September 2001 page 2 of 2
Sunday 16 September

Playing with Brio trains in his room. He wanted me to push the train over the hill. I refused. He lost it. Eventually he pushed it over. Angrily. Crying. I'm pushing him harder to do things for himself. He doesn't like it one bit. Dan suggested instead of just saying no, I could offer a compromise of sorts -- I'll do it if you do X. I think I'd like to try a variant -- you do it and I'll do X. Tricky stuff.

We played two board games, both involving colored trays (you choose a color to play -- there are four colors for four players -- we each therefore choose two). Damian chose "redgreen" both times. As we set up the "I'm a Little Teapot" game, he started to sing the teapot song. I often do that; I didn't realize he was listening. He knew all the lyrics I know. He's been singing a lot of songs relating to things recently.

Lunch: quesadillas. It was the first time he didn't need to be coaxed to eat it by first having some plain tortilla, etc. As Damian ate, Dan asked his favorite food. "Quesadilla!"

Dan was playing with Damian in his room. He put on a kidsong CD. Suddenly Damian went into the hall closet and fetched his shoe. Why? He was listening to the song lyrics: "What has a tongue but cannot speak?"

Dan and I talked about cooking eggs or pancakes. Damian ran and got his plastic egg and started to crack it. (It opens along a preformed crack.) Then he got a toy skillet and two little red balls. He cracked the egg against the side of the skillet and let the balls fall into the skillet. They were the egg insides, you see. He was doing this for a while, keeping me company in my bedroom. Then he lost one of the balls and immediately announced, "Mommy will get the red ball." "Where is it, Damian?" "Under the nightstand." I don't know that I'll ever get over this easy ability to say what he wants.

When we started talking about making a fruit salad, Damian disappeared into his room to cut up plastic fruit (halves velcro'd together, designed for cutting). Between that and the eggs -- he's listening to everything.

He brought his little toy construction worker and the worker's tools to the dinner table. Proceeded to drill into the ravioli.

He's decided that the "monster" from yesterday is a great bedtime toy. When we were reading bedtime stories, he asked for the monster. Fell asleep holding it again tonight.

Monday 17 September

We're concerned about Damian's placement at school. There are too many lower functioning kids in the class. The Jumpstart class is rowdier, according to May, but she's forgetting that severely autistic kids are disruptive too, and there are at least two of them in a small class. We're going to explore things a little more but probably talk to people there about getting Damian transferred ASAP. I think they underestimate his abilities there because he gets weirded out by the other kids and so he withdraws a bit.

This supposition was borne out today, actually: he had his first at-home Floor Time session with someone we've been praying he'd get. Her name is Jean and she's very good. Smart, and she has acting background. He had a blast with her. They did a lot of running around outside tossing balls and whatnot, then came in to do some pretend play. Afterwards, I talked to her a bit about our goals for him. I also asked her to compare him here and at school (she's spent time with him there). She said night and day, like a different kid. She's never seen him that energetic, that up, that outgoing at school. Which makes me sad. We have to find a way to make it happen.

OT today. Damian did what he's been doing with us lately: when Rivka asked him to put something away, he said "Mommy will put it away." Refusing, in other words. So she did something smart -- she changed the subject. She had him go play in another part of the room and then come back and put it away. But she told him this would be the case, so he wasn't taken by surprise when she asked him again. This time he cooperated. Have to try that at home.

She had him go down a gently sloped slide -- first normally, then on sitting on a scooter. She could see he had trouble balancing so she had him lie on his tummy and do it. He slowed the scooter down as it went. Nervous. He's come a ways with his body awareness and confidence, but he's obviously not all the way there yet.

He's been slurring a lot of his words. I think he's always done this, but way back in the dark ages (ie: pre-diagnosis, before February), he wasn't trying to communicate so it didn't matter if we understood. Then he started communicating but since we were facilitating so much of it, we could always understand from the context. Now, though, he asks for things and I have no idea what he's got in his head. I ask him to repeat it more clearly and he repeats it louder but just as blurred. I spent some time this afternoon explaining what it means to enunciate (I explained by example, over-enunciating my words). He got it, at least briefly.

