May 2001 page 2 of 2
Wednesday 16 May

The door was open when I got to Damian's classroom, and moms were already in the doorway. So I joined them. The kids were in their goodbye circle time. Damian spotted me and gave me a huge smile but stayed in his seat. I was very proud of him for that. Great impulse control. When it was time, though, he made a beeline for me. That, of course, made me feel terrific, especially when he exclaimed "Mommy!" again, like yesterday. And when I saw that the other kids there were greeting their parents in a much more subdued manner. I think Damian's more in touch with his emotions now, and it shows in some wonderful ways.

The teachers were going on about him: Maria was impressed with how much he knows; not just the alphabet but numbers and colors too. I felt like saying "Duh. He's not dumb, just autistic." But I didn't. I'm learning that for a lot of these kids, their issues do affect their cognitive abilities. Damian's very fortunate (and VERY bright). Apparently he did well in other ways too -- very involved with the dance session (not surprising, that -- it sounds similar to Dance and Jingle) and pretty engaged all around. They all seemed very pleased with how well he's doing. I was pleased to see something LaBelle did at the end: she asked him to say bye bye to her. He waved. She insisted on the words. Then when he did, she asked for a hug. So they embraced. It was exactly what I'd hoped: pushing him to go beyond what's easy and giving him physical affection. She's a wonderful teacher.

Heidi put Damian into the sling swing. He made a game of peek-a-boo out of it, looking out at us with a grin and then hiding inside his cocoon again. She put him on a big ball and rocked him a bit, then did some oral-sensory work, working up to the toothbrush. He let her brush his teeth, his tongue, the inside of his cheeks. This is huge for a kid who gags and even vomits when he sees us brush our teeth. Of course, it was sans toothpaste still, but it's still a huge step forward. Now the trick is for us to keep it up every day.

Dan took Damian to Laura's without me. We prepped him with what was going to happen, and he was fine with my not going. Dan told me that he'd told Laura about how Jami cried when she first heard Damian use his voice. Laura told him she cried the whole weekend after his big breakthrough, and she told her family and they all cried! Laura's a very measured, careful person. If she said it, it happened.

Dan told me something funny: on the way home, Damian was fussing. Dan looked back to see Damian's pant leg hiked up over his knee. Damian often has a cow when he's got exposed flesh. So Dan hiked it back down and kept driving. Damian fussed again. Dan turned around. The pant leg had mysteriously gotten hiked up again. Dan told Damian he couldn't deal with it right now, he was driving. Next time he turned around (kid was still fussing), he saw both knees exposed. Damian had pulled his pant legs up to get attention. When one leg didn't do the trick, he doubled it. Sneaky kid's faking discomfort.

Thursday 17 May

Dan took Damian to school without me for the first time this morning. Damian was completely cool with it. Gave me a goodbye kiss and trotted out the door. I watched him get into the car with a surprisingly strong pang. I didn't feel this way the first time I left him in the classroom -- that was a combination of relief and worry. This is more about letting my little boy go.

When he got home, he was crying (grouchy: a combo of tired and hungry). When I greeted him with a smile and my arms outstretched, he fell into my embrace and sat happily on my lap. That was awfully nice. I felt needed again. Dan gave me a cupcake. I shared it with an eager Damian. He refused to feed himself. If I asked him to touch the cupcake portion, he would, but then he insisted I put it in his mouth. Touching was the limit for him, holding was too much to contemplate.

He was exhausted but wouldn't admit to it. I asked if he wanted to rock. Head shake: "no." I asked if he would hug and cuddle with me. Another head shake. I said I was sad that he wouldn't hug me, and I asked again if he would. So he came over for a hug. And once he was on my lap, snuggling for a moment, I asked again about rocking and he nodded his assent. Was asleep within ten minutes.

When he woke, Jami was here. He didn't take too well to that, but she coaxed him out of his temper after a while. And when we went out to dinner, he kissed us and we left, and he was fine. When we came back in, he was involved in play and didn't look up. That used to bother me a lot. Now I know better. I just said "Hi sweetie!" in a loud, cheerful voice a few times and he eventually keyed in that we were home and looked up with a warm smile. So I went over and got a hello kiss.

This is not a spectrum thing but: I've noticed that as Damian gets really tired, he starts revving up his motor and running around the house, giddy with exhaustion. It's hard to get him to wind down at those times. And indeed, we had a hellish time getting him to take a bath or go to bed tonight.

