August 2001 page 2 of 2
Thursday 16 August

Word retrieval was excellent all day. He spoke in complete sentences. ("I am going to finger paint with my fingers."). He filled in words with relative ease. ("Now we're at..." "School.") He seemed to enjoy words. Nice.

Yesterday I talked to May about Damian and how far he's come. She said the main thing she's concerned about with him now is that he's still not initiating interaction with his peers. I said yes, and also he doesn't initiate that much with adults -- he does let us know (usually with words) when he wants something, but he doesn't chat us up or take the lead in play. That's going to be the main focus for all of us.

I watched his session with Hallie, his new/temporary speech therapist. I find her a combination of wonderful and not quite hitting the mark. She read books to him, had him fill in words. Eh. We do that at home. Big deal. Seems like her time could be put to better use. And she brought out toy construction vehicles, which he then took over and did his own thing, and she seemed to have no idea how to get in the middle of it. She did pull back from that and took the trucks away -- gracefully, too. But that was also wasted time. Then again, she had him play whistles and such (stimulating his oral motor sensory integration, which makes it easier to talk) and she worked with him on understanding sequences, which makes it easier to use language, and she was smart and engaging. She's a very good therapist. It's been fascinating to me to see the differences between people using the same basic approach.

She was working on getting Damian to use his big voice (she called it his Damian voice) instead of a soft murmur. She modeled soft and loud for him and encouraged him to follow suit. I thought that made a lot of sense. I asked her about his whispering/soft speech. She said she has indeed seen it before, that she sees it in highly intelligent kids and she thinks they're too aware of their own speech (that they're not pronouncing everything correctly -- Damian has three-year-old-isms like "yeyo" for yellow). It makes them self conscious so their voice drops. I think there's a lot to this theory: Damian stopped talking aloud when he started at the typical preschool: he was surrounded by kids who were a lot more verbal than he was and I've always thought it shot his confidence to hell. Laura always said it was just "autistic", ie: without any true cause, but that never felt right. This feels more accurate.

Hallie also said that she thinks he'll learn to read early. I said, "you mean, he'll be hyperlexic?" (spectrum kids who read early often have their reading comprehension outstrip their verbal ability and are called hyperlexic -- it's a PDD subcategory). She said yes, that's what she's thinking, because he's so smart and he picks up sequences quickly. She said hyperlexia is a good thing (if you're already dx'd as PDD), it can be useful.

I talked to Boss Lady today, the floor time coordinator at the non-school clinic, about J, the floor timer I'm not happy with. (I'm obviously going to have to invent a whole slew of pseudonyms so I can be as frank as I want about everyone.) She's a very good floor timer herself. Of course she wasn't going to criticize her employee to me, so I didn't get that satisfying, "How inappropriate!" response, but she did say a few interesting things. J apparently works with mostly older kids, around six or seven years old, with more language. In that situation, it may be more appropriate to coax language the way J does. I've also seen J try to have a conversation with Damian in a way that's way beyond his ability, and I consider that very poor judgement, very insensitive. He won't be able to respond, he'll feel like a failure, his confidence in speaking will go down, and he'll shut up. Which is what happens after J leaves. Boss Lady said she can talk to J, but in her experience, therapists may change for a session or two but then revert; it really is a matter of style and you can't adjust someone's style that much. So she switched us to someone else who she described as "very Greenspanny", the most pure floor timer there. Which sounds great. We shall see.

Gamma had a very good session with Damian today. She, at least, has taken to heart some of the things we've been talking about. The way she elicited language was perfect, and afterwards his language was up and his echoing was down. That's how I know she was doing it well. And she entered into his play and expanded on it and gave him obstacles and kept getting him to think for himself. Nice.

While I was cooking dinner, Damian investigated the utensil drawer. He opened the bag clips and attached them to the front of the drawer. I was amused and left it that way. Half an hour later, I went into the kitchen to check on the food. Discovered the clips were back in the now closed drawer. Kid cleaned up after himself. Damn.

Something else cute he did with the utensils: he took the nutmeg grater and started using it to "scrape" the drawer front, and placed a plastic funnel over his nose. Scraper and face mask. I was intensely amused. Also delighted in his imagination.