When I set the table for dinner, I put on a classical CD. Damian popped out into the dining room immediately, saying "turn off the music!" He's been doing this lately, especially in the car. He has a meltdown when I don't obey. This time, though, I said I needed it on (to drown out the noise from next door) and if he didn't like it he could leave the room but I had to keep the music on. He accepted that completely. Stayed and didn't let the music bother him again.

Tuesday 18 September

Damian got upset when I wouldn't hold his hand after lunch. I figured he was pooped. So I rocked him. He asked for juice. I said, "Okay, but let's rock for a couple of minutes first, okay?" "Okay." A moment later: "I want juice." Same sequence. I wasn't trying to withhold refreshment: I knew he was tired and that Gamma would be coming soon so this was his only opportunity to catch a short nap, and if I gave him juice, that wouldn't happen. And sure enough, he was asleep a minute later.

It was tough to wake him up. Well, no, not to wake him. But he was clingy, didn't want to play with Gamma, just wanted to snuggle with me. Finally, I sat with him on my lap on the porch swing. We talked about the beans and how fun it would be to go play in them. Damian slid off my lap and was ready for action.

After she left, Damian told me he wanted to go to the back yard. So we did, even though he'd just been out there for an hour. He had a ball out there for the next two hours. We picked an avocado and a pomegranite and exchanged them. He trotted over to his sandbox and fetched a blue pail for them. Stuff like that. He wasn't answering a yes-or-no question, so I prompted him, "yes, no, maybe?" He thought that was great fun and started saying "yes, no, maybe!" I asked him if he wanted to go to the store. He responded, "Yes!" I said, "Good, then let's go." He said, "No!" I said, "So you don't want to go?" He said "Maybe!" All with this huge I'm-toying-with-you grin.

At one point, he was in the box of beans on the porch and said "Mommy will get in the beans." So I did. Clearly there wasn't enough room for both of us. He got out and trotted over to the easel. I joined him, helping him practice crosses and circles. Then I guess he decided I was making him work too hard: he told me to get into the beans! So I did. Then he asked, "Is Mommy having fun in the beans?" and answered his own question: "Mommy is having fun in the beans!"

Wednesday 19 September

Damian woke up at 4:30 crying. Came into my bed, was restless for a long time. Bad dream? I should have asked, I guess, but I'm not sure his symbolic thinking is sophisticated enough yet to answer that question.

So I kept him home from school this morning, let him sleep in. We lazed around and played. Two floor time sessions: one with Silver, one with a new guy, Kahuna. He knew Damian a little from school, but not much. He said at the beginning that he didn't have anything appropriate for Damian in his bag, it was all stuff for higher functioning kids: board games and dress-up make believe stuff. I said "Damian plays board games! And he loves to dress up as a construction worker or fireman!" I'd just finished telling him what I thought Damian's level was and I couldn't figure out if he was extrapolating from that and Damian's not as far along as I thought, or if he was judging from the kid he's seen at school. It kind of hurt to hear. But he jumped into playing with Damian and did a really good job. I could hear him pushing Damian gently to make faces that Kahuna would follow, and vice versa (mimic Kahuna's expression) and expanding on everything Damian was doing, closing lots of circles. They went outside and I could hear Damian shouting and having a great time. As Kahuna was leaving, he said that he had a lot of fun, that Damian was a cute kid and it was fun working with him. Used the word fun about three times. He said, too, that Damian was in fact quite high functioning, lots of language (as I'd said), etc. That he started out passive and quiet, the way he was at school, but when they went outside he really engaged. I guess Kahuna misjudged him at first and that's why he said what he did then. But it once again underlines how different he is at school.

