October 2001 page 2 of 2
Tuesday 16 October

Bad night last night. Dan spent the night with Damian and reported that he seemed very uncomfortable, waking periodically with a cry. So he stayed home today. I noticed some odd behaviors: yesterday and today he kept curling into a sort of upright fetal position so his head and knees were on the floor or bed. And at one point, he was pinching the skin on his arm and even gently biting it. Sounds very weird and stimmy, but I think I can understand it. I think I did it occasionally as a kid. It's about feeling your body out of whack and trying to get some sharp input to center yourself. Nevertheless, I told him it was not a good thing to do and asked him to stop. Which he did.

While running errands with me, Damian became interested in an enticing vending machine, the kind where you put a quarter in and spin and get candy. He came up to me and said "Mommy, I want money." That's a first. My kid asking for money. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) I didn't have any quarters.

I thought it would be a good idea to get him to the park for a little vestibular and proprioceptive input to help him center himself. He did okay, going up to the tall slides and climbing the rounded ladders, but he was a bit more clumsy than usual. There were two one year old (if that) babies there, swarming one of the jungle gyms. Damian was scared of them, avoiding walking past them or around them. Didn't matter what I said, he did not want near those babies. Their grandma tried to engage him in conversation. I had to repeat her questions and he answered them in a very soft, blurry voice. It felt like I was watching a regression before my eyes. I got depressed, but in retrospect it makes perfect sense: he was still sick. Couldn't trust his body, so everything slid back to the "before" or at least "somewhat before" state. At one point, he was climbing through a tunnel and stopped -- he was afraid to put his hands on the jungle gym flooring and crawl out of the tunnel. He backed out instead. At that point, I knew something was seriously off in his sensory system. (Yes, I'm slow.) I sat with him in the swing and we swang together. Then, when he agreed, we went home. Where it became quickly clear he was having a relapse of his weekend virus, poor kid.

I went to a Back to School night tonight. I talked to Bird briefly about Damian's speech. I said he was answering questions (though he still has problems with "why" questions) but not asking W questions. She said receptive always comes before expressive, so he can understand and answer before he can ask. And that why is the toughest of the W questions. So that pretty well defines his stage of language development. Nice to know the rest will come.

Wednesday 17 October

Today can be summed up in one image: Me on the couch. Damian on my lap. Watching TV. Asking for a tissue, asking for his nose to be wiped.

One sick clingmonkey.

We watched Blue's Clues, which was all about opposites today. I got Damian to fill in some of the opposites before they did onscreen. Fast/slow, up/down, in/out, that sort of thing. About half an hour later, I was worried about how little juice he was drinking. I offered to give him a new sippy cup. He agreed. I said "I'll get you a fresh, cold juice." Damian held up his sippy cup and said, "Old, hot juice." Opposites. I was impressed.

Thursday 18 October

Much better today. Running around better. We went to the mall. Can't remember anything significant, though. Oh yes, Dan and I were talking about how the lamp on the mantel now has a dent in it. Damian said the cat broke it. The cat did knock it over but it's not broken. As I told Damian. I said the orange lamp is broken. He said the cat knocked over the orange lamp (which he didn't) and wanted Daddy to fix it now. Daddy did fix it today. He brought his toolkit out. Damian was fascinated. Real tools! When Dan donned goggles, Damian ran into his room and got his. I have a picture of the two of them wearing goggles.

We ran into someone we knew at the mall. Her son is in Damian's old preschool, and in fact she's the one who pushed me to get him checked out. She last saw Damian in May. She commented today that there's been a huge change in Damian. And this was at the mall, where he was responding so quietly with monosyllabic answers and only with prompting. But he looked right at her and smiled, and that was light years more than he'd ever done last winter. I wish she'd seen him a few minutes earlier, when he comfortably and easily answered everything a saleswoman asked him.

Friday 19 October

Quiet day at home. Damian's basically better, but why push it?

