November 2001 page 1 of 2
Thursday 1 November

When I picked Damian up from Robin (he has a floor time session with her directly after school), she reported that he played with Bobby, a boy from his class. It was mostly parallel play with some prompted interactions, but the important part is that he's been more than a little afraid of Bobby in the past and he was much more comfortable this time. Bobby is a very in-your-face kid, the kind who will throw himself on another child with a big bear hug -- super friendly. Damian's understandably been scared. It's a very good thing if he's getting over that.

Robin also told me the floor timers were given a presentation at their monthly meeting, including the notion that they should stop asking the kids so many questions. This I think is a very good idea. It's hard to always be put on the spot like that. But instead it was suggested that they narrate the child's thoughts: if Robin sees Damian run across the yard to the slide, she should say "I'm running to the slide!" Bah. I have a semi-rant on this but I'll try to write it out more fully later. Suffice to say, they're underestimating Damian if they do this. Robin says he doesn't have much of any spontaneous language with her beyond requests. I say this is not how to get him to talk more. He talks plenty at home and we don't do that artificial stuff-words-in-his-mouth routine.

Damian wanted to hang around at school for a bit, so we did. But the afternoon class was out in the yard and a couple of the kids were extremely curious about Damian. One girl in particular was like a leech. He was very anxious. May tried to tell her to back off, but she wouldn't. The upside, I guess, is that it made it easier to get Damian out the door.

He was super talkative with me this afternoon. We were walking down the street and he commented on a tree. Very simple: "There's a tree." We stopped to check it out. I said, "The tree is tall." Damian agreed: "The tree is not short, the tree is tall." Heh.

He found the pepper mill and brought it to me, asking to "put pepper on food." I said we weren't eating but he could put pepper on Daddy's dinner later. That was acceptable to him. He started talking about the pepper mill at Koontz (a local hardware/houseware store), and then said "Go to the front yard. Put pepper on the pepper tree." I love three year old logic.

He kept wanting to play tag tonight. "Mommy don't make dinner. It's not dinner time. I want to play tag with Mommy." So we played tag while the rice burned.

Friday 2 November

May reported that Damian was bossing the teachers around all morning, telling them what he wanted to do: "I want to go around and around on the dizzy wheel." (a sit-n-spin) May asked him if he wanted to go on the tire swing with two other kids. He was interested in watching but not going on, so he told her, "No, not yet." She was amused that he knew he would be interested later (and he was) but not just yet.

When I got there, he was in an OT session. I was told that it was a joint speech/OT session with another kid (or "peer" as they term it). I waited outside the room. When the door opened, I expected to see Damian and another kid come out. Instead I saw the two therapists and two other kids. I said, "I thought Damian was in there." The OT said, "He is!" And then Damian came out. He looked so small compared to the other two boys, who must have been at least a year older. Apparently they're both very high functioning, also both loud. So Nadia (OT) and Tia (speech, though not his usual ST) figured why not see if Damian will match their loudness? Apparently he did! The boys shouted and Damian joined in, shouting too. And he repeated what they said and added his own commentary. They were doing listening lotto, which involves hearing a sound and identifying the picture of the appropriate object. Sounds like they had a grand time doing it.

Damian didn't want to leave school. This is becoming a habit. He likes having me there, lights up when he sees me, but then wants to stay on the school premises. So we spent some time in his classroom. He investigated the teachers' lunch, and talked about the bubbles in their soda glasses. He needed a tissue, so he got his own and wiped his own nose (this is another one of those "he's finally doing it on his own again!" things). Denise asked him where to put it after he was done (ie: the trash) and he stuffed the used tissue right back in the box. Um. Well. Not exactly.

I ended up having to let him ride on my shoulders to get him to leave school without a meltdown. So it goes.
At home: He used the spoon to eat yogurt completely on his own -- scooping the yogurt onto the spoon. Used a fork to spear salmon last night too. Something has shifted. Thank god. He also wipes his own face and hands with a napkin instead of asking us to do it.

Damian and I had a good play session. We played maracas and cymbals. He stacked the cymbals together and called it a tower, which my little car knocked over except that his hand kept knocking it over first. Then the cymbals flew to the bed ocean, where a fish investigated it, which Damian thought was very funny.

Jean had a good session with him. He took the little toy bears over to the ottoman where Dante was sleeping. He lay them on Dante, and Jean said they were sleeping. Damian said "wake up!" and sat them up. He's making connections and elaborating in collaborative play. This is the next step we've been waiting to see.

I watched him play on his own this evening. He was playing with his toy town. It has a moving circular roadway -- you press a button and it moves. He had put a car on the road and was putting the traffic light next to the road, saying "Green light go" and turning on the road, then switching to the red light side, saying "red light stop" and halting the road. He also opened the gate so the car drove off the road. I was pleased to see him playing with it in a fairly imaginative way, creating a realistic situation.

His favorite game now is tag. Keeps saying, "I want to play tag with Mommy." Tag is an energetic game. Mommy's getting tired.

I found him in the bathroom, trying to drag his potty out the door. He asked for help when he saw me. He wanted it in his bedroom. I figured he was going to use it as a stool, but no, he wanted to sit on it. So I took his diaper off and he sat on it. Dan came home around then and read to Damian for a while and sure enough, he peed in it. I like that this is his idea. He hasn't used it since July. It's part of a larger picture, seems to me: Damian gaining an independent streak. Glad to see it.

Dan read Go Dog Go to Damian. He asked him, "Why are the dogs going fast?" Damian responded, "Because they're driving cars." A good answer, I thought.