Tonight Dan started talking about teeth and cavities because Damian got a glimpse of his fillings. He said he had cavities and that Damian would probably get some too. Damian said, "Daddy is going to get more cavities." Then he said "Mommy is going to get more cavities." We think he meant "you can get them, I don't want to." Heh.

Thursday 20 September

Damian spent five hours at school today. Without me. Boy did that feel strange. He had a two hour floor time session directly following his class session. I got there early -- I got too antsy and worried, wanting to make sure he was doing okay with this unknown person. He was doing just fine, it turned out. I peeked in on them in the bathroom; he was comfortable with her changing his diaper, which I considered a good sign. A little boy from his class came up to him in there and tried touching Damian while he was lying down. Damian didn't like that. Bobby was invading his space. He's uncomfortable enough around other kids, I think that was just too much. But he didn't cry, he just edged away.

Robin and I sat outside and watched Damian investigate some buckets of water and such while we conferred. She thought he was a cutie, really fun, really sweet. Very impressed with him. They all are, these people who come to work with him. In situations with typical kids, all the parents think he's shy and withdrawn. When he's on his own with an adult, they end up thinking he's outgoing and warm and -- always -- lots of fun. But it wasn't always this way. We've always seen it but he used to close up around anyone who wasn't us. So this is major progress over the months.

At any rate. Robin told me she went into his class half an hour before it ended so he'd get a chance to know her before going off with her. I thought that was very smart. She read books to him and he snuggled right up next to her. It probably helps that she's dark haired and Jewish looking. He likes women who remind him of me. She said he spoke softly for the most part, that he has great fine motor skills, that he moved from toy to toy (there were a lot of toys out on display) and didn't settle down for long with any -- I said he was curious and that he does have a good attention span. She got a lot of spontaneous language out of him and it sounds like they were very comfortable together. I'm feeling very good about his new set of floor timers. They're everything I'd hoped.

I took Damian to the store. He really wanted cereal but I fobbed him off with a banana. He spotted the Red Vine package in the checkout line, though. "I want a Red Vine!" Damn. I figured I'd just use it to close circles, so I bought a package. Besides, I'm a pushover. I gave him one there and said I'd give him another when we got home, then another when Gamma left (she was coming soon). He remembered the Gamma association: when he spotted her through the window, asking him to let her in, he said "I want a Red Vine!"

At one point, they were jumping on the trampoline. Gamma fell down. Damian started crying, hard. She showed him she wasn't hurt but he was still acting heartbroken. I got a brainstorm: I said if Gamma was hurt, we should take her to the hospital. Damian liked this idea. He immediately stopped crying. I asked him if his bed was the hospital, or was it the couch? The couch, he decided. So we made ambulance sounds and went to the living room. We tried to extend the play but Damian got distracted and wandered off, so Gamma got up and started doing something else with him. I think this is all very significant. He had an emotional, empathic response to someone else's pain. For the very first time I can remember. I think his reaction was overlarge and hard for him to control precisely because it's so new for him and he doesn't yet have quite the right self-regulation tools (as we see when he gets upset by other things). And he was soothed, not by our talking through it with him, but by our turning it into a make believe scenario. It became something he could handle.

Saturday 22 September

Damian played in the beans for a while while I talked on the phone. He then got out of the box and started tossing individual beans that he picked up from the floor. This was rather clever: I don't let him toss the beans out of the box but I don't protest when a few do stray, and then they're fair game. He was tossing them over the porch edge and shouting things like, "The bean fell off the porch!" and "Crash!" Nothing too striking about that, just narrating his own activities. Then he tossed one across and past me and shouted, "The bean ran away from Mommy!" That, I thought, showed some original thinking.

He's been having a field day with mirrors of late. He's always liked seeing himself in the mirror, but now he spends a lot of time making faces. Cheesy smiles, open-mouthed surprise, sucking in his cheeks. It's kind of interesting.

Sunday 23 September

Crying city this morning. Damian did not want to be challenged at all. He didn't want to take off his own socks to go into the beans. He didn't want to pick up his toy when it fell on the floor. He wanted to be Mr. Passive. It didn't work. So he cried. A lot. Feh.