I did some floor time with him, maybe even for the first time since he got sick. Simple stuff. We were lying on his bed. He had a cheap metal recorder, and after we took turns playing it, Damian set one end of it against the wall. I picked up a toy figure and had him walk along it like a bridge, talking about how he hoped the bridge didn't shake him off! So of course the Damian-controlled bridge did. We did several iterations of this, and then the guy got all the way along the bridge and started walking along the Damian mountain (his side/back), talking about how he was safe now from shaking. Of course it turned out he wasn't. Like I said, simple stuff. But I was pleased by several little moments where Damian was directing the action, and that he talked to the guy about the guy's fears.

Another: he stuck an airplane into his sippy cup straw. I said it was fueling up and took my plane and did the same. Then we flew them around. They stopped to refuel, then Damian had his zoom under the Powerbook cord on the bed. He said it was going through a tunnel. Very cool. He conjured that image with no hints from me at all.

Damian was playing with a lift-the-flap fire truck book. One page was busted. Damian said "Daddy will fix it." I said, "He can try. Why don't you ask him when he comes home?" When Dan came home a few hours later, Damian greeted him warmly, then asked him to fix the book. Good memory.

Saturday 20 October

When Damian's playing with Dan, he often tells me to go away, I think he's afraid Dan will stop playing to talk to me. Lately, he's expanded his command from "Mommy, go away" to "Mommy, go to Mommy's office" or "Mommy, go to the kitchen." Today he came up with an interesting one: "Mommy, go to the hallway." So I asked, "What will I do in the hallway?" He replied, "Mommy will go side to side in the hallway." What the hell. I did; I zipped past the doorway and peeked out at him as I went past. He was very amused.

We went to Diane & Darin's this evening. Damian and Sophia interacted a little more than they have. Nice to see. She offered him a piece of popcorn; he took it. I prompted him to say thank you. He did. He asked for another (again, with prompting from me) and she gave it to him with a smile. I noticed good eye contact both directions. Yes, I still have to prompt him to speak to another child, but he did it with only one prompt. This is progress. I think he's feeling comfortable with her.

After dinner, Damian declared that he wanted to go to the back yard. I said it was dark, he couldn't go. He said "The sun will come up." Dan said that wouldn't happen till morning and we weren't staying that long. Damian said "The sun will come up now."

Later, I told him I had to change his diaper in the bathroom. He went over to the gated stairway going downstairs and said "Change my diaper in the downstairs bathroom." Well. He's never *been* in the downstairs bathroom. In fact, I don't think he's been downstairs at Diane's house for a year! But he clearly remembered that there's a door to the back yard downstairs. It was another get-to-the-back-yard strategy. Gotta give him points for ingenuity. Actually, I'm thrilled he's showing so much creative problem solving, with both this and insisting the sun come up now.

He fell asleep on the way home; Dan transferred him to bed without a fuss. This may be a first -- always before, Damian would wake if you tried to move him and not settle back down at all. I think something's changing in him sensorily that may be making it easier. More physiological organization.

Sunday 21 October

Damian showed up at 1 am in our room. He sat in my lap drinking juice with the nightstand light on. I turned out the light and he got upset, wanting it back on. I realized what it must be about: I asked him if his tummy or his throat hurt or if he had a bad dream. He said he had a bad dream. Makes sense: bad dream, light on, less scary. So I soothed him and hugged him and kept the light off. I did NOT want to spend the rest of the night with my light on. He did calm down and accept the dark. We snuggled all night. Not the worst thing in the world.

This morning we were all lying on Damian's bed. I brought over a squishy green rubber frog. Damian said, "Mommy will throw the green frog on the ceiling." So I did. It stuck! So Damian said, "Frog, get down!" but it didn't. Then he suggested I use the broom to get it off the ceiling! This kid is thinking. A lot. And expressing it. A lot. I double checked: I asked him if he'd played this game before or if this was the first time. He said it was the first time. The frog fell down on its own, but about five iterations later, it didn't come down, so I tried Damian's broom trick. Which worked.

We went to a street fair. Damian was enthralled with the kiddie rides and wanted to go on one zippy fast one, but it was kids only and he wasn't about to get on without a parent. So much for that. He didn't like the idea of the ferris wheel. Too bad.

We ran into some friends. Damian, per usual, clammed up. Too bad. It's hard to show off how far he's come when he doesn't show it in public, y'know? But then again, that's the next issue up: social situations. And he was pretty damned talkative at Diane's last night.