Friday 18 May

Damian's language just popped today. Lots of non-echoed words, and aloud, to boot. In the car on the way home from errand-running, he said "I don't want to be in the car" in a strangled voice, but pretty clear for all that. Tonight I asked him if he wanted mac and cheese or salmon for dinner. I prompted the "I want" and he said "I want salmon" as clear as a bell. (And then ate the whole 1/2 lb piece!) He started talking aloud to himself, too -- not always distinct but stuff about "Daddy" and "Mommy" and "I eat" and I don't know what all. Other things too, that I'm forgetting. It's not as if he's magically all better, but he's made the next step forward. Now we have to keep it alive -- backsliding is so easy.

We bought an interactive game today; Damian's first board game. It's basically a tea party set up with colored cookies in various shapes. It's about turn taking, color and shape identification, rule-learning. All that sort of stuff. Damian played three rounds with Dan. Won the first and third. Seemed pleased about that. Hard to tell how many of the rules he absorbed but he definitely enjoyed the process.

Saturday 19 May

Dan says he's getting back in the swing of floor time. I can't say firsthand, since I've mostly been in the other room while he's playing with Damian, but I am constantly amazed at the creative ways he develops stories for them to play -- he set up the Brio track to connect the various Little People structures, for instance, and he took Damian's green Duplo tabletop and declared it a garden for Farmer Jose to plant tomatoes and asparagus (red and green duplos, respectively) and then pick and eat them. Stuff like that. Very imaginative, creating worlds and scenarios. I try but I don't think I do as well. Still, I think I have other strengths. That's why it's important for Damian to have multiple play partners.

We made cookies, using little cookie cutters my mother gave him to cut out the dough. He was game but not overly enthusiastic about the process. He certainly enjoyed scarfing down the end product, though.

He seemed a little less engaged this afternoon, I'm not sure why. Lots of echolalia and whispering and he got stuck on certain phrases and words. We were outside, sitting on a ledge, and Damian was running around us saying things like "nighty night" and "good night." Something must have triggered it, but who knows what. He's also been saying "together" a lot, but I do know what's triggering that -- we're doing things as a threesome. Together. He likes it.

He asked for something completely unprompted today. For some reason, I'm thinking it was a red truck? Anyway, I'd been prompting him to ask for something similar a few minutes earlier, so it was available in his brain and he used the words.

He's been hitting us lately, out of frustration and a need for control. Hard to deal with. We say no and that'll we'll get up and walk away if he keeps it up. And we do if he does. And he cries and we come back and talk about it some more... That's been the past few days. Today he started hitting the air near us. Trying hard not to drive us away but still needing to get that angst out of his system.

I've decided to wean him off needing the rocking chair to fall asleep at night. I told him last night I'd rock him for three songs and then lie down with him. He was asleep by the end of the second song. Tonight I said the same thing, and he was once again asleep by the end of the second song. A trend? I'm planning to cut down to two songs in a few days, and then down to one. I wonder if he can speed-snore?

Sunday 20 May

Dan is reading to Damian beside me, a book called New Cat about a cat in a tofu factory. The cat is trying to get into a room. Dan was explaining that she can't turn the doorknob so she has to scratch the door open. Damian stroked the picture of the door in a long scratching motion a few times, then he took the picture of the doorknob between his fingers and mimed turning the knob.

Last night -- I forgot to mention this -- he was looking at the thumbnail images of the slideshow pictures before we began. He likes examining them up close. I heard him whisper to himself: "Damian went to the" and then something -- park? walk? maybe even store? But I thought it was significant that he was starting to tell himself the story of what happened that day in the pictures. Proof positive that he's absorbing some of the message the pictures are designed for.

He did something Dan found remarkable today: he searched for a sentence and found what he wanted to say. He first said something like "I hate" and then thought about it, then said "I have to hide" and hid behind a toy train. Dan thinks this is very significant because it shows Damian using his intellect to put together the words in the meaning he wants. He's thinking about how to say it, not just relying on the kind of subconscious sentence formation the rest of us use. He can't do that, not reliably, so this is a way he can learn to talk like the rest of us. By using his intelligence and logic. More deliberate, perhaps, than you'd normally expect, but probably much like the way we learn foreign languages once we get older. It's a major step forward for him to be able to think this way and put together the words. He says five word sentences fairly frequently these days, but they're usually more like "I want to get out of the swing" (said to Heidi last week) or "time to go bye" (he said this at school last Wednesday). But both of those examples were whispered and were at least partly made up of things he'd heard. This is much more thought out. And said aloud, and very clear. I heard it from the next room.