We went to visit another client of Gamma's today. The girl is a month shy of three years old and has only been diagnosed for two months. Gamma thought we might be able to help the parents figure out how to incorporate floor time into their way of thinking. We got there at two thirty and ended up staying for five hours! It was interesting in many ways. The girl is more autistic in some ways than Damian ever was, specifically more out of it. It's hard to get her to respond in any way. They understandably find this a bit overwhelming. She's clearly there inside -- she does smile when you do playfully challenge her -- but it's going to take some concentrated effort to get her to engage more fully. Damian was withdrawn last winter, but in a different, more accessible way. But Dan and I both had some good moments with her, and we tried to talk her parents through what we were doing...

The big news for us is that Damian really took to her older sister (who's five and very normal/outgoing). She was clambering up the rope ladder to the jungle gym, so he did it too, even though he's usually too afraid to do that. And she went down the slide with a "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-Blastoff!" so he started doing exactly the same thing. And he laughed when she did it and said "blastoff!" with her. And she interacted with him too, catching him at the bottom of the slide, scootching over at the top of the slide when he came over -- stuff that would normally have him cringing away but he was completely comfortable with. He had a great time. He was high-fiving the dad on his way down the slide just like the older girl he was emulating. He walked up the slide just like her too (and just like her younger sister, who is very agile -- her issues don't compromise her motor skills at all). I've never seen him so responsive and interested in another child. So it was a good time for all of us. We liked the parents, too. And we'll do another playdate.

We stopped at a diner for a late dinner. Damian had quesadillas. He eats a few bites and then puts it down to go to the next piece. I think he thinks the rest is crust. We explained that there's no crust. I'm not sure he believed us.

On the way home, I said, "It's late so no bath tonight, just bed." He loved that, repeated it periodically all the way home: "No bath! Just bed!"

Monday 24 September

On Mondays I pick Damian up a little early from school so we can make his 11:30 appointment with Rivka, his clinic-based OT. Or should I say, his Monday OT. He'll be seeing Heidi on Tuesdays and having Nadia during school hours. Three OTs!! When I got to class, circle time was still going. I lifted Damian up (the only way to get him out) and put him on the floor beside me. He was happy and started chattering away. I couldn't hear him, unfortunately, because the circle time music was still going, but I was glad to see him so talkative.

As we left school, we said goodbye to a teacher, then I asked Damian where we were going. "To see Rivka." Then we got in the car. As I pulled away from the curb, Damian said, "We're going to see Rivka. We're driving past the school." (We were at that moment indeed passing school.) "We're going up the hill." (Again, accurate description.) That was it for the narrative, but I loved it.

Later in the same ride, I drove a little fast on a long streetlight-less stretch. Damian got excited, exclaiming, "Faster, faster!"

Damian doesn't seem to listen to Rivka very well. Maybe because she has a gentle demeanor? She says something, he ignores her, I repeat what she said and then he responds immediately. I should probably stop doing this and let her make her own way through it.

When he jumped on the trampoline, she sang the "five little monkeys jumping on the bed" song. When "one fell down and bumped his head," Damian fell down too, right on cue. He loves doing that.

He's started resisting her requests to put things away. She asked him to put the puzzle in the closet. He handed me the puzzle and said "Mommy will put it away." I said I couldn't and he grudgingly took it from me and put it away. She asked me what that was about, and I said it's a problem at home too. He didn't want to put a hoop away, either. Cried when Rivka gently insisted. But you know, he did it anyway, even through angry tears.

After we got home, I disappeared into the bathroom. I heard Damian saying, "Mommy's not in Mommy's office." I shouted out, "I'm in the bathroom!" He didn't come in. Instead he went to my bedroom and said, "Mommy's not in Mommy's room." Then he trotted down the hall -- past the bathroom -- to his room. "Mommy's not in Damian's room." Then I got it. He was playing the same game I often play with him, pretending I can't find him and reciting all the places he isn't. Heh. He finally came into the bathroom and announced, "Mommy is in the bathroom!"