Dan and I had a... not a fight, not exactly. Let's just say it was tense for a bit. I left the room, upset. I tossed a tissue box onto the couch because Damian needed it before I left. Damian told Dan, "Mommy is mad at the tissue box." Dan tried to explain that I was upset about other things, but Damian was convinced I was pissed off at the box.

Later, I was changing Damian's diaper and talking about how Mommy and Daddy were mad at each other but we loved each other and we loved him, etc. He accepted all this, and I even got him to say it made him feel upset (had to give him choices of what emotion he was feeling). Then he said "Mommy and Daddy shouted." Which, by the way, we didn't. But I went with it and asked how that made him feel (again, with choices). "Scared," he said. This is all excellent, acknowledging his emotions. Mine too, for that matter (the mad at tissue box comment). Then he said "Mommy and Daddy are having a sword fight." He has these foam swords. I said that was a good idea, because when you feel mad at someone, you can hit them with a sword and not hurt them. He got out his swords, found me in the bathroom, and we had a sword fight.

I peeked in on Damian playing alone in his room. He was making the roadway go on his Little People town and he had a cop in a car going around, then he moved the gate and let the car out, and pulled out the stop sign to indicate that the guy should stop. I was impressed. He was playing imaginatively all by himself, and more than one step, to boot.

In the kitchen. After Dan and I had talked things through. Damian came in and hugged my legs. Dan said "I want a hug too!" He knelt and Damian gave him a nice hug. Then I said "I want another one!" Damian ran to me to hug me. We added kisses and had him going back and forth between us hugging us. He loved it. He said, "We're playing the hugging game!" Dante was hovering, trying to get in on the action. Damian included him, stopping to give the cat a hug too.

Monday 22 October

One member of Damian's IEP team never showed up to his IEP: the woman who assessed him for Adaptive Phys. Ed, ie: throwing and catching a ball, climbing, running, kicking, etc. If Damian qualified, he could go to a special class to help him get up to speed. She called later to schedule an amendment IEP meeting with me. She told me then that he did qualify for the special class, but that we might decide not to have him enroll, because it would be on a public school campus, joining the class midstream, and it might be tough for him. We might instead choose to incorporate his goals into OT time, etc.

All of which is a preamble to this: we had our long-delayed meeting this morning. She got there early and spent some time with Damian in the yard. She basically retested him. When I arrived, she told me that he's come up in his skills level approximately one year in the past four months! He's now showing age appropriate skills. She was impressed. She especially kept commenting on how interactive and responsive he was, how engaged. Apparently this is night and day from the last time she saw him, when she had a hard time getting him to respond to her. That was in June. Not very long ago. She also commented a few times on how cute he was, meaning his personality.

So apparently he no longer qualifies for the APE class. Aw shucks.

When we got home, I got Damian a snack while he went into his room to play. I brought him a stick of cheddar. He was at his play kitchen, so I suggested he cook the cheese and dropped it into the pot. He turned up the heat, stirred it around, then turned it off, saying "The cheese is hot." He blew on it. Then he finally picked it up and ate it. I was delighted. Real pretend play.

Damian was sitting in my lap in my office. He suddenly said he wanted the big candle. Turned out he was talking about a candle I'd forgotten about, on top of the built-in cabinet. I gave it to him. He asked me to "Put the fire on the candle." So I lit it and he admired it, then blew it out.

He thoroughly enjoyed a helium balloon yesterday that we got at the street fair, letting it bounce on the ceiling and follow him around like a puppy. Today he found it on the bathroom cabinet. Brought it out to me: "I want the balloon on the ceiling. Fix the balloon." I said I'd buy him another tomorrow. He said "Buy another balloon now" and fell apart. Oh, those Tired Monday Blues.

At dinner, Damian took great pleasure in rolling a toy train to me and having me roll it back across the table to him. He said "The train is going to Mommy Station."

Damian and Dan were blowing bubbles in the bathtub. Dan said, "The bubbles are breaking." Damian said "Daddy will fix the bubbles." Dan tried to explain that he couldn't fix everything, but Damian wasn't buying it.