Damian put his head down on his arms after dinner. I asked if he was tired. He nodded and whispered, "time to sleep" and ran off to his room. I found him climbing onto his bed. We hung out on his bed for a while. I talked about the stars on his ceiling. He stomped his feet on the guard rail. I asked if he was running. He nodded. I said he was running up the wall to the stars. He moved his feet up and up, clearly imagining that scenario. He also ran his beanie baby wolf along the top of the rail, the second time today he's played with that wolf. Could he be getting fond of a stuffed animal? That would be a change indeed. Though yesterday at the toy store, he spent a long time playing with the dollhouse and no time at all at the Thomas or Brio tables. So things do change. People are more interesting to him now than trains. Who'd'a thunk?

Monday 21 May

Skipped school and slept in. Bad habit, I know, but we needed the sleep. Went to Dance and Jingle. Damian whispered "hi" into the mike and said "bye bye" later into it. He's getting the hang of it. Still looks spooked by the idea and no way in hell will he consider singing into the mike. Janice commented that his eye contact is better with her, like he's acting like he knows and remembers her. Nancy (the teacher) said that he watches the other kids closely and he listens to what she's saying. She says she can see signs of his autism, but he's far and away more advanced than any of the autistic kids in her other classes. Much more aware and tuned in.

We brought Damian to a playdate at Tyson's house. It went pretty well, but we were dismayed by how few interactive toys she has. Next time we bring our own. Damian was entranced by the pool, so we opened the gate and went inside. He and Tyson took their shoes off and dangled their feet in the water. He got pretty well splashed before long; his pants were soaked. I removed them and gave him a pair of Tyson's shorts. (Red and white checks, clashed horribly with his beige plaid shirt.) I thought he'd throw a fit and try to drag his pant leg down. He surprised me. I told him Tyson had shorts on too, and he was going to wear these shorts for a little while. So he did. He later put a necklace around Tyson's neck and they both fed pickles to a dinosaur (Dan voiced the hungry dino) but all of it was with prompting. Some day...

It hurts a little to be around a typical kid his age, to see the difference between the ready speech, the easy requests, and his whines and whispers. I simply have to put it out of my mind and I know that. It's not fair to him to compare and he's got time. But it's still there, that difference, and I can't pretend I don't see it.

I found a toy whale in Tyson's playroom. I asked her how a whale swims. She mimed the up-and-down motion. I asked Damian and he mimed swimming, complete with arm movements. I was pleased that he was into the make-believe.
I asked Tyson if she wanted to do another playdate with Damian. Damian heard me. He nodded decisively. Definitely so. I asked him to kiss her goodbye. He kissed her on the cheek and then on the nose and then I think a third time near the mouth. I think he likes her. She gave him a hug and toppled him over. He didn't seem fazed at all. Yup, he definitely likes her.

Damian was hungry after (a meager) dinner, so I offered him yogurt. He ate a bit and then left. He came back a little later and made a smacking sound: the exact sound we make when we're pretending to eat the plastic food. He was telling me he wanted more! He said the word "more" easily with prompting but it clearly wasn't there when he needed it, so he improvised.

When we were looking at the slideshow of the day, I pointed out how he wore shorts at Tyson's. He reached down to his own pants and gave them a tug, as if to say "these are the right length, Mom." Then he reached his foot out to the screen as if to put his foot in the pictured water, and craned his neck to put his face close and "eat" the image of the pretzels. Reliving the day.

Book reading has become an excursion into make-believe. Tonight I read a book called My Dog Toby. The narrator talks about how her dog can hear when she drops a piece of sandwich into his bowl even if he's upstairs at the time. The accompanying image shows the dog on the upstairs landing, a foreshortened view of the steps going down, and then the food bowl in the kitchen below. Damian was entranced. He walked his fingers down the steps and "picked up" the sandwich from the bowl and pretended to eat it! All with zero prompting from me.

Day Four that I tell Damian, "I'll rock you for three songs' worth and then we'll lie down in your bed. Day Four that Damian's sound asleep by the middle of Song Three. Coincidence? Hmmm... Hey, at least he's learning that he can fall asleep easily when he puts his mind to it.

Tuesday 22 May

Damian had a five star day today. Dan told me his teachers glowed about how much he talked in class; they brought out a big tupperware of rice and he got into it. Literally, climbed in. And tossed the rice around and talked -- not just out loud but LOUD -- some echoing and some original words, like "Oh my gosh, it's everywhere!"

At the park, Damian got on a seesaw, not minding that there was already a kid on the other end. And when he got off, he pushed the seat up and down, giving the little girl on the other end a nice ride. He also went into a play fort even though other kids were already inside. He's getting more comfortable with the idea of other children.