For dinner, I offered mac & cheese, pasta, or salmon. He didn't respond. I asked if he wanted mac & cheese. He said yes. When I warmed it up, he devoured it. A minute later, he said, "I want pasta." Devoured the plate of pasta. Said, "I want salmon"! I offered a cookie. He accepted. Ate the cookie, asked for salmon again. We cooked salmon. He ate a few bites. I was amazed he had room.

I've figured out how to handle the feeding issue. He will now pick up the spoon or fork once food is on it and put it in his mouth, then put it back into the bowl but wait for me/Dan to fill it before picking it up again. So I've been putting my hand around his and spearing the pasta/scooping the yogurt together. Giving him the feeling of doing it. It's starting to work. He speared a piece of salmon tonight on his own, without thinking. It makes me think his avoidance has been about not wanting to make a mistake, not wanting to drop a piece of food. He felt too clumsy to self-feed. Helping guide his hand can boost his confidence in how to do it.

Friday 17 August

Damian: Lie down.

Me: What?

Damian: On the trampoline.

Me: Oh. Okay.

Damian: "Okay, I'll lie down."

I lie down. He lies down next to me.

Damian: Turn on the light.

Me: Okay.

Damian: "Okay, I'll turn on the light."

My son is modelling language for me, expanding on my words just like the textbooks suggest.

Saturday 18 August

Damian and I went to a picnic given by the clinic where Damian has floor time. He was into it for a while in a timid way. He sat in my lap and listened to music, he let Gamma (one of his therapists) take him off to check out the rest of the party... but he was subdued and somewhat withdrawn (no stimming, though). After about an hour, he seemed like he wasn't having fun anymore. I asked if wanted to stay or go home. He wanted to go home. That was that. I felt wistful. I wonder when and whether he'll be able to enjoy a party like that.

He got a beanie baby elephant as a party favor. He liked it. I called it Ellie the Flying Elephant. Damian ran around the house flying Ellie, then stopped at the phone table and fed her some potpourri. I caught him using her trunk to put the top back on the bowl, obviously pretending she was doing it herself.

Damian spoke to my father on the phone tonight. With prompting. He said "Hi Grandpa" and "Bye, Grandpa." Then he hung out with me and eventually left the room. He came back later with the cordless phone, holding it up to his ear. Mimicking me or wanting to talk to his grandfather again? I asked and he assented, so he got to say hi and bye again. Neat that he wanted to.

Tonight, Damian stood up in the bathtub and announced, "All done." Dan said, "With the bath?" Damian replied, "Yes." Dan asked, "What do you want to do?" Damian said, "Get out." Dan said something like "okay" or "good" in response, then Damian said, "I have an idea, I get you out." This is not the first time he's begun a sentence with "I have an idea." I have no idea where he's getting this idea from.

Another thing he's started saying: he'll ask you to do something and occasionally add on the phrase, "if you like." So he might say, "I want to jump on the trampoline with Mommy if you like." His version of "please"?

Sunday 19 August

Farmer’s market this morning. Hot. We walk the three blocks from the car. From his backpack perch on Dan’s back, Damian announces, "I want juice." Juice is in the car. I offer him a gummy bear vitamin. He accepts. Eats it. Says, "I want juice." What we do for our children. I run back to the car and get it. Damian drinks it down. Wants more. No way. I offer gummy bears. That works. I run out of gummies. I show him a chewy candy heart. He says, "Mommy, I want a heart." The word was right there on his tongue, I didn’t have to help him find it. His word retrieval is getting better by leaps and bounds. So exciting.

We went to California Pizza Kitchen tonight. Damian made up a song about it: "We’re going to CPK, we’re going to CPK, we’re going to CPK." Okay, the lyrics aren’t exactly what you’d call sophisticated, but the delivery was delightful. Everything is a song these days. It’s kind of funny. He’s got a great sense of rhythm.

Dan thinks Damian likes CPK because it’s so busy and loud and bright. He gets off on the visuals and tends to space out. It’s like a drug for him, a visual stim. Not so great. I think we’re going to scale back on going there.

The teddy bear sat in my lap on the bed. Damian sat on the bed facing us. Teddy and Damian played ball, throwing a small rainbow colored ball back and forth. I think Damian liked it because Teddy wasn’t exactly an intimidating ball player. At one point, Teddy mock-spit on the ball before throwing it. Damian followed suit. And Damian did other things, like winding up before a throw, that I didn’t know he knew to do. It was way more fun than I’d anticipated.