Tuesday 23 October

May and Bird both commented that Damian used a nice loud voice today, normal kid volume. His usual voice at home, but whatever. They postulated that his ears are stuffed up from his virus and he can't hear himself, thus is speaking louder. I think he's just ready to talk louder more of the time. At home, when he's upset or mad, he positively shouts. He had fun shouting in the car today, actually: we were driving next to an old American car with the windows rolled down and the stereo cranked obnoxiously loud. I talked to Damian about the loud music and the next thing I know he's shouting "The car is LOUD!"

Damian got another floor time therapist today; Bonnie shadowed Gamma and is going to start on her own on Friday. He's up to six now, which feels like too many to me, but we'll play it by ear and see how he handles everyone. He seemed to really click with Bonnie, and she had the right energy. So we'll see.

Wednesday 24 October

When I was in the classroom picking Damian up today, another boy in his class came up to him and gave him a shove. For no reason at all. Damian started crying. He sat in my lap as I soothed him. I found out this boy pushed him earlier too, in the yard. He doesn't have much sense of what he's done, and it didn't feel like Kenny the TA had any idea how to handle it, which kind of pissed me off. Seemed like they deal with the hurt kid but not the one who did the hurting. Fortunately, his mom came to pick him up and the teachers told her what had happened. She was very upset and made her son apologize. It was clear (and she said) that he was just echoing her words, but Damian doesn't have to know that and he needed the closure. After the kid said "I'm sorry, Damian," Damian was fine. She tried to get him to kiss Damian's hand. Damian held out his hand for the kiss. But the boy didn't want to -- he brushed Damian's hand with his own hand instead.

Kenny told me that after this boy pushed Damian in the yard, Damian retreated from contact with all the kids out there and wanted to go in. I'm not at all surprised. I can't help feeling like he'd have recovered his equilibrium if they'd handled it better, though -- the way we moms did. Sometimes I feel like the teachers underestimate him because of his label, and that pisses me off. I know they don't know him the way I do but they should always overestimate their students until proven wrong. I'm going to talk to May about this again.

Damian was overall low energy today. Very tired, harder than usual to engage. I noticed the tiredness more than the lack of engagement, but everyone else commented on the latter. Then again, I didn't have much chance to play with him today, between school, Silver, Kahuna and a new activity: a My Gym class. Overbooked? We'll see...

Today was his first day at the gym. He did pretty well, actually. He had a lot of trouble staying in the circle while the teachers were talking about the upcoming exercises, but that was partly the newness of the environment, and all the cool play equipment (and partly that his tiredness makes him more distractible). I kept having to round him up and sit him down, as did the teachers. But he did all the exercises, including some complex ones that had him stand between cones, then run to a ramp, jump on the ramp, and jump (with an assist) to a bar above, hang there for a few beats, then jump down onto an orange circle and raise his arms to say "Ta Da!" He needed coaching along the way, but so did everyone else. And he clearly got a kick out of the whole thing; his Ta Da was quite loud. And I was pleased to see that when all the kids were in the ball pit (five altogether including him), he was fine with that, didn't try to escape. So I think this is a good place for him.

He fell asleep an hour and a half early tonight. I hope he sleeps through the night but I'm not counting on it. But boy was he tired.

Thursday 25 October

Well, he did sleep through the night. Until 5 am, that is. At which point he was wide awake. Fell asleep at 7 am, just when he should be waking up. He went to school, but was tired and low energy yet again. Bad trend brewing.

Robin, who sees him at/after school for floor time, said he played a fishing game with some other kids. He was avoidant at first and then needed prompting, but it's a beginning.

Damian and I went to Whole Foods for dried fruit. He now loves dried pineapple and likes dried papaya. He tried a banana chip but didn't like it. He liked them at Heidi's on Tuesday, but maybe those were more processed or something. Still, he eats fresh banana so he's not lacking the potassium. I'm happy he's now got two more fruits in his still limited diet.

When we got home, he wanted to stay on the (enclosed) porch. So I let him and went inside to the kitchen. I came out a few minutes later. As I walked through the living room, I could hear his hand turning the front doorknob. When I got to the door, he'd run back (giggling) to the chair at the far corner. When I asked, he claimed he'd been there the whole time.