At Heidi's, when she asked him if he wanted the red or black chip next (for a game they were playing), he immediately said "red." And Dan could ask Damian a question like "Do you want juice?" and add "Damian says," and Damian would promptly say "I want juice." Words were much more immediately present.

When they got home, Damian wanted to play with Dan, not me. He often does this -- wants the one he's just spent the most time with. But he and I played fairly well nevertheless. He put Little People Daddy in a car, so I put Officer Mommy in another car and asked where they should go: tree or Cat Mountain (Dante on the ottoman) or Town Center? He chose Town Center. When we got there (it's a Little People town), he put Daddy right into the restaurant and Mommy and Daddy had a meal. I thought it was all pretty cool: he was taking charge just a little, making decisions and advancing the game. Progress.

He scooted his cherry picker to the cat tree, brought out a knife, and proceeded to trim (or cut down?) the tree. This is a current fave. All the while he was whining. I thought he was irritable. Dan corrected me: Damian was making the noise of an electric saw cutting the branches.

He lay on his bed and said "go to sleep." It seems to be his current verbal fixation or tic, it's been coming up a lot the past few days.

The door to his dollhouse fell off. I prompted him to ask me to fix it (which he did easily). As I was rehanging the door, he ran off and came back with a toy hammer. He was going to fix the door too!

Damian didn't want to sit at dinner with us. I insisted and brought him to the table crying and hitting. Blech. I pinned his arms and told him he didn't have to eat but he did have to sit with us. I also told him I'd hold his arms till he calmed down. He calmed down almost instantly. Ended up eating a full meal.

I just watched Dan read a book to Damian. It's one of those "guess what I am?" type books, where the color of a fruit peeks through and you read a little guess-me rhyme, then you turn the page and see the image. Dan asked Damian to guess. Damian's not nearly ready to just come out with a verbal guess, but Dan asked things like "Is it an apple or a banana?" and Damian responded immediately nine times out of ten with the correct answer. Mostly aloud, though he did fall into whispers halfway through. Dan coaxed him back to his "big voice." But it's a concrete measure of his progress that he can answer so easily when offered a choice. That's recent. Very recent. He knows he's doing something cool, too. He grins to beat the band. Very pleased with himself.

Wednesday 23 May

I figured out why Damian's started saying things like "go to bed" and "go to sleep" and "good night." It's because I've been talking about how he needs to learn to lie down and go to sleep with just a little rocking, that other kids his age fall asleep in bed with no rocking. I think he's talking to himself about it, or that he's got it stuck in his head, or something along those lines.

Sounds like he did great at Heidi's (occupational): she used a paintbrush and brushed shaving cream on his arms and legs and he was completely fine with that.

He spotted his plastic sheep in the barn and said "baaaa." He's said "meow" before (though that's very recent too) but this is an expansion; he's starting to mimic animals for the first time.

At Laura's (speech), she got him to give her a completely non echo response. IE: "Which of these do you want?" "I want the red one." I have to take her word for it that she didn't prompt at all, but that's very cool.

Dan wanted to play with the Playmobil forklift tonight, but Damian had other ideas. He took the crate from atop the forklift, trotted into the study, and placed it atop a pile of packed boxes. I think he was packing.

Damian was painting on his easel tonight using rollers. Dan asked if he wanted another color for the second roller. Damian said "purple" without hesitation. NO prompting, no suggesting from Dan. Looks like Laura was onto something.

I told Damian it was time to rock. He shook his head. I said "One more book or rock?" He whispered "One more book." I said "Say it in your big voice." He, of course, said "Big voice" in his big voice. I said "Tell me what you said before, one more book or rock?" He said "Rock" and fell into my arms. Holding a toy fire truck. So I said "The fire truck stays here." He wasn't happy about this. I said "I have to pee. Kiss the fire truck goodnight" (which he did, promptly) "and when I come back, we go rock and the fire truck stays with Daddy." When I came back, damn if he didn't just hand the truck to Dan, stand up, and put his arms around me, ready to be carried off to his room.

Thursday 24 May

This morning while I was driving Damian to school, he started banging his head against the back of his carseat. Stimming. I asked if he was bored. He nodded yes. So I started coaxing him to say "hi" to me. Once I got him going on it (getting him to say it aloud took a few tries), we went back and forth saying "hi" to each other. Sounds boring, doesn't it? But it was fun. We were laughing as we traded the verbal softball back and forth. Just being able to say something aloud when he wants to is still a thrill for him.