Monday 20 August

New Floor Timer today to replace the one we weren't happy with. When she got here, Damian echoed almost everything she said. Reverting to echolalia. Strange. He seemed to lay off on that after a while; maybe it was nervousness? Dan and I are on the fence about this one. She's the first one who seems to really follow the Greenspan method, but she's very low key and Damian responds much more to high affect (raised happy voice, large gestures, animated face). He lay down to play, which he rarely does these days. Why is it so hard to find the right fit?

Damian has started narrating our lives. Examples: "Mommy is changing the water bottle," "Mommy is talking to Daddy," "We're going to the paint store" (this turned into a song: we're going to the paint store, paint store, paint store, we're going to the paint store (something something something)).

Damian watched Dumbo with Dan. At one point, he got up and ran into his room. Looking for his beanie baby elephant. He watched the rest of the movie with Dan and the elephant. Afterwards, he ran around the house "flying" his elephant. And even sans elephant, just plain flying, his arms outstretched. I think he liked the movie.

Tuesday 21 August

Damian's getting much better at word retrieval and also at sequencing and recall. I told him in the morning the day's events, then around two p.m., I said, "Who's coming to see you now?" He replied, "Gamma" without any hesitation.

I gave him a massage this afternoon, with lotion and everything. I've been meaning to do it for a couple of months. Heidi gave me a booklet on infant/child massage. It's supposed to really help sensory integration. I'm going to do it every day. Damian was very hesitant about having his shorts and socks off but he liked the massage itself. I put the clothing back on him as soon as I finished doing his legs. He sat up and took his shirt off himself, eager to have me work on his arms and torso. It was interesting: he giggled at first. I think it tickled even though I used a firm touch. But as he relaxed into it, it stopped tickling. He didn't get floppy/relaxed; he remained alert. But he was very engaged with me, maintaining eye contact, interested in the whole process. He said "yes," meaning keep going and "no" meaning stop to try and control what I was doing. Ha. Next time I'll try putting on some classical music.

I sat on my bed. Damian picked up the phone, gave it to me to talk into. I obliged. He ran and got his toy phone so we could have a conversation. He mimicked everything I said, then said "I'm going to talk to you, bye" and hung up. As strange as this sounds, this was an amazing thing. He does like to mimic us, and he's held the phone to his ear before, but to actually mimic a conversation, that's something new and quite exciting. He did the same thing later, after dinner. Dan picked up the cell phone and called Damian on the land line. Damian was much less sure of himself when it was an actual, rather than a pretend, phone call. His voice dropped to a nearly indistinguishable murmur and he said "yes" a few times and then "bye" and that was all.

I told Damian we were having lasagna for dinner. He went around saying "I want layanya" for the next half hour, then ate an adult-sized portion. Guess he meant it. It's veggie lasagna (Amy's Organic), really yummy and virtually the only way to get vegetables into him.

Damian's been enjoying splashing water from a green cup in the tub the past few nights. Tonight he asked for it by name (it was still in the drawer). "I want the cup." "The green cup or the yellow cup?" "The green cup." Remembering, finding the words, asking with no cues, either verbal or visual. He's coming along.

I washed his hair tonight. So much less of an ordeal than the last few times (maybe because of the massage??). Afterwards, we sat on the bed and talked about the experience. I asked him to fill in the blanks: "First I put the washcloth in the ---" "water". "Then we used it to wet your --- " "hair". Etc. He nailed every one. He couldn't do that a month ago, maybe not even two weeks ago.

Wednesday 22 August

We're tackling a difficult problem now: crying. Damian seems to cry at the drop of a hat. Probably because he's being challenged more. But he cries when he's mad, he cries when he's momentarily thwarted, he cries when he's emphatic about something, he cries when you ask him to do something he doesn't want to do (pull on his socks, open the door, open his sippy cup lid on his own). It's exhausting to be around. He cries and immediately asks for a tissue, and cries harder when he realizes he has to get his own tissue. So. We're telling him he doesn't have to cry about everything, and we're trying to help him identify his emotions: anger and frustration aren't the same as sadness. It's hard because it extends the bout of crying, but it's not something we can avoid. But I have to say, by this evening, he got mad at me and did NOT cry. He hit me instead. But hey, that's at least an expression of anger. I can work with that.