Friday 26 October

We tried the Jean-supervised playdate with Damian's fellow student today again. The last time was two weeks ago, and was fairly successful. This time it was not. I don't exactly know what happened, just that I went outside and found Jules being rolled into a foam pad and Damian off in the sand yard playing by himself. Part of the problem was that Jules' mom was there, which threw things off. But the other part seems to be that Jules didn't take to playing with Damian that well -- he may have been aggressive or something? -- and Damian backed off and was no longer interested. So that was a noble failure. Time to arrange playdates with neurotypical kids. At least if they have behavior problems, they can be reasoned with (as much as you can reason with a 3yo).

On the plus side, apparently two of Damian's four half-hour speech therapy sessions this week were done as what they call peer sessions, ie: another child was there too. Bird said she picked Cam, who is shy like Damian, so neither of them would overwhelm the other. Perfect. Apparently it went well enough Tuesday that Damian lit up with a big smile when he saw Bird walk in with Cam on Thursday. So she's going to do that again, and I'm very glad of it.

I asked Bird how we should be proceeding with Damian, how to expand his language ability past his current level. His speech is quite good -- full sentences, lots of spontaneous language, large vocabulary and good grammar -- but his subject matter is still limited mostly to requests and descriptions. I'd like to see more, but I'm not sure what or what the next step is. Her response was interesting: she said it's new enough for him to be proficient at this level, let him enjoy his mastery of it before pushing on to the next step. I think she was afraid that I'd might be too pushy with him. I understand that: I see it with some other parents, they demand more of their children than the kid is ready for and it's frustrating and demoralizing for both parent and child. But at the same time, I think it's important to know what the next step is so we can lay the groundwork in the way we talk to him, etc. Which is what I told her and she agreed and said she'd give it some thought.

Damian fell deeply asleep in the car on the way home. Bonnie was here for her first floor time session with him. We let him wake up gradually, staying in my lap. She talked to him gently. Eventually I brought out some books and he said he wanted to sit in her lap to read them. I left the two of them in the living room, cozy like that. After a while, they migrated outside and it sounds like they had a lot of fun out there. Laying a good foundation for the work. I was pleased.

I was wearing a purple shirt today with oversized buttons. Damian had fun unbuttoning my shirt. The buttons were big enough that it was easy for him, and I think he took pleasure in his ability. He got giggly when he undid it the whole way. I think he likes seeing me in my bra -- it reminds him of his nursing days. I said I needed to button it back up and he told me he didn't want me to wear the purple shirt. I said I had to wear a shirt or I'd be cold. He told me to wear a black shirt! Then he specified: a black leather shirt!! I kid you not. I told him I didn't have one, and he settled for a black t-shirt. Where does he get these ideas? (I think he likes my black t-shirts because they usually have words on them and we spell out the letters. But leather??? Unless -- hmm -- maybe he was saying "letter"?!)

Saturday 27 October

This morning, Damian peered into the drawer under his captain's bed while I picked out his clothes. He told me -- unasked -- that he wanted the red striped shirt. Unfortunately, it's now too small for him, which I told him. He then chose a short sleeved shirt that's also too small. He took this well; he chose a gray long sleeved shirt. Which was his shirt for the day. This is the very first time he's chosen a clothing item for himself without my asking him first (which I usually don't do, so it's not like he's gotten into the habit). I consider this significant: small decisions like what to wear are notoriously difficult for people with autism because there's no absolute, there's no right or wrong choice. It's an excellent sign that Damian is making these choices on his own.

Bonnie came to work with him. Nice to have someone work on a Saturday morning, actually. Sounded like they had a lot of fun in the back yard. At the end of the session, they came into my office. She and I talked while Damian hung out. At one point, I was telling her how he started whispering full time when he went to his old preschool in January. Almost immediately, he demanded that I pull his pants leg down and got bent out of shape when I didn't do it instantly. I asked him how he felt (with choices) and he said he was mad and started hitting me (his usual "oh yeah, I'm mad, aren't I?" response these days). I talked a little more about that (and stopped his hitting) and then went to the source, asking if he was upset about my mention of his old school and how he was back then. Yes. He acknowledged that he was. He quieted right down then, and I told him how very proud I am of him and how much he's learned and grown since then, how smart he is, etc.