Transition to the classroom is a breeze now -- he doesn't show any anxiety at all when I leave. Thank GOD. (But he still lights up when I come in after class. So it's not like he doesn't care.)

The teachers told me he had a good day. He went on the big slide several times -- all by himself, no hand holding necessary. This is a big deal. I'd say it's a first, but he's had brief flashes of fearlessness before. But it's big nevertheless. They also said he hugged the other kids; apparently this was part of some group activity and was prompted by the teachers, but they seemed quite pleased, so maybe some kids have issues around this. Damian loves to hug.

They said he didn't speak much unprompted, interesting in light of our afternoon:

It started with Damian wanting me in his room when we got home. I prompted: "Mommy what? Mommy sit, Mommy lie down, Mommy come?" "Mommy come," he replied. Standard exchange these days. After a few minutes, I could just say "Mommy..." and he said "Mommy sit." Cool. About five minutes later, I lay down on his bed (I was exhausted). He didn't like that; he wanted a playmate. He came over and tried to pull me up. I said I was tired and wanted to lie down. He said "Mommy come." So simple. So easy. So immediate. So lovely.

So of course I came.

He did the same with Dan later, said "Daddy come" and even "Daddy sit down" with ZERO prompting. He also said "Mommy go away" (he wanted Daddy to play, not talk to Mommy) and other things too. He said more unprompted today -- communicative language, I mean -- than he has any other day in his whole life. We went to Toys R Us (time to buy more interactive toys). When we came out, I said I was thirsty and asked if he was thirsty. I started talking about how I'd drink water and he'd drink juice. Then I chattered on about god knows what. When we got to the car a few minutes later, Damian stood by the car door and said "I want juice." Gotta love it.

He's started singing the past few days. First the clean up song! But also the ABC song and the Hap Palmer song, "Mommy comes back."

He's got quite a tree trimming fixation. He makes a buzzing noise and has his cutters go to work. He's found a Robin Hood figure complete with sword. Well, it's become Mr. Tree Trimmer. Heretofore, he'd use a knife or scissors. Now he's got a guy with a big honking knife. What could be better? Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to go farther, this game. It's a one step process. Need to work on that. He needs some help with multiple step sequences. It's hard to have a fun imaginative scenario with just one step.

I cut my rocking down to two songs tonight. I spaced and let it go into the third song. He was drifting off but not fully asleep. I reminded him of the drill and brought him over to the bed. I settled him on top of me. The cat started boinging around the room. Damian wiggled and wriggled and raised his head and acted like this was going to take hours. I asked Dan to remove the furry monster. He did. I told Damian he might be more comfortable lying next to me rather than on top of me and rolled him off. He didn't protest, so I guess it was okay. He fell deeply asleep in less than two minutes. Mission accomplished. I really expected him to protest when I stopped rocking and brought him to the bed, but he didn't even tighten his grip. Telling him the sequence beforehand seems to be the secret to just about everything.

Friday 25 May

Lots of bossing us around today: Daddy come, Mommy come, Mommy go away, Daddy go away, Mommy sit down. It's coming easier and easier. "I want" came easier too, like tonight when he wanted a drink to go with the slideshow. He pointed (the habit of pointing dies hard), I said "What do you want?" and he replied, "I want juice." I get such a kick out of it.

He did a lot of whispering tonight, though. All day, actually, we had to keep reminding him to speak out loud ("I can't hear you, can you use your big voice?") But it was so cool this morning: Dan showed Damian a series of cards with a different colored fish on each card. He said "what color?" and Damian said "green" or "purple", etc. I came in midway through and it seemed absolutely effortless, but Dan tells me he had to do a lot of prompting at first to get it going.

Damian's been resisting doing anything difficult lately. He's discovered his veto power and has been using it with a vengeance. But it's more than that: he simply wants to avoid anything too challenging. Part of his issues and linked fears. Most of the games we bought recently are a little challenging, though not as much as he seems to think. I'm pretty confident he'd enjoy them a lot after he gets the rules straight. But he won't. Same with our recent computer game purchases: they're no longer toddler games, now they're preschool level. He's smart as hell but he lacks confidence. So we're scaling back. Now when Dan wants to play Cootie Bug, he asks Damian to choose the body parts and then he puts it together himself. We played with a cute fishing game -- the fish go around a "pond" and their mouths open and close. You have to time it so the hook goes in while the fish is in the right spot and its mouth is open. Damian was intimidated. So we just let him take the fish off the hooks after we caught them, and had him put the fish back on the rotating "pond." Stuff like that. The easy peripheral stuff. By this afternoon he was catching fish like a pro.

