July 2001 page 1 of 2
Sunday 1 July

Dan started vacuuming, Damian followed suit. Nice to know that ritual still has meaning.

Diane, Darin and Sophia stopped by. He had no trouble with them walking into the house even though I hadn't warned him till they got here. This is relatively new, this acceptance of new people into our house. Sophia was a good challenge for Damian -- she explored his room and his toys and sat beside him playing with the same toy. He was mostly comfortable with it, though he didn't make any overtures. He's not developmentally up to it yet.

Diane and Darin brought an amazing raspberry chocolate mousse cake from Michel Richard. Damian saw it and wanted it RIGHT NOW. So I put a small slice on a plate and went into the kitchen to get plates and such. I showed Diane the back yard very briefly and we went back into the dining room. A minute elapsed, if that. Well, it was plenty long enough for Damian. He had eaten half his slice and run his fork over and into the rest of the cake, which looked like a construction crew had been at it -- or should I say, a deconstruction crew. It still tasted wonderful, though. I was sort of shocked. It's like drawing on the wall (which he did recently) -- typical preschooler mischief that Damian would never have done -- not until now. So I guess it's a good thing...?!

Damian had a lot of fun out in the yard tonight. He helped me pull up a bunch of onion plants. He had to pull with all his strength to get those suckers up. Then he took two onions. He unwrapped them, gave one to Dan and one to me, then said "Mommy and Daddy have onions." He also used his little yellow watering can to douse the earth (he liked filling it from the garden hose), and he pushed his toy hoe around making machine noises. Dan commented that it seems to be a power hoe. His socks got filthy, but we all had fun out there. I love having a back yard! At one point, he came over to me and said "pick you up": he wanted to check out the clothesline across the back corner of the yard. It's such a simple thing, but I was so glad that he could use words unprompted to let me know what he wanted instead of whining and pulling at my skirt. Sometimes it feels like everything is an effort and I wonder when it will all click, but then other times it feels like it's clicking already.

Monday 2 July

Dance & Jingle this morning. Dan had told me it didn't go well last week, and the same interim teacher was leading again today. I didn't have high expectations. And it sure looked less than wonderful at the beginning. Damian didn't really engage. He especially didn't want to stand up out of my lap for the jumping or the turning around. Just wouldn't. When the teacher brought out the microphone so the kids could sing into it, I was ready to get up and walk out. Fortunately, that didn't last long. Then she brought out a storybook and the kids gathered around. Damian sat steadfast in my lap, so I brought my lap to the book. I scootched along the floor till we got close enough to be part of the group. We sat like that till the end of the book, then I said I had to stand up to go back to our pillow. That finally got him out of my lap. Then he was okay. He enjoyed the hula hoop "wheels on the bus" and the animal puppet "down on grandpa's farm" -- he even put a kitty puppet on his hand. Very unusual for him. So I'm glad we stayed.

His time with Gamma was at the clinic today. She got him on a trampoline, his first time without a handle. He didn't like it one bit. I explained to Gamma, then she held out her hands so he could use her as a handle. He jumped happily. I said "Bye bye, Damian, I'm going." He responded, "Bye bye, Mommy." A non-prompted non-request. Cool.

Damian's been enjoying our yard more. He and Dan ran the remote control car down our driveway. This involved a lot of shrieking. Then he helped me till the soil to prepare for flower seeds. This involved a lot of digging. Then he lay on the back porch beside me. This involved a lot of zoning out. Well, two out of three ain't bad. He got his first bandaid over a cut on his knee. He was scared of it at first, then grew quite attached to it. Later, he was playing doctor with Dan. He ran to find me, brandishing the toy bandaid for my pretend boo-boo.

He was very tired during his bath, the worst possible time to wash his hair, but he's getting a haircut tomorrow, so it was a necessity. Damian had a fit at the idea. Screaming crying. But we talked to him about it, gave him a choice of now or tomorrow morning (his response, of course, was "no"). Kept talking about it and finally he sat down. Still crying, but softly. And he let me wash his hair. I kept telling him how brave he was. And he really was, to submit to that sensory overstimulation when he was so exhausted. I was very proud of him for that.