When Damian doesn't know what something's called or he momentarily forgets, he very naturally refers to it as "it." Which leads directly to statements like: "Give me back it." Not only is this rather cute, but it shows him thinking. He's not just repeating a remembered phrase (until recently, he'd say "give it back"), he's putting together his own words.

Friday 24 August

Damian has just discovered the magical power of the word please. It's awfully hard to resist a kid who says "pick me up pwease." Especially if he's a kid whose words are so hard won. He often gives a command, then says it again, adding please. We're not prompting a whole lot for this, just being (dare I say?) pleased when he does it.

An odd tic/stim: he puts his fingers over his eyes, looks like someone pretending to wear glasses. Don't know what this one's about, but I usually pretend he's wearing glasses and we go from there.

He's been into throwing things lately. I was washing dishes before dinner. Damian carried his stool over so he could stand beside me, then grabbed my rings from the ring holder, played with them for a few minutes, then flung them across the counter. I couldn't find my wedding ring. I was not happy. It turned out to be lodged behind the mixing bowl in the KitchenAid. Damian got a "no throwing" talking-to. He said "I'm sorry" (with my prompting -- I told him that's what you say in this situation). I forgave him. Not ten minutes later, he was throwing something else. Time to reinstitute the "if you throw it, you lose it for the rest of the day" rule. We haven't had to use that one for several months. He's really a three year old now.

Major meltdown today after dinner. Tiredness was the main culprit. It's so frustrating. He gets angry and then cries and immediately starts in on the "I want a tissue" routine, so you can't start talking to him about the anger. He switches the topic on you. He's started doing something interesting: he gets really upset and can't seem to pull himself together, so he asks for juice. He's figured out that sucking on the straw helps him calm down. He was very upset tonight, though. He kept saying "I want to drink juice" even though he was holding the juice. He was too upset to drink. I said "it's okay" over and over and rubbed his back and he calmed enough to drink.

Saturday 25 August

Yesterday Dan and Damian were playing with Damian's camping toys (a backpack with miniature plastic binox, compass, etc). They had the canteen, Dan was talking to Damian about it when Damian came out with: "We have a canteen at school." And I'm they do -- this month's theme was camping, they played with tents, etc. But that he remembered and commented on it to Dan -- wow. That's so very cool, I can't express how cool. Dan asked which canteen Damian liked better, the one at home or the one at school. I think Damian said the one at school. Ha.

This morning, I asked Damian what he wanted for breakfast: cereal, granola bar, bagel. He requested a granola bar. Ate it. Then he saw us eating cereal and asked for some. Sat in my lap and ate it, dry as always. He doesn't like to mix textures. Then he spotted Dan's cereal and asked for some of that, "I want some granola cereal." Which it was. Granola, I mean. I was impressed with his ability to put the words together to form that compound object definition. So he got some granola cereal.

We ate lunch at a deli. Damian wouldn't touch his pb&j after he put his lips to the edge and discovered the bread was stale. Sensitive to texture, this one. Later, he found a tiny American flag. He picked it up and started waving it. We asked what it was. He said "a flag" and then added, "flap, flap, flap."

I gave him a massage after dinner instead of before. This might have been a mistake. Boy was he wired. He kept flailing his arms and raising his legs, etc. Not exactly the relaxing together time I'd envisioned. But he enjoyed the rubdown nevertheless. When I was rubbing one leg, he rubbed the other in mimicry. When I rubbed the palms of his hands, he laughed. When I rubbed his chest, he seemed to finally quiet.

I think the massage is doing something for him -- I washed his hair tonight and he was amazingly calm and cooperative. He did however insist, "I want Starburst" at the end. (We used to use a Starburst candy to get him to look up toward the ceiling so I could rinse his hair -- now he looks up voluntarily, but still wants his reward afterward.)

Much less crying today. Much much less. I was in a good mood; I think he's an emotion sponge.

Sunday 26 August

Viv came over for lunch and stayed the afternoon. We talked away the day. Damian got bored at various points and asked me to stop talking and to play with him, but by and large, he did pretty well. He warmed up to Viv after a while, bestowing smiles on her and responding (verbally) to her questions. Most of the time, though, his voice was high and squeaky. Nervousness? Interestingly, his voice returned to normal after he and I snuggled on his bed. So she got to hear his real kid tones.