Then he said, "Mommy, stop reading." As it happened, I'd just put the book down. (How did he know I'd been reading?) I said, "But I'm not reading. Does it look like I'm reading?" He looked at me. "No." Thought for a moment. "Mommy, stop peeing!"

His floor time needs to be aimed at helping him learn to expand his play scenarios. We've known this for a while but we haven't really known how. I've been reading that section of Greenspan and I think it may be about simply and truly following his lead in play and finding small ways to expand on what he does while keeping true to what he's doing. If we go too big with our own ideas, we stray off course from his original thinking and he becomes a follower rather than an independent thinker. So today, for instance, he bustled from his room into the dining room. He went to his dollhouse and took the toy clock and lamp. I asked what he was going to do with them. He didn't answer and I think my question made him forget. He dropped them on the floor. I said, "They broke! Let's fix them!" This was my instigation, but it's something he loves doing these days, so it was a comfortable scenario. I fetched his tools. He "fixed" the objects. Then I brought him the toy computer. Alex Bendo complained that he couldn't play the Elmo CD on it. Damian fixed that. I asked "is it fixed yet?" Damian brought it back to the dollhouse study, where he pretended to click on the keyboard. Small stuff, I know. Miniscule. But that's what it takes. And he bridged the "fixing it" to the "playing on the computer" moments on his own, which is exactly what we want to see more of.

We were in the kitchen. He gave me his toy drill, said "all done." He does this a lot, basically his way of saying "you deal with it." He does this in all kinds of ways, wanting to be waited on. So I didn't. I took a page out of Rivka's book. I figured he would eventually do it himself but he'd probably cry first. I was very gentle but I said, "Put it on the counter, then." He cried. Tried giving it to me again. I again -- gently -- said "put it right here if you're done with it." He cried, tried to give it to me. Threw it onto the counter; it bounced off and onto the floor. He wanted me to pick it up. Finally had to pick it up himself. Cried. Etc. I talked about how he felt angry at me and that was okay but he still had to put the drill down himself. It took a while but he did finally put it down. Not on the counter, though. He opened a utensil drawer and put it inside. At this point, he was a mess, so we went to his room so he could drink juice, sit on my lap and calm down. Just as he finally calmed, he stuck his finger into the narrow end of a pair of tongs (he'd taken them from the utensil drawer when he first decided he was done with the drill). Finger got stuck. Finger got hurt. Much crying. Such a striking difference, crying from pain vs. crying from anger.

After dinner, he insisted on going outside. So we went into the back yard. He went into his little log cabin. I tried to terrorize him (Mommy the monster) but he ordered me, "Mommy is going to sit on the steps." Vanquished by a small boy's command. I obediently sat on the steps, with periodic forays to make sure he meant it. We had fun. Later, I chased him.

We've started talking through his day before seeing the actual photo slideshow. He said we went to Whole Foods when prompted during the talking-through time, but when he saw the actual photo, he said Ralphs. This is significant to me in that he's responding to the image and saying what he thinks it is, not just saying what happened because he memorized it that way. It's thinking and responding. Getting it wrong is sometimes a good thing.

When we got to the end, where we always prompt him picture by picture to tell us about his bedtime ritual, he said each part of it ("see pictures", "read books", "drink juice", "rock", "go to sleep") with absolutely no prompting of any kind from us; he was cued by the image changing. This feels very significant to me. It's a first.

Tuesday 25 September

Damian has become inordinately fond of this miniature toy drill that belongs with a construction worker set. He asks for it several times a day and this morning he was holding it as I got him ready for school. Dan told him not to bring it with him to school; he was afraid it would get lost. Damian was heartbroken. I said "let him take it." So he did. He tried to get Damian to give it to him as they got out of the car, explaining why (he might lose it at school, another kid might take it...) No dice. Damian had speech first thing. Dan tried once again to get the drill. No go. He told Bird that if she got the drill away from him, she could put it into Damian's snack bag, and if she couldn't, just to tell May to keep an eye on it.