We went to LACMA's kid's gallery this afternoon. They've got a room covered in pillows. We had a tired sort of fun. He wanted to climb a ladder but the two other kids there were being boisterous and he got scared. He did seem to enjoy their silliness, though -- when they burst out laughing, he laughed too, and when they were jumping down from ladders, he squealed in mirrored excitement.

At one point, I was pummelling Damian with pillows. He was giggling and rolling around, but then a feather or something escaped from a pillow and he gagged and barfed all over his shirt, his shorts, and three pillows. He's got a very acute gag reflex. Goes along with his tactile defensiveness/taste issues.

He brought a board book to the dining table. Sat in my lap during dinner turning the pages and making a steady "rrrrrr" noise of construction vehicles at work.

When I told him I was going to wash his hair, he started to fuss. I told him there would be no surprises, I'd talk him through every single step. He calmed down immediately. I didn't tell him Dan would give him candy at the end (which he has the last two times -- reward and incentive to look up at the ceiling/candy for the final rinse) but I did shout to Dan to ask if he was getting the treat. A few moments later Damian whispered "Daddy will give you a treat." Which is exactly true, even if he did confuse the pronoun.

Saturday 26 May

It's so thrilling: Damian can talk of his own volition. This morning he spotted the sippy cup and said "I want juice." So simple.

He passed the boxes in the hall and started gripping the corners with his fingers. I took the opportunity to talk about the move, how we'll pack up everything in the boxes and the movers will take the boxes out to their truck and to our new house. Damian ran to the living room, headed for the front door. Acting out what I'd said. As he went, I followed and told him about how the movers will take the furniture too, the piano and table and armchair... and as I did, he went to each item and pretended to lift it so he could "carry" it. We went through this scenario for quite a while. I was thrilled. He was absorbing the concept by converting it into dramatic play.

He was playing with a Matchbox (ie: small) excavator. I grabbed a Beanie wolf and had the wolf steal the truck. Damian said, "I want the truck." So Wolf gave him the truck, but promptly stole it back. Damian said "I want it back." My jaw dropped. Two self-initiated requests in a row.

We went to the mall for the first time in a while and went to CPK for the first time in several months. We brought some toys for Damian. He played with the medical kit while we waited for a table, giving himself a shot and putting a bandaid on his arm. Earlier today, I tended to a small figurine who had fallen from the cat tree and Damian tended to himself. Apparently he was sick, who knew? He took his temperature, put the blood pressure cuff on his arm and squeezed the bladder, gave himself medicine in a syringe (orally, which is how we still give him Advil), and put the stethoscope on his ears and "listened" to his heart. The only thing I prompted was the thermometer. The rest was his idea.

After he ate lunch (including more bread and butter than I've ever seen anyone put away), he played with the Matchbox dump truck and truck stop we'd brought. He had the crane dump the blue boxes into the back of the truck and such.

I mention all this in such great detail because: This Is New. We used to bring toys to CPK for Damian. He'd push the truck for a few minutes and get bored. He'd examine and tweak a toy and put it aside, bored and restless. It's such a dramatic difference to see him engaging in imaginative play, even with trucks.

He has, however, been quoting again, though we're not always sure of the source. Dan thinks Damian never stopped quoting, we just couldn't hear him when he was whispering. He may be right. At least the quotes do seem in context, like when he was digging with the excavator and he kept saying "down to the ground" as he'd dig.

Dan says Damian sang tonight, for the first time with a musical lilt in his tone.

Sunday 27 May

It's getting harder to report the highlights because there's no longer one isolated verbal burst, it's been all day. Probably two dozen times he's said something unprompted, a word or phrase or sentence that was appropriate and communicative. Amazing. Truly amazing. Some examples:

We dressed him in a long sleeved shirt this morning. It's too small for him, he kept hiking down the sleeves and waist. Dan called to me to get a new one. While he was talking, Damian said "I need take off" and started pulling the shirt off. He couldn't find the word for shirt until Dan told him, but he had the rest of the sentence.

I feed him gummy bear vitamins now when we go to the Farmer's Market, so we can avoid the strawberry yearning. He has to ask every time for a gummy (this is always true, not just at the market). Sometimes I offer him a choice so he has to tell me which one he wants. He's started being very decisive: "I want orange." And then as soon as I hand him the orange gummy, he says "I want yellow." He knows if he tries for both at once, he won't get them but if he asks sequentially, he will. So now he doesn't wait, he just asks right away for the next one.

When we got home, Damian said "I want to go" (out of the car).