Tuesday 3 July

I was rushing around getting ready for our trek to the West Side. I left everything on the couch: snacks in a bag, Damian's juice in a cooler, my water in another bag, my leather backpack, Damian's diapers, and the all-important digital camera. I left the room. When I came back a few minutes later, I found the cap to my water on the floor and the couch soaked and my camera dripping wet. Damian had decided to try his luck at unscrewing the cap. He'd succeeded. He'd left the scene of the crime. I swear, he's becoming more like a typical kid his age by the day. For better and worse.

We let the camera dry out. I still don't know if it's okay.

For the big event of the day, read my account here.

Wednesday 4 July

Last night we asked Damian what he does after reading books (the answer: rock). He wouldn't or couldn't answer for a very long time, even when we were giving him choices and then finally just asking point blank ("do you rock?"). It bothered me. I didn't know if it was just tiredness, but it sure seemed like he couldn't sequence the nightly events in his head. So this afternoon I asked him again. It took some coaxing, but he did answer me correctly without my feeding him the answer. So I guess it was just tiredness. We're starting to ask him more questions during slideshow time, though it's hard (the pictures change a little too fast for his brain to process the word he wants to say). But I do think that's the next step with the nightly slideshow.

Gamma came today (yes, it's a holiday but she didn't mind so we said "sure!"). He was very tired, so she didn't do anything rambunctious with him. She said she mimicked his actions and he thought that was funny. At one point, she put some music on. She told me later it was because he was making beep-beep sorts of machine noises and wasn't responding to her. Verbal stimming, she called it. With the music on, he stopped beeping and got more vocal and responsive. Interesting.

She also said his hands are getting stronger; she's been working with him with silly putty, among other things, and I've been playing tug-of-war with him. I've noticed him opening and closing his hands recently.

I went into Damian's room. He was playing with Dan, so he said "Mommy go away." I sat down and said "Mommy stay." He came over with a sippy cup and tipped it over into my lap. It wasn't an act of aggression, though: the cup was empty. He was illustrating.

I did get him to say "fill it," though, before I left the room. Also got him to say the juice was in the kitchen (as opposed to the bathroom -- I gave him a choice) and in the fridge (as opposed to the oven or the sink). We want to up the bar, so to speak, make him think and use more words, even if we have to feed those words to him at first.

He was singing the goodbye song tonight, illustrating various parts (around and around, slowly slowly faster faster) and then after "and now we say goodbye," he sang "goodbye Mommy," and ran down the hall.

Thursday 5 July

Damian painted this morning. I asked him to paint a circle and he made a very convincing, steady orb. Then he drew with chalk on the other side of the easel, drawing vertical and horizontal lines and crossing them. This is all significant because Heidi has been working with him on this very thing in OT. It's pre-writing skills and he didn't do terribly well at it just a couple of months ago. His hands are getting more sure.

Still a lot of book quoting. Don't know what it means.

When I told Damian Jami was coming soon, he rushed to the living room to see. We all waited on the front step for her, and he gave her a big smile in greeting.

She told us later that they were playing hide-and-seek and Damian said "I have to hide" and then went under the easel and said "I am hiding in the easel." He did the same with the chair, including the "I have to hide" part. It's a huge relief to hear this. We've been really worried that he might be plateauing with few words and rare sentences. Jami said we shouldn't worry, that he's come a long way in a short time; he's got so many more words readily available and he's so social now. We need the perspective.

Jami watched Gamma and then critiqued her work. She thinks Gamma needs to do more sequencing with Damian: telling him what they're about to do, giving three steps and seeing how much he can do without reminder. And that she needs to give choices more, and elicit language in more fun, more natural ways. I talked to Gamma about some of it after the session. I think Jami has a point, and it's good to keep an eye on that stuff. For me, I'm concerned that Gamma and Na aren't giving Damian enough chance to interact in pretend play scenarios. But there's a lot good that they're doing too; the rest is a matter of one adjustment here and another adjustment there. Hell, I can use adjustments in my Floor Time too...

Tonight when watching the slideshow, Damian was able to identify and tell me about a lot of things he saw. For instance: When we saw the picture of him painting; I asked what colors? I supplied orange and purple and said "what else?" and he said "red." I said "What's that game? 'I'm a little'..." Damian said, "Teapot." And then he said "pictures" and "books" and "rocking chair" and "bed" for the pictures of the evening ritual. All without verbal reminders of what the words were. Woo-hoo!