So. That's a long preamble to this: Bird told Damian to put the drill into the "all done" basket. He did, and they had a normal session sans drill. At the end of the session, Damian saw her transfer the drill into his snack bag and dissolved in tears. She said he was truly upset. She gave him the drill and turned it into a chance to get a good interaction going (she was silly with how she wiped his tears, etc.). She commented to me later that he's very sensitive. I think she was oddly touched by that.

I must confess, I'm amused by the fact that of all the possible comfort objects in the world, when he finally chose one it was a construction tool, spiky edges and all. He's got a secondary one now too. Guess what it is. A yellow plastic socket wrench.

Wednesday 26 September

At the end of today's session, Kahuna said that they blew bubbles and that Damian has a hard time regulating his blowing ability, which is a sign of an oral motor issue. Which he has, so this makes sense. And it's true: Damian blows too hard and breaks the bubbles and he breathes in when he should be breathing out. He's going to bring the bubbles again next week so they can work on it some more.

He said, too, that Damian got very excited about the bubbles and that he flapped his arms in excitement, which is the first time he'd seen Damian stim. I found this interesting. I've always had trouble labeling that kind of body wiggle as a stim. To me, it looks like a pure physical expression of joy. Still, I'm not going to quibble. Kahuna was kind of saying that Damian doesn't do much stimming at all, which I think is true right now and is kind of nice to hear.

He also commented on the fact that Damian got uncomfortable when beans got stuck on his feet, which is a sensory issue. This I also knew. Kahuna's solution to this is to have him walk barefoot on the cement in the back yard. Makes sense. After Kahuna left, Damian was barefoot the rest of the evening. He forgot to insist on getting his socks back on. I consider this an excellent sign. Kahuna is very very good. I wish he could see Damian more than just once a week.

Damian's been talking a blue streak. I can't even remember everything he said today. When Kahuna got here, for instance, Damian bent down and started "drilling" in the floor and talking about Daddy drilling in the floor and the cable man drilling (both of which happened this past week). But he's talking and that's the best part. He narrates his own actions, he narrates my actions, he anticipates what's about to happen, he asks for things quite easily. He doesn't talk about his feelings unprompted or ask questions and he doesn't tell me about his day at school (I have to walk him through that step by step) or comment on what he likes and doesn't like (unless I ask). There is still a whole world of things he can't easily talk about yet. But when I think about how very recent it is that he's talking spontaneously, it's a delight that he's come this far already.

I had a good floor time session with him tonight, but I want to write about that in an entry of its own. Suffice to say right now that Damian showed, albeit in small ways, that he's starting to connect the dots and elaborate on play scenarios.

Tonight Damian started crawling across the living room so I got down and crawled with him. We went to the ottoman. I pretended to scratch, then I said, "what else do kitties do?" He turned around crawled all the way to the back door (through the living room, dining room, and kitchen and into the laundry room) where he stood up and started to scratch on the back door! Exactly the way Dante does.

Thursday 27 September

Damian's been singing a lot lately, but he doesn't ever want me to sing. When I start singing, he says "Mommy, stop singing!" Go figure. He used to love it when I sang. Now he's singing songs that I don't even know. He told me Bird (his speech therapist) taught him the songs. (This is after prompting and being given choices; he still can't reliably answer a question like that on his own.) When he told me, he got this sweet smile. He likes her. I'm so glad.

Damian still wants us to do so many things for him. If he picks up his sippy cup, he'll hand it to me to give back to him. He knows, though, that I won't do this, so he's developed a trick: he says "all done" and hands it to me. When I take it, he says "I want juice" so I'll give it back. The solution, of course, is to say "Oh, you're all done with the juice? Okay, put it on the counter." But that produces wails. So I'm not sure how to handle this one.