He was playing with the venetian blind pull chain. The end piece broke. Damian immediately said "Daddy fix."

Dan closed the bathroom door to run the bath water. Damian tried to open it, couldn't. I said "Do you need something?" He responded "help me, help me!"

And that's not counting all the I want juice/bread/gummy and Mommy/Daddy come/sit/go away iterations. The kid's talking. His reliable functional vocabulary is still quite small, but since he knows a LOT more words, we just have to figure out how to work on word retrieval and he'll be more than set.

Other things:

Dan got mad/frustrated with Damian in the store today. So Damian gave him a kiss. This is not the first time he's done it. He knows if he hugs and kisses us, we melt and forgive him. Smart kid.

Another use for kisses: he's now into the whole mommy-can-kiss-it-better routine beloved by children everywhere. It works well for boo-boos, but he's developed a unique use for it: he wants me to kiss his eyes when he cries! He wants me to kiss his tears away.

Dan and I had a tiff. As soon as my voice rose, Damian got really upset. He cried and said something strangled about mommy and daddy and angry. I asked if it made him feel scared. He nodded. I consoled him by talking about how we still love each other even if we get angry sometimes and gave him a hug (as did Dan, and then Dan and I hugged). And then Damian was fine. But the fact that he immediately got upset means to me that he's much more tuned in now and less avoidant of difficult emotions. Six months ago, he'd have ignored us.

Monday 28 May

Dan started making pancakes. Damian went to fetch me: "Mommy come" and led me to where we keep the folding step stool. He wanted me to set up the stool so he could watch Daddy cook. This is something we've been doing for a few weeks. The significant part to me is that he was thinking about it and asking me for something less concrete than usual (it's usually along the lines of play-with-me or feed-me).

Damian decided he was ready for breakfast by trying to climb into the high chair -- which high chair he hasn't used for several months. But hey, whatever works. I fed him yogurt and worked on eye contact (wouldn't give him the yogurt unless he held my gaze the whole way from cup to mouth).

We went to a barbecue at Diane & Darin's. Damian trotted right into the house when we got there. A marked difference from last summer, when he saw the people and burst into tears. He had an okay time there. Didn't interact much at all with anyone but us, but he did respond verbally to a few adults with our prompting. (He told Diane his name was Damian, for instance, and said "hi" to Michele.) Diane says it's the first time he's looked at her when she said his name. Dan and I took turns playing with him and trying to keep him engaged. It was harder to get a response from him but he did have a decent amount of language when pressed. I was just glad that in that distracting environment he didn't completely check out.

We packed a bit when we got home. Damian saw the cables in one box and went to fetch his toy stethoscope to add to the box (similar coiled wires). Dan explained that Damian was right in principle but we should probably not pack the stethoscope yet, because we might need it. I gave Damian an extension cord from a drawer to add to the box instead, which he did.

Dante, being a cat, leaped into an empty box. Damian, being a kid, wanted to join him. We encouraged him to drag the box instead, which he did. But then he got in. Dante left, of course.

Tuesday 29 May

Sounds like Damian had fun at school: the pix Dan took at the beginning of the day show Damian heading for a plastic bucket of small toys and then dumping the toys out and putting the bucket on his head. You can see the teachers cracking up on the sidelines.

It has now become possible to carry on an actual conversation with him:

"Damian, are you thirsty?"

A nod.

"Can you use your words?"

"Yes." (IE: Yes, I'm thirsty -- he's not sassing me, I assure you.)

(I get a sippy cup from the fridge, return to the couch.)

"Damian...?" (accompanied by encouraging gesture from Mommy)

"I want juice."

"Here you go!"


"Open what?"

"Open the lid."

So I did.

We were hanging out in the bedroom; I told him I was going to go run the water. About two minutes later, he showed up in the bathroom with a fire truck in hand and his pants down around his ankles. Kid was jumping the gun, ready to get into the tub. He undressed himself nearly without help (just needed a little aid with socks: he keeps insisting on pulling them off one-handed).

Wednesday 30 May

Damian crawled into our bed at 5:45 this morning, snuggled in next to me, and promptly fell back to sleep. It's the third night in a row he's needed Mommy Comfort during the night, but this was by far the most pleasant (the others were okay too, actually, but how easy it is to have a child just tumble into your bed and pass out). I regretted having to get out of bed half an hour later; I rather liked my Damian/Dan sandwich.