When I massaged him tonight before dinner, he started flapping his arms. Second day in a row. I finally figured out why: I put on a CD of Amazon Rainforest sounds. (I'd wanted to put on Bach, but Damian didn't want music. This was a compromise.) Damian was listening to the bird sounds and pretending to be a bird.

Dan took Damian out of his bath and asked what we do next. Damian said "see pictures." Dan asked what happens after pictures. "Read books." "What happens before pictures and books?" Damian thought about it. Said "rock." Dan said "That's what happens AFTER pictures and books. What happens before?" Well, it took a while and some reminding and choices (one of which was put on clothes but none was the actual event Dan was trying to elicit), but Damian finally said "put on pajamas." We cheered. He clearly has problems understanding "before" and "after."

We've been using one of Damian's library books to work with him on response. It's called Hi, Pizza Man! It's a series of pizza deliveries-of-the-imagination, from a pizza man to a pizza dinosaur. Every time, mom says "What if it's not a Pizza Woman? What if it's a Pizza Cat?" (Or whatever) and the little girl says "Hi Pizza Woman!" or "Meow meow, Pizza Cat!" Well, Damian's never been able to handle much more than the "meow meow" but tonight he readily volunteered the whole thing the little girl says. On every single page. That was way cool.

Monday 27 August

Our first Damian and Mommy day -- Dan off at his first day of work, no school or services. We did fine. I was surprised to find that Damian did not in fact cling to me all day. I was even able to make bread with him racing in and out of the kitchen. He only asked "Mommy, come" once and accepted my "soon, when I'm done" answer.I think it helped that I'd told him what was up beforehand. Damian does so much better with everything if you tell him before the fact. Forewarned and all.

Before the bread making began, I was on the phone with Dan. I asked him what he wanted me to buy for lunches for him. He said, among other things, bread. I did not repeat the word. But Damian did! He suddenly said "I want bread." He either psychically picked up on the thought or he has extrasensitive hearing and heard Dan's voice on the other end of the phone (and he wasn't that close to me at the time). Either is impressive.

I was exhausted this morning (lack of sleep -- stress will do that). Around noon I just had to lie down. Damian snuggled with me for a bit and then got up and played. He came and went, and I kept an ear out. I saw him run off with the flashlight at one point. He came in after about twenty minutes, ready for me to come play. I thanked him for letting me rest and asked what he was playing with while I was lying down. He said, "a flashlight." I love that. One step closer to being able to answer the question, "What did you do at school today?"

His voice has been squeaky a lot lately. Today I started working on it more intensively: I kept asking him to repeat himself in a deep voice (modelling the DEEP part with a loud but bass voice myself). By afternoon, he was able to return to his real voice for at least part of a sentence after that reminder.

Tuesday 28 August

Viv told me Sunday that Damian was cuter in person than she'd guessed from his journal, and more social/advanced than she'd thought too. I think the latter may be because I've written a couple of entries focusing on his deficits. He really is a charming little guy, though, and most of the autistic tics aren't readily noticeable now.

Damian's been perfecting his social smile lately. He has an exaggerated version, the cheesy smile, which always gets a laugh, but mostly he gives you a truly warm smile that's clearly about eliciting the same from you. He does it with us but he also does it with total strangers. Which is kind of cool. Jami showed up this morning for the first time in a while (a month?). Damian was full of smiles for her. It was almost funny. She was clearly tickled. He's discovered the power of a smile.

His insistent demand to "hold hands" when we're out and about (and even in our own driveway) is driving me nuts. It's often fine, but sometimes it's very much not fine, like when I have an armful of stuff and have the choice of either piling it all on one arm and risking total disaster or say no and risk total meltdown. I'm tending toward the latter. He has to learn that I can't always say yes.

He's suddenly having trouble with the idea that he has to put his own socks on at the end of the session with Heidi. He's done it from the get-go -- she helps him get started and then he finishes himself -- but now he cries. He says "Help me please" but what he really means is "do it for me." When she helps him but doesn't take over, he cries, his current answer to everything.

We're working on the crying because it just can't be an answer. My current thinking is to soothe but not give in. IE: calm him down, not just by being a hardass and saying "you don't always need to cry" although that's probably got to be a part of it, but also by soothing -- "take deep breaths" (model breathing) and rubbing his back to help him calm himself down. Then go back to the activity that elicited the tears and repeat the whole damned cycle.