Sometimes I do know, though. This afternoon, for instance, I wanted him on the bed. He wanted me to pick him up and put him there. I had a trump card, though: I had the toy drill and he wanted it. So I said "When you get up on the bed, I'll give you the drill." He whined and fussed and got on the bed and was about to burst into tears, but I forestalled it with a tickle game. He forgot to cry.

On the other hand, tonight I tried the same trick. He got up on the bed, all right, but he cried and cried and wouldn't be soothed. I finally got him to say he was mad at me and I helped him calm down. Then I started talking about why he was mad, ie: because I wouldn't pick him up and put him on the bed. Oops. He started to slide down off my lap, determined to do it again the right way. I told him why go through that again? I still wouldn't pick him up and then he'd have to cry all over again. This way we got the crying over and now I could give him a massage. You know what? He agreed. He stopped trying to get off the bed.

Damian dubbed his ball chute tonight. He hasn't played with it for a while; we think it's too perseverative (mechanical) a toy so we put it on a closet shelf. He found it and wanted to play, though. Dan made it fairly interactive so that was okay. Then Damian wanted it in the bathtub. He said he wanted the "racing balls." An apt name, actually.

Before he got his racing balls, he had fun drilling the water. Dan told him about drilling for oil so that's what he was doing. Then he started splashing the water with the ball chute -- excuse me, the racing balls -- hammer. He said he was "hammering the ocean."

Friday 28 September

One of Damian's teachers commented today that it's easy to get a smile from him. Another kid, Bobby (very verbal but very strange), said Damian's shirt had chickens on it and made chicken noises. Denise, the teacher, said no, they were cats and meowed. (They were cats.) Apparently they went back and forth like this and Damian was cracking up laughing. That made me feel good about him in that room.

When Jean arrived, Damian asked, "Jean, are you at school?" I'm fairly certain he meant "Were you at school?" The amazingly cool thing about this is that I had in no way, shape or form suggested that she'd been at school, or pointed her out when I picked him up this morning. I think he saw her there, though, and was asking her about it. This is big. Completely original thought, and verbalizing it, to boot. In the form of a question. Woo-hoo!

He did it again when Dan got home. The first thing he said to Dan was: "Daddy, are you at work?" This is just so cool.

Damian has had this *thing* for a while. It's a most annoying thing. I know I've been talking about it here. It's a kind of passivity that's about control. He won't do something if we ask and he wants us to wait on him, basically. I'm conflicted about how to deal with it, but it has to be dealt with. And he does seem to learn if we push a specific issue (he now sits in his own chair instead of our laps at the dining table, etc.).

So. Today he wanted juice. I suggested we go to the kitchen to get it. No, "Mommy has to go to the kitchen to get the juice." So I went. But then in the kitchen, I had a memory lapse. Is the juice in the oven? The microwave? The sink? Damian had to come in and help me find it. He opened the fridge door. Whaddaya know, there were two sippy cups on the bottom shelf. I became paralyzed, though. Couldn't pick them up for the life of me. Damian had to pick them up himself. Boy was he upset. We went to his room so I could rock him. He tried very hard to give me back the juice. He said "All done." I said, "great, put it on the table." He threw it on the bed. I said, "Sure, that works too." Not the response he was looking for. We went on in this vein. I was very matter of fact about it all and kept playing dumb. At the same time, though, I addressed his feelings, helping him label the anger and frustration. At one point, he was in my lap on the rocking chair wanting me to drink the juice myself. So I did, commenting on how very good it tasted. I think he really wanted me to give it to him, but once again, I played dumb. In the end, he opened the lid himself and held it himself without having me hand it to him. He calmed down remarkably quickly. I think this is working, this overall approach. Brutal though it feels to go through it.

While we were in the rocking chair, I suggested we read some books. He liked that idea. I named titles of books and had him say which one he wanted. Usually we show him a few books and have him point. This time he had to say the title without seeing the book. A small bit of symbolic thinking (having to think about the book instead of seeing it).