Friday 6 July

This morning Damian came crying to me in the bathroom. When I asked what was wrong, he said "thirsty!" I got him juice and he was happy. Communication. Ain't it grand?

The zoo trip went well. It felt odd to have Damian be essentially passive up there on Dan's back, but he was alert and interested and there's definitely value in making the animals more real for him.

We ate out at a Mexican restaurant. Got Damian quesadillas, just cheese in a flour tortilla, but he refused to eat it. I tore off a small bit of tortilla and he ate it willingly. Then I tore off a piece with cheese on it. The cheese was white, so it blended with the tortilla. He ate it. He then proceeded to eat the entire quesadilla. I simply separated the two halves from each other so it wasn't so intimidatingly sandwich-seeming. He has trouble with food combinations, so anything that makes it feel less threatening is good.

Saturday 7 July

This morning I was lying on Damian's bed telling him how we'll tear down the wallpaper in Damian's room and paint the walls blue and yellow. He ran out of the room, saying "Mommy, come!" He led me onto the back porch and his easel. I thought he was reminded of painting by the conversation. He dipped his brush into the blue paint, though, and then headed back inside. He he wanted to paint his wall blue!

Out running errands. We got out of the car at the hardware store. Damian said to himself, "After the paint store, we went to Koontz." Telling the story of his day just like when we do his slideshow at night, but telling it as he lived it. I'd say the slideshow is working to give him language and a sense of before and after.

Tonight he watched me water the zinnia bed from his perch on the back porch. He said, "What's Mommy doing? She's watering the plants." He repeated it, and then commented on his own activity too, something like "You watch from the porch" or "you watch from here."

Then there's our potty discussion. It's been a great language day.

Sunday 8 July

Damian and I played with playdoh. He said things like "we made a butterfly" and "we made a hotdog." Totally unprompted. He started squishing the playdoh. I got him to use a knife. When I tried to get him to use the scissors, he refused (it feels too hard), but he made his fingers into pretend scissors instead and "cut" the playdoh with them.

Watching Dan wash the cars: "Daddy is washing the car." Narrative language seems to be coming up. It's kind of interesting. Probably a result of the slideshow, at least partly. He's gone through phases of it before, even before all the therapy. I suspect it's a necessary stage that he's aborted in the past. Just a guess.

Twice this morning I said "I have to pee, do you have to pee?" and Damian replied "no." But then I had to change his diaper and he had a cow, so I said when he's potty trained he won't have to wear diapers anymore. Then he wanted to try the potty. (I don't remember the words he used, but he made it clear.) So we went to the bathroom. I highly doubted he really had to pee, but he claimed he did. He didn't right away, so Dan brought in some books and I read to Damian for a while. We gave him juice in case he hadn't had to pee -- I figure, if he sits long enough after drinking juice, he *will* have to and then, voila, mission accomplished. Something worked, because he did.

Later, Dan was talking to Damian about how he should come to Mommy or Daddy and say "pee" when he has to pee (ie: give him the basic drill, repeat as many times as possible). Damian came running into my office and said "pee!" I don't think it meant "I know my bladder is full right now." I think it meant "This is kind of neat, let's do it again." So we did. Dan read to him this time, several Harold and the Purple Crayon stories. Stories and juice and a successful potty visit. That makes three times in two days. This is starting to look like it's for real.

Playing with his Matchbox trucks, he had two nose to nose and said, "Hello, I am very well, I have to tell you goodbye." I think he was narrating their dialogue! Then a few minutes later there was a bit of a Matchbox traffic jam. Damian said "Everybody move!"

Don't mistake me. It's not like he just chatters all day long. Well, he does, but it's mostly still book quotes. He uses a few phrases functionally over and over -- "Mommy come" and so on, but it's fairly primitive. These full sentences, these narrations, they're popping up more and more but still not threaded through the day. Still, how cool.

Monday 9 July

First day back at school in two weeks. No hesitation leaving the house. Damian was looking forward to school. Dan says he got a little nervous once he was there, though, kept checking in with Dan, making anxious eye contact. But he relaxed when LaBelle came in, gave her a spontaneous wave and a genuine hug.

Dance & Jingle went better than it has the past couple of weeks. The regular teacher is back. Coincidence? Damian LOVES shaking the parachute when it's got balls bouncing on top. Lots of happy shouting. Sometimes quotes, sometimes not. Today it was mostly "Shake! Shake!" Which was what Nancy (the teacher) was singing.