Bad drive to school this morning. I was doing the usual routine of offering Damian gummy bear vitamins at traffic lights. Asking him to choose "Red or orange?" has become too easy, so I thought I'd show him the colors and ask him, "What color?" A mistake. He thought about it for a long time and said "Yellow." Not one of the choices in front of him. I think he confused the orange for yellow or maybe "yellow" was the only color his brain could summon. When I dug out a yellow one and offered that instead, Damian had a meltdown. That's right, he freaked out because I gave him the wrong color gummy bear. This is a sign of a still-tired child, most likely. Tired and frustrated that he couldn't easily tell me what he wanted. It continued from there: he really wanted me to hold his hand but it's kind of -- well, impossible -- to contort your body to keep one hand behind you while driving a stick shift car.

The rest of the day went quite well. May reported that Damian went up to Susie in the yard and announced, "time to go inside." Which, apparently, it nearly was. Kid's got an internal clock. And when he saw me come greet him after class, he burst out with a big smile. The teachers all commented to each other on it. He does it almost every day, but I guess they don't always see him.

He got stubborn in the playground and didn't want to come to Heidi's. I was worried, frankly. He was inside a play fort that was too small for me. I couldn't reach him and had no treats to use for bribery. So I had to reason him out, talking about all the things he likes to do at Heidi's, etc. Much to my surprise, he came trotting out, ready to go.

Laura was delighted with him today. She showed him pictures of himself, asking him what he was doing in each picture. With zero prompting, he replied: "drinking", "eating", "climbing", "painting", etc. She illustrated for me. I was very impressed. Words -- his own words -- are coming easier and easier by the day. Laura said he's her best pupil! I don't know if she meant her best overall or her best spectrum kid, but either way it was both warming and enlightening to hear. I know his progress seems amazing to me, but if it's also amazing to a 25-years-in-the-field professional, well, that's quite something.

Damian started playing with a teddy bear shaped block. So Dan helped him build a house for the teddy bear. Out of blocks, natch. When I came in to see, Dan showed me the various acouterments, including a TV on the top floor and a potty on the ground floor. Damian put Teddy on the potty. Then he did something interesting: he put Teddy in the (real) rocking chair and started rocking him. I asked if Teddy was sleepy. Damian put Teddy into bed -- Damian's bed. Then he left the room with Teddy. We heard fussing from the bathroom: Damian had climbed onto the toilet and was standing there, perturbed. He asked me to "turn on light" and then wanted to "get down." He set Teddy on the toilet seat and we encouraged him to use his own small, neglected potty. So he put Teddy first on, then in the potty.

As to how he got there? Near as I can figure it, he'd decided Teddy needed to go potty again and so he brought him into the bathroom. He usually hauls a small white plastic stool to the bedroom when he wants to turn on that light. I think he couldn't see the stool in the dark, so he climbed on the next best thing: the toilet. But it was too tall and the lid too curved and he felt trapped up there.

Thursday 31 May

We saw Dr. Jay for Damian's three year checkup. I want to write a full-on entry about it tomorrow; if I can't, I'll write more about it here. But suffice to say, it went well. A distinct contrast from his January 19th appointment with Dr. Jay which got us started on this intense journey. And for the record, he's 37 1/4 inches tall and weighs 28 pounds, 50th percentile for height and 25th for weight. The weight is good news: at his last few checkups, he'd dropped to 10th percentile.

Damian played really well by himself for a while this afternoon; in fact, when I wanted to join in, he dropped the game. By really well, I mean that he was creating great scenarios on his own accord. He found a windup toy vacuum cleaner that was just the right size for the Bendos, and had Daddy Bendo vacuum their dollhouse bedroom. He put the baby carrier on Alex's back and had Alex go for a walk across our living room floor with Baby in the backpack.

We also played together a lot, including an impromptu game of catch with balled up socks (I was folding laundry). I also had him identifying colors, but he wouldn't help me find each sock's mate. Don't know if he didn't understand the task or just didn't feel like it.

He got into painting and glue and glitter and even put his hand right on the glue. This is a pretty big deal for him -- a few months ago, he wouldn't go near the stuff.

He's started saying "yes" and "no" aloud in conjunction with nodding and shaking his head. Today I asked if he wanted to walk to the library with me and he said a very loud and emphatic "no!"

It's a bit of a dilemma -- we want to reward him for good language, but sometimes you just can't. He kept asking me for a box of floss: "I want the box" -- but then pulling the floss out and out and out, and, well, that's not so great, you know? But he kept asking and I wanted to give him what he was asking for. So I kept giving it to him and taking it back...

last // home // next

log archives

current log / Damian essay archive / other essays archive / what's all this, then?

copyright 2001 Tamar