I was very glad Bonnie was there for all of this, because I think one of the most important things we can do for Damian is help him to understand emotions: ours and his. He'd gotten upset while they were playing: they lost the cap to the bubble soap (which we use to rewet the bubble wand/pipe) and at the time she chalked it up to impatience (wanting it NOW, THIS MINUTE, not being able to handle delayed gratification) but as we were talking, she realized he thought she knew where the cap was and was playing with him (which is part of floor time, and we've done it a million times, acting dumb). No wonder he got mad when she couldn't find the cap.

I forgot a moment from yesterday: I commented that I had a sore throat. Damian told me I should have a lollipop! I give him kid-cough-drop-style lollipops when he has a sore throat. I was delighted that he was prescribing one for me.

We went clothes shopping today to get Damian a new fall/winter wardrobe. (See above: his long sleeved shirts are mostly too small now.) Damian was clearly interested in the process. Tonight, when it was time for his PJs, he said he wanted to wear "the red shirt with the zipper pocket" instead of his PJ top. Once again, an unexpected clothing choice out of the blue. Very cool. So he wore one of his new shirts to bed.

Sunday 28 October

We finally got a pumpkin and carved it into a Jack-o-lantern. Damian liked the process. Before Dan scooped out the seeds into a metal bowl, Damian took the opportunity to abscond with the bowl. When we were looking at pictures later, I asked Damian to describe that shot: he said "I put the bowl on my head." Dan said, "Is it a hat?" Damian agreed, "The bowl is a hat."

We went to a Japanese noodle house for lunch. Damian chose to get the kid's meal: he liked the cute bowl in the picture on the menu. Once again, he chose on his own. The kid's menu has rice and noodles. Last time, he didn't touch the Udon noodles. This time he loved them, kept sucking them into his mouth in the classic spaghetti form, which we haven't gotten him to do before.

Tonight, once again, Damian chose his own bedwear. He said he wanted "the red and white pajamas." They're heavy thermal PJs, red with white piping. I've never even consciously noticed they have white on them. Apparently Damian has.

His pronouns have almost completely resolved: he turns them around to use appropriately 90% of the time now. If you say "Did you go to the playground?" he'll say "I goed to the playground." I love that incorrect grammar, it shows he's putting things together in his own brain.

Monday 29 October

When Damian's at Rivka's for OT, he leads the way. He climbs in the ball pit or goes over to the jungle gym: he's very much deciding what to do next. It's kind of interesting, because he tries that at Heidi's but she has an overriding agenda and pulls him back. It's a matter of personal style, and I don't think either is more right. He does seem to be more and more comfortable with his assertiveness at Rivka's as a result of her easygoing style. On the other hand, Heidi gets more focused work done with him.

At the end of the session, they played at Halloween: Damian and I went "door to door" in the narrow corridor. Damian knocked on a door and said "trick or treat!" in a nice loud voice. Rivka opened the door and offered him a tray of candy, and he chose one. I was pleased that he understood the concept: I'd only explained it to him once, a few days ago.

He was very talkative today. I can't remember everything, but I asked him if he wanted a tamale and he said "the tamales are at the farmer's market." He remembered.

He was excited about eating M&M's so I talked about feelings and asked him if he felt excited. We tend to forget to clue him in to his positive emotions: it's easier to remember in the midst of a meltdown, but when a kid's enthusiastic, it's easy enough (and pleasant enough) to just go along with that.

Tonight he was sitting on my lap on the bed. He did something nice for me, I can't remember what, gave me something or such. I said how sweet he was. He very deliberately puckered up and kissed the cover of the book he was holding, then turned around on my lap and gave me a really well-defined pucker of a kiss. And then kissed me again, and again and again, until I started laughing at his enthusiasm. He laughed too, and kept kissing me. It was almost too much kissing! I said he could say "I love you, Mommy," that this worked too. He did, but he wanted to kiss me some more. I laughingly put a halt to it and we went on to play a running-around game.