Two potty visits this afternoon. Neither ended up in a pee. Oh well. The second time, Damian ran off with no pants/diaper. Naturally, he peed a minute later, in the living room. He was a bit upset, I think because I then tried to coax him back to the potty to "finish" when there was in fact nothing to finish. Hey, I'm learning this stuff too.

He loves going out to the back yard in the evening when I water the flower bed. He runs to his little plastic log cabin and quotes/acts out a whole book. The impetus is the water spray from the hose, and he launches into "Big Mouse, Big Mouse, I think it's raining." It may be part of his "issues' but it's still awfully cute. I think the acting-it-out part is a pretty normal kid thing to do, though.

No bedtime ritual tonight. Damian tripped and fell after dinner. As I comforted him on the couch, he fell asleep, so I put him to bed in his clothes. Tired boy. First day back on school hours.

Tuesday 10 July

Damian was apparently very tired this morning, low energy at school and not wanting to do much swinging at Heidi's. He did have a lot of language, though. Dan reports that Damian sang the ABC song all the way through in a nice loud voice.

Heidi hadn't seen him in two weeks and she specifically noticed that his response time is much faster when you ask him something. You only have to ask him once, not three or four times, before he answers, and there's no lag. He answers immediately.

Wednesday 11 July

Dan reports that one of Damian's teachers told him Damian pulled her hand to get her to come. He was disturbed by this, as am I: when Damian does something like that, we always ask him to use words, and he does. We think they're underestimating him and therefore not pushing him as much as they could.

We were lying on Damian's bed. He bumped his head against my shoulder, hurting me. I said it hurt, but I knew it was an accident. He leaned over and kissed my shoulder and then my forehead. So sweet. Kissing it better.

He's been quoting a lot from books. Not sure how to handle it. I've been trying to enter the story with him. So tonight he was shouting "A dog barked. 'Scat, cat' a woman shouted. The cat scat." Or something like that; I don't remember the book he's quoting from, so the words don't stick. But I said "woof woof" when the dog barked, and shouted "Scat!" at the appropriate moment, and chased Dante. Damian thought this was very funny. He kept quoting it over and over, and running around with me chasing Dante, and shouting "Scat!" with me. Still not sure it was the right approach, but trying to change the story or ask questions about it don't seem to work. I figure, if you can't deter 'em, join 'em.

Thursday 12 July

We went to a restaurant for dinner. Damian finished his mac and cheese and stared staring at the light, which weirded me out. So I brought out a couple of toys: a fire truck with firefighter and a motorcycle with cyclist. We watched him play with them completely appropriately. He had the firefighter climb the truck's ladder, he crashed the vehicles into each other, he had the two drivers get out and confer (kiss?). It was so cool to watch. Used to be, he'd just run the vehicles back and forth, back and forth, back and forth. No crashing, no interaction, no nuthin'. I love watching his imaginative play.

Friday 13 July

Damian started quoting from one his favorite books today, about the Great Goob, who's so sick the main character has to go over the wall to the neighbor's orchard and get all sorts of foods, and then scramble back over as the neighbor's mean dog snaps at his heels and grabs his sneaker. (Stay with me. The detail pays off.) He's quoted from it a million times and it's impossible to turn it into any kind of back and forth discussion, as it usually is with his story-retelling. But we were in Damian's room and near his box of toy food. So Dan became the Great Goob and I handed Damian various foods to feed the hungry creature. Then I turned into a dog and started woofing at Damian's heel, pretending to eat his sock. Dan encouraged him to run away. Damian ran over to his bed and clambered over the guard rail, which I thought was an excellent representation of a wall. I pretended to snap at his heels but in reality I boosted him over the rail onto the bed. All in all, a fun game. Pretty good Floor Time too.

I did something similar but less involved tonight: Damian was quoting "Don't sneeze, you'll wake Mama!" (Another book, of course.) So I said "Ah-ah-ah-ah-CHOO!" He laughed and dived into the couch cushions. Then we did it again, a duet of "ah-ah-CHOO!" and he dived again into the couch. He's been turning his book reciting into game-playing; how much better when it can be an interactive game. I still wish he didn't quote so much, but at least if he's both using his imagination and connecting with other people as he does, it's serving some good purpose.