I made the book-reading as interactive as I could and he did great with it. He answered a lot of simple questions and filled in a lot of blanks (Go Dog Go: Me: "The big dog is going up and the..." Damian: "Little dog is going down.").

We read Caterpillar's Wish, about a caterpillar who wants to fly like her friends Bee and Ladybug, and one day she's asleep in a cocoon and then emerges as a butterfly. He knew "cocoon" without my prompting. (His vocabulary is sometimes amazing. In the bathtub tonight, he was playing with a toy dock with an elevator and said "the man goes to the platform." I mean, platform?) Later on, when I was giving him a massage, we talked about his day. I mentioned the story and asked, "What did the caterpillar want more than anything in the world?" Damian didn't even have to think, he said, "to fly."

One of the books was I Love You Forever, by Robert Munsch, about a mom and her son as he grows. He drives her nuts during the day when he's a little kid but at night she sneaks into his room, cuddles him and sings a sweet song about how he'll always be her baby. At the end, he's a grown man and she's an old lady and he cuddles her and sings her the song, making it about how she'll always be his mommy. I told Damian he'll always be my baby. I asked if I'll always be his mommy and he not only said yes, he turned around to give me a hug and a sweet kiss. Need I say? I melted.

Saturday 29 September

Damian was a little dazed today. I think it was lack of sleep, which manifested in extreme restlessness. Couldn't sit still for anything until he had a brief nap in the car. He did not, however, fall apart. This is a good thing.

This morning, Dan was grinding coffee beans. Damian said, "Daddy grinds the coffee beans and they turn into dirt."

In the car. He wanted juice. He'd just drained three big sippy cups and I only had one more. I said he'd have to wait, that I didn't have any more to give him. He asked again and said "I want to sleep." He was telling me he wanted to suck on the straw to help himself fall asleep. I gave him some water in a sippy cup. It didn't do the trick, he gave it back. But he was asleep within a minute anyway. I was rather impressed that he knew he was tired and that sucking the straw would help him fall asleep. That shows some abstract thinking.

Tonight, Damian saw the library books and said, "We go to the library and get new books." This and yesterday's questions show that he's shaky on using the past tense.

Last night he was sitting in my lap at the table, playing with a bottle of pills. He dropped a pill, which fell on the floor. He reached down for it. I said, "Don't worry, I'll get that later." He said "Mommy will get that later" and went back to playing. This is new. Just a month or two ago, he'd freak and insist I pick it up immediately. We haven't worked on this at all; I don't know what's changed for him.

Dan points out that the drill is a power tool, and it symbolizes power. Maybe not an accident that it's Damian's current comfort object. His play focuses on the twin themes of power and nurturing. He used to be afraid of expressing aggression in play but now is fine with crashing cars, etc.

Sunday 30 September

Today as I started making bread, putting the ingredients in the mixer, Dan and Damian were talking about it. Damian said, "Mommy is going to make bread in the cement mixer."

Dan and I were in the dining room. We had trouble enticing Damian out to eat, so we were waiting a little. We eavesdropped on him playing alone in his room. He was having tons of fun with the Fisher Price amusement park. He was putting kids in cars on top of the rollercoaster and releasing the cars to zip around the track. Good toy. But the interesting part was that he was voicing the characters. We got a new book yesterday, with two kids on a rollercoaster. The one who'd been macho ahead of time says "help!" when he's on it. The one who'd been nervous says "that was fun!" at the end. Damian was having these Fisher Price kids act out the story. I think it's the first time I've heard him voice characters without prompting.

Tonight Damian and I had a conversation about the bread. Damian said the bread was hot and I said I just took it out of the oven, and he replied "It baked in the oven." (Note the proper use of the past tense.) And so on. Not earthshaking dialogue, but a true conversation. When he got down off my lap, my cheeks were wet with tears. It felt so impossible such a short time ago and now it's reality. I'm so immensely proud of him.

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