Tuesday 30 October

Jean suggested today that we -- all the floor timers and we parents as well -- stop asking Damian to answer "wh" questions (what, when, where, why) for a while. Her theory is that he loses words when he's stressed and that maybe if we stop putting him on the spot, he'll have more spontaneous language and will gain more confidence in his ability. It's not a bad theory, but I'm not sure she's got him pegged right yet. I have to talk to her more about this. Because Dan and I are hearing an awful lot of spontaneous language from him, even when he's upset. Which makes me think there's a different dynamic at work.

I hadn't told Damian that we were going to the fish store (unusual, I always give him an itinerary, but I wasn't sure till the last minute). When I pulled into the parking lot, Damian said, "Bread is at the fish store. I want bread." I always buy him a loaf of artisan bread while we're there. He was anticipating.

He didn't want to play with Gamma when she came, he wanted to stick by me. I think it was partly that he was tired and therefore wanting Mommy, but I've seen this repeatedly with her lately. For whatever reason -- maybe just that she's been coming longer than anyone else or maybe it's something about her style -- but he's resisting playing with her, though he's fine after he warms up. I suggested next time she bring some new toys for him. That should catch his interest.

It was raining out: Damian and Gamma stood on the back porch. Damian declared, "It's raining, it's pouring!" Then Dante got out (my fault) and ran down the back steps to the yard. Damian dissolved into tears, crying, "Dante come back!" So I got on my shoes and fetched the dumb cat. It took Damian a while to recover. He was truly upset and scared that Dante would somehow not be able to come back in because of the rain, that it was dangerous out there or something. What an LA boy: rain is a foreign concept.

He had a very good session with Heidi. As he was taking off his shoes and socks, he sat next to a girl who was finishing up her session (putting her shoes and socks on). She was about seven, I'd guess. Damian was intrigued by the motorbike emblems on her pants, and Heidi led a conversation about that. Then she whispered in his ear, coaching him, and he willingly asked the girl what her name was. She answered, and then Heidi whispered again and Damian offered his name to the girl. What amazed me was not that it was so easy for him to follow up on Heidi's prompts but that when he did talk to this girl, his eye contact was excellent. He was really addressing her.

But a good session in other ways: he held onto the glider with both hands and flew across the room (with Heidi holding him for support) right into the ball pit, not once, but three times. He went down the slide on his belly. He worked with fierce concentration putting small beads together, worked for a long time without giving up even though it was hard. And he was very talkative.

Tonight when Dan came home, they sat on the couch. Dan asked Damian if he had fun at Heidi's. Damian said, "I had fun at Heidi's. I played the ball game and the cone game." That is just so cool. So so cool. Relating what he did without a specific question prompting it. Elaborating on an answer. It's just so damned cool.

A breakthrough: he picked up his fork and used it to spear his own pasta. For the first time since June, he used his fork all by himself. We have not made an issue of this. We've put the pasta on the fork and let him (insisted he) do the rest of the work. I've wrapped my hand around his so we could spear food together. But we've never insisted he spear his own food. I'm delighted he decided to do it himself tonight. He must be feeling confident about his fine motor ability. I think it's directly connected to having a good OT session today. Heidi's worth her weight in gold. Nobody else is as good. That's why I drive to Santa Monica twice on Tuesdays. It kills me but it's worth it.

Wednesday 31 October

We played hooky from school this morning. Dan's idea, but I heartily agreed. I called and told them Damian was taking a mental health day. Truth is, he was so tired yesterday and I know it affects his interactions all day. He gets more out of therapy when he's better rested. So he took the day off and slept in.

Damian had his second My Gym class this afternoon. Beforehand, I was asking him what was in the gym, and started naming things like the ball pit and the glider. He went on to name things like the trampoline and the bar that I'd completely forgotten about. I thought that was pretty cool.