I was exhausted this afternoon, so I was attempting to take a nap. Damian, of course, didn't think this was such a great idea and kept pulling at me and saying "Wake up!" I said I didn't want to wake up, I wanted to lie down for a while, and by the way don't pull my hair. He ran off. Came back with scissors! The little imp started cutting my hair! Cracked me up.

I brought a pizza out of the oven. Damian was interested in eating it. I said I needed to go get a knife and cut it first. I went to the kitchen. He went to his bedroom. When I came back, knife in hand, he did too. He'd fetched his toy knife and started cutting the pizza with it. Of course, he didn't actually cut through the crust, but I applauded the effort.

We've started working on "where" questions with him. He says "Mommy, come" or "Daddy, come" and then we ask "Come where?" Just a week ago, he'd just look at you with a "huh?" expression and either stay silent or repeat the "come" request. Now he actually points to where he wants you to go. It's a start, and an important one, I think. He's having to think about his response. So then we say "Kitchen? Damian's bedroom?" and let him say which one (therefore not taxing his word retrieval).

Saturday 14 July

We brought Damian to a birthday party today, one of the kids from his old preschool class turned three. We always worry when we bring him to such things; it can be overwhelming for him to be around so many kids his age. They can be intimidating. But he did great. He was able to hang out around the other kids without fear for the most part and he was definitely able to have fun. He didn’t lose words or connectedness with us. Lucky for us, they had a version of Dance & Jingle. Nancy wasn’t there, but a friend of hers led it and it was identical to the familiar Monday sessions. Damian was a little less comfortable than he is on Mondays. I’m sure it was the environment and the crowd of kids. But he did have fun and mostly or partly stayed with it. His focus went in and out but he stayed in the group.

He’s been talking more, with more original sentences. Two odd things about it, though: he not only confuses you for I, he confuses I for you. So he’ll say "tie your shoe" meaning his own shoe but then he’ll say "See, I got the box" meaning "Mommy, you got the box." And he sometimes talks about events as if they’re in the past tense: "he ran into the house" when it should be "I’m running into the house." I think the latter may be due to our nightly slideshow/retelling of his day, but I know it’s giving him the ability to even think about narrating and using words, so I don’t want to stop doing it. It’s odd, though. I’m looking forward to speech therapy starting up again: I think this is something a ST can correct. But the fact that he’s talking more is really fucking cool.

Sunday 15 July

Damian’s been doing a lot of narrating lately. This morning he watched Dan sweep the driveway and gave a running commentary along the lines of: "Daddy is sweeping" and "Damian is running." Present tense. This is good.

We went to the beach for the first time in about a year. Damian loved walking on the sand barefoot, and thoroughly enjoyed holding our hands at the edge of the tide, but he was adamant about being picked up (we lifted him in the air between us) every time the water came up to lap at our feet. He would not get his feet wet. No way no how. He loved watching and jumping to avoid the waves, though. He exclaimed along with the crash of the surf. Later, I was standing further toward the ocean, letting my legs get soaked with the tide, and Damian ran toward me. He got caught in the rush of water just as he reached me. He was not at all happy about this, and wanted me to use my sweatshirt as a towel and dry his legs off immediately. I didn’t. I have to give him credit; he whined but didn’t freak. I tried to persuade him it was fun to get your legs wet in the ocean. He was unconvinced.

Last night I told Damian I was going to wash his hair and he had a fit. So I told him we could do it then or wait till tonight. He wanted to wait, of course. Tonight I went into the bathroom just after his bath started and told him the time was at hand. He immediately stood up and said "All done!" He was trying to declare the bath over. Then he grabbed the washcloth away from me and tried tossing it into the bathroom. I fetched it back. He snatched it out of my hand and tried putting it back on the rail. That didn’t work too well, so he took it to the far end of the bathtub and tried stuffing into the corner. He said "Let me do it!" (Quoting a book, but using it correctly.) I said, "Let you wash your hair?" He said "Yes!" and put the washcloth on his hair. I let him wet his own hair. He did a decent job of it. Then I soaped up his hair. He wanted to rinse it, but I was worried he’d get soap in his eyes, so we had to just get it over with fast. I asked him afterwards if he wanted to try soaping his hair next time. He said yes.

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