Damian was playing in the bathtub with his cherry picker. He suddenly announced to Dan, "The cherry picker needs a cherry." (A red marble.)

After his bath, I was asking him questions like "did you have fun in the bathtub?" (yes) "What did you play with?" (toys) "What kind of toys?" (bath toys) "I meant, what toys in particular, can you tell me something you played with?" (Marbles.) And you know, it was so cool.

When Dan was reading to him, he asked Damian to identify various things in a picture. Damian did readily. Dan commented that his word retrieval is 100%. It does seem to be for labeling, and starting to be for remembering, though if you ask him "What do you want for breakfast?" you have to give him a list: "Cereal? Toast? Granola bar?" before he'll answer. But maybe that's normal.

Wednesday 29 August

Great day at Heidi's (occupational therapy). He was a little zoned when we got there (car ride? not coming directly from school per usual?) so she got him on the trampoline. Her trampoline has a hand bar, so Damian is fearless there. Ours doesn't so he insists I jump with him, holding his hands. Which is a drag. I told Heidi this, and she turned him away from the handle and started working with him on doing it on his own. I'll try to remind him of that when we jump (he jumps?) tomorrow.

She asked Damian to put his right hand on his left knee while lifting the knee. He couldn't. He kept putting his left hand on the knee instead, not willing to cross the midline. Couldn't balance. She says it's a lack of body awareness too. She put a sticker on the knee and opposing hand. Then he got it, but was distracted by trying to peel off the stickers. She drew smiley faces on both knees in different colors, and on the opposing hands. Then he got it. Totally got it. Right away. She'd expected to have to do it for/with him a half dozen times but Damian didn't need any modelling once the smileys were in place.

She then put him on the log to put pegs into a board while his legs were straight out behind him in Superman position. He sustained the position for longer than she's ever seen him, she said. I was pleased. It involves muscle strength but also body awareness (his feet tend to droop down to the floor for grounding). He did great.

She sat him in her lap. Drew a cross. Damian drew one. He crossed it with ease. Next page: Damian drew a cross with no Heidi example needed on the page. Woo-hoo! When we started, Damian had the hardest time actually getting the two lines to cross each other.

I hesitate to even say this, but I think his "Mommy do it" I-can't-do-anything-I'm-asked obsession is finally lessening. A few times today he asked me to do something and Dan or I said he needed to and he went ahead and did it. Fussed a little but no breakdown.

We played catch on the bed this afternoon with a small rainbow ball that was originally a cat toy. I like to do it sitting down so we can lob the ball and let it roll part of the way. It means Damian can sort of catch it; he's still not really into the actual catching part. Damian loves the game. His ability to sustain it and his eye contact were truly wonderful. I think we played for half an hour and he was completely there nearly the whole time.

Thursday 30 August

I think Damian's new floor timer may work out. He jumped on the trampoline holding her hands but not insisting she jump too. (What's the secret? Not being Mommy?) She was doing some fun play with a stuffed Piglet jumping on Damian. It took her too long (in my opinion) to get him to kick Piglet away, but she was engaging him and he was having fun, and that's key to the rest.

Today was Damian's second-to-last session with Hallie the speech therapist. She really is good, but it'll be so much easier to have him get it at his school (assuming they schedule it for right after class!). I'll miss her. I asked her the million dollar question: does she think he has the potential to go all the way? She said a qualified yes, that he may have some social awkwardness, but then again maybe not, it's just too soon to tell. It depends on how much of his inability to initiate has to do with sensory issues. We'll know more when those sensory issues are more resolved (with OT and with my nearly daily massage). She also said that she thinks the diagnosis may be getting too inclusive -- ie: kids like Damian don't exactly fit the autistic profile though there's clearly something neurological holding them back -- but then again, early intervention is a very good thing (for anyone, really) and the label gives kids like Damian that attention, so why quarrel? Exactly my feeling. Exactly and completely.

I challenged Damian a good bit more than I have been. I didn't intend to, but I got completely fed up with how resistant he is to being independent. I wanted to make him scoop his own yogurt onto the spoon, but he wailed. While I was dealing with that, I decided to switch tacks. When I got him calmed down, I explained that it was time for him to sit on a chair when he eats, not on my lap. I explained the ways it's better (we can look at each other, for one) and said I'd be right next to him and ready to help him. I also said no more holding hands when we're in the house. (Yeah, his hand holding obsession is starting to carry into wanting to hold hands walking down the goddamned hall.) I spent a while talking about how maybe he was scared that he'd lose me if we didn't hold hands, but he could always call out, "Mommy!" or "Mommy, come!" and I'd either come or call out to let him know where I was. He seemed to accept this at the time, though really it's hard to tell with a kid who doesn't engage you in a discussion. The proof was to come, of course.