I had mixed feelings about seeing him in the class. I think it's what he needs, but that doesn't make it easy to watch. He has a lot of trouble staying put. The other kids sit on the green line or in the circle or on the blue mat, wherever the teacher tells them to sit, and they listen and watch as the teacher demonstrates the next maneuver. Then they raise their hands and wait to be called for their turn at the exercise. Damian sits down but then jumps up and runs off to explore. The teachers or I round him up and ask him to sit down again. He does. But he has to be reminded to watch the demonstration. Then he jumps up and tries to do the exercise right away. He doesn't understand about raising his hand and waiting. It's all very frustrating. I found myself blaming it on his autism, but after class, I realized it's not that -- it's that he doesn't have any experience with this kind of situation. In school, he sits well in circle time, but that's defined by a circle of chairs, and the teacher is reading a book or interpreting a song. Things that are interesting in and of themselves. So he's not used to watching to learn and then follow the steps later. And he's never ever had to raise his hand and wait to be called. At school, they call on kids one by one without asking for a show of hands. I think his restlessness too may be at least partly simply a result of the very new and enticing gym environment. It looks like a free play zone, and he responds accordingly. So I think I need to sit down with him before next Wednesday and explain how it all works. He's much better about things when he understands what to expect.

One thing that was related to his issues, though: he periodically hunched his shoulders. It was particularly noticeable when all the kids sat on this wide swing and the teacher made it swing from side to side, pretending it was a boat. Damian liked it a lot at first -- until the kid to his left fell into him as the "boat" lurched. Then his shoulders hunched up and he looked wary and uncomfortable. Sensory defensiveness meets sensory invasion. I don't blame him. I might have felt the same way in his position. Very noticeably, though, there were a few other times kids bumped into him during the course of the activities and he didn't cry or retreat. He gathered himself together and went on, engaging in the games. Once a teacher even knocked him down (by accident, and she didn't realize it). That may be the first time Damian's been knocked down by someone and not cried. So even though I see signs that he's having trouble getting with the program and is uncomfortable around the other kids, etc, I think it's probably a good place for him. As long as he seems happy about going, we'll go. If he ever protests (beyond his customary "I want to stay here" that he does when he's playing happily at home), I'll take it very seriously and back out of the My Gym experience.

Kahuna commented that he's now starting to see for himself what I was talking about, that Damian has a lot of language. He said he could tell before that Damian had an extensive vocabulary, but it was mostly in one word bursts. Today he started talking to Kahuna in full sentences. Sounded like he was using a lot of spontaneous language as well. I suspect this is a combination of feeling well rested for a change (we always run a sleep deficit during the week -- trying to solve that!) and that he's comfortable enough with Kahuna now that he's opening up more. I'm very glad. I was getting worried that we were the only ones who saw what Damian can be capable of. While I was talking to Kahuna in the dining room, Damian started calling for me from his room, "Mommy, come back!" Kahuna smiled, amused and maybe a little surprised. My supposedly reticent kid can be quite bossy when he's talking to me or his daddy. Kahuna also said that Damian's very smart. (Well, yeah. He is.)

So we went trick-or-treating. Damian has a hard hat and carpenter's toolbelt and power saw. It's a favorite set of toys. So he went as a construction worker. Easy for Mom. Also very cute. Last year we joined a large group of kids, but I thought that it would be better for Damian to go on his own this year, so he wouldn't be overwhelmed and so he could have a chance to perform the ritual himself. He'd had practice at OT on Monday and we'd rehearsed what he was supposed to do. Only thing is? We forgot to add one small detail: you wait for them to open the door before you say "Trick or treat!" So he was knocking and saying "Trick or treat!" and then falling silent when people opened their doors. Oops. But after a while he got into the swing of things, though still with a very soft voice and a lot of coaching from Dan. He liked the getting candy part, no question. At first he wanted to eat the candy right away, but he accepted the idea of waiting till later. He was, however, possessive of the candy bag, holding it close.

We made Melissa & Terri’s our last stop; we went inside and hung out for a bit. Damian got to eat some of his candy and investigate their kids' toys. Terri told me that Max and Dahlia didn't even go up to the door at the first three houses. So Damian's not the only one with Halloween fears. Watching Max and Dahlia helped put Damian's shyness in perspective, too -- they too were less than forthcoming with strangers, and at one point Max spun around. Every kid acts like this. Damian's issues may not affect him as much as we assume. Important to have reminders of this.

last // home // next

log archives

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

copyright 2001 Tamar