, and they were both happy. Damian was actually playing, actively playing, with another kid. This is pretty big.

At the post office: I wanted to take Damian for a walk around the block while my mom stood on the long line. He wouldn't have it, started crying when we stepped outside. He didn't want to leave her behind. She was very moved. She's become an important part of his world. I hope he's okay when she leaves on Thursday.

Tonight he started playing the piano. I was in the bedroom, Dan and my mom were in the kitchen. We each at first thought someone else was in the dining room with him because he was playing very deliberately, picking out a kind of melody, ranging up and down the scale and playing keys in a pleasing succession. I'm not saying he's Mozart-level precocious, but it was certainly at least a four year old (or older?) level of musical sophistication.

Damian and I were in his bedroom. He fingered the hole in his door where the doorknob used to be and looked spooked. I talked about how the locksmith took the knob off when he fixed the door Friday, and how it's good that it's not there now so he can never be locked in again. He nodded gravely.

Not ten minutes later, he had rounded up his plastic tools (hammer, wrench, screwdriver) and was hammering on the closed study door (where my mom is sleeping). He was fixing her door! Acting out his experience but from the locksmith (ie: person with power) perspective. Very healthy. Very appropriate. Very exciting for us to see.

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