He wanted salmon. (Asked for it out of the blue, too.) I cooked it, served it. Insisted he sit in his own chair. He did. Fussed a little and then was okay with it, especially after I scootched my chair close. One successful meal. We'll see how breakfast goes.

Not holding hands in the house turns out to be the bigger deal, especially since I told him the porch counted as "house" (I need hands free to open the door). Much crying. I have little sympathy, though I'm trying to be nice about it. What seems to happen is that he gets upset that he can't hold my hand and so he wants to sit somewhere where he can sit in my lap.

Which brings up another new one, a corollary to the "no lap at meals": if he sits on my lap for comfort, I want him either facing me or turned sideways. I want him interacting with me or aware of me as more than a warm chair. I want us face-to-face. This goes over just fine, fortunately.

After he got mad at me for all this, we had some floor time. I used the opportunity. The Little People went on a ferris wheel ride. After two of the three buckets were filled, I brought over two figures who each said they wanted to ride. Damian had to choose. He went for Officer Mommy. Well, Officer Pat had a hissy fit. He whined, "I'm mad at Damian!" and "I want to ride on the ferris wheel! I'm so mad!" He even tried hitting Damian. Damian kept telling him (with some prompting) that he had to wait his turn and exiled him to the other end of the amusement park. A few minutes later, I commented that Officer Mommy was happy (Damian was spinning the ferris wheel) and asked Damian how Officer Pat felt, happy or mad. Damian said "mad." I find it interesting that he can easily say someone's mad if it's not him (and especially if it's a toy figure). I asked him why Officer Pat was mad, and gave him choices when it became apparent he couldn't summon the words to explain the reason on his own. I was pleased that he did then talk about it, even though he was borrowing my words. It showed me that he understood. Getting him to understand and articulate emotions is a very big deal. It's crucial to his development.

We went to our hair salon tonight. We haven't gone since April. We always take Damian, who usually ignores the chaos and runs around checking out the display of candles, etc. This time he was overwhelmed and I think even scared by the chaos and sat in Dan's lap while I was getting my haircut. By the time Dan was getting his, the crowd was almost gone and Damian gradually loosened up. We consider this acute shyness progress, oddly enough. He was aware of people and that overwhelmed him. He didn't tune them out.

Dinner at a diner after haircuts. Damian had a quesadilla. I pulled the two tortillas apart and gave him a small corner of one. Made the mistake of handing it to him cheese side up. He rejected it. Gave him the next one cheese side down. He ate and enjoyed it. Wanted more. Dan told him what made it taste so good was the cheese. Then he was fine with seeing the cheese. And he even started eating it with both tortillas together in sandwich form. This is only the second time he's eaten quesadillas and the first time he's deigned to eat it as a complete unit. Progress!

Friday 31 August

Damian's last day with Hallie apparently went extremely well. So well, she wrote me a long note about it. He spoke in his loud voice at least 75% of the time, she said, he engaged well with her and had a high affect, and said several things aloud, spontaneously. We see this side of him at home every day (though not all day), but Hallie's never seen it. She invented a simple game wherein she mimicked everything he did. He shrugged his shoulders, for instance, and she shrugged hers. Apparently he got a big kick out of this and was happy to lead by changing what he did. This is a wonderful idea, I want to give it a try.

I was a lousy play companion today, I'm afraid. The problem with having a special needs child is that when you're not up to much quality interaction with them, you have the guilt of being a distant parent coupled with the knowledge that you've squandered a precious chance to help him grow the way he needs to. Still, it's not like I ignored him all day long -- we did play, and I certainly did talk to him and respond to him. And Dan played with him in the morning, and he had sessions with Hallie (speech) and Gamma (floor time). So maybe I can allow myself an off day. Just not too many.

Damian and I had a good game of chase this evening. He remembered "na-na, you can't catch me!" from playing with Gamma Wednesday, but he shouted it whether I was chasing him or he was chasing me.

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