Saturday 3 November

Not much of anything to report. Damian was grouchy and tired. He was chatty but his play was very perseverative, not imaginative, and he did a lot of aimless running around, even some spinning and bonking me with his head. I'm realizing that this is all stuff that comes out when he's really tired. I'd guess being tired throws his sensory system off balance and he shuts down a bit.

He was, however, quite talkative. We were in the car at one point, and he picked up Miss Spider's Tea Party. Read it aloud to himself, though not verbatim from memory. Describing what he saw on the page.

Today's favorite toy was a tiny dollhouse tea kettle. He likes pretending to pour from it into my real tea mug, and he was playing with it and decided it was time for us to play the "I'm a little teapot" game. So we did. He didn't sustain interest in the game, though -- he was mostly interested in pouring the tea and pretending to drink it. If this keeps up, maybe we should get him a play tea set.

Sunday 4 November

Damian's had an odd weekend. He was restless, couldn't sit still with a toy or stay with a thought. Very distractible. We spent some time today with Diane & family, and Damian was leery of Sophia, which he hasn't been lately. Of course, she's entered the "everything here is mine" stage, so she didn't cotton to his playing with her stuff and kept trying to grab it away from him. This is his worst nightmare. But lately he's been able to pull a toy back, and today he couldn't seem to muster the gumption. I think it's connected to the restlessness, some kind of sensory thing going on underneath making it harder for him to deal. But he was sweet and talkative. Just... a little off.

Monday 5 November

May reports that Damian was very verbal today in class, just as he was Friday. She was delighted.

I picked him up a little early to go to OT, and I saw his class in the yard: the male TA was running around with four of the kids, playing chase. Damian sat off on his own, playing with sand. I was disappointed to see that: Damian LOVES playing chase and tag at home. The TA needs to know that and invite him into such games.

He had the same restlessness in OT that he did this weekend. Just couldn't stay with any one activity. So unlike him.

I decided he could use some park OT, so after Jean left we went to the park. Damian announced his desire to "slide down the swirly slide," a very good name for it. And he did just that. He did okay with the other kids there, not shying away as badly as I'd feared though not as comfortable as he was a week or so ago.

Dan met us at the park. I didn't prepare Damian, just asked, "Who's that coming toward us?" Damian lit up, shouting out "It's DADDY!!!" He was overjoyed and gave Dan a big hug.

When we drove home, Damian decided he wanted to go with Dan. They drove behind me, and I waved. Dan tells me Damian waved back. I couldn't see him. But at one point, we drove alongside each other and I could see Dan looking at me from the front seat and Damian's sweet little face in the back seat. Damian had this huge grin. He loved seeing me in the other car.

He was asleep by the time we got home. Two hours before bedtime. We put him to bed and crossed our fingers.

Tuesday 6 November

He slept twelve hours last night! Straight. Wow.

May reported that Damian wasn't as talkative today. Probably still sleep-doped.

I spoke to Kenny, the TA, about Damian's love of chase games and asked that Kenny try to include him next time. Kenny said he had no idea Damian would be interested. Ah, how little they know him there. It hurts me sometimes to see that. I guess I have to be more communicative and on top of that, but how do I know what they do and don't do since I'm not there to see it?

Damian had a pretty good day. Seemed more quiet, yes, but much more focused; the restlessness was almost gone.

He's been very mommy-centric lately. Likes to come in and visit me when floor time therapists are here. Today he announced in the middle of OT with Heidi that "I want to go see Mommy." I hugged him and then he was okay with continuing with the work. He's not clingy with me or avoidant with other people, but he just seems to want me more than usual. He's also been kissing me a lot.

On the way home from Heidi's, Damian overheard my phone conversation with Dan. Dan was saying that he could leave work now, and I said "We might get home at the same time, then." Damian commented, "Daddy is coming home." Later in the car ride, he said "Daddy loves me."

A new thing this past week or so: part of Damian's bedtime ritual is that he gives Dan a kiss and says goodnight and then I pick him up and carry him to his room (he sits with us on our bed for stories and pictures). Lately, Damian's been giving himelf a running start and launching himself, leaping onto me. It's pretty amusing.

Wednesday 7 November

Verbal again at school. Nice to see.

Silver came unexpectedly (our wires got crossed). She was waiting for us when we got home from school. So Damian went from school to Silver to My Gym and then home for an hour break with me before Kahuna came. Busy busy day. But you know? A very good day. So maybe it's just a matter of sleep and energy level, not overbooking.

Damian's third My Gym class. He did much better than he had. The most outstanding thing was that he did all the exercises very well. His ability level has come up just in the past couple of weeks. He walked across a "hot dog" log, he climbed two ladders simultaneously, he hung upside down from rings. He did better than some of the other kids there. Caught on quicker. The teachers all commented on how great he was doing.

He also was more comfortable with the other children. At one point, they all ran across the room holding hands. Damian was fine with that. He followed along with the other kids in group activities, paying better attention than I've seen before there. He had trouble staying on the mat, trouble staying put, but less so than the previous two times. I'd explained the drill to him before class, and I think he was restless and bored but basically understood. The leader guy kicked me out toward the end, telling me to sit in the waiting area with the other parents. He was right: Damian kept gravitating toward me instead of paying attention. I was happy to go, but worried that Damian would need my assist. He didn't: he did fine on his own. He's such a quick study, it astounds me.

During the warmup exercises, the leader had the kids pretending to reach for apples to pick. Damian got really into the imaginary world, moving around picking apples from high up above him. He made it real for himself, more so than the other kids did. I was so happy to see that ability in him.

Kahuna had a good session with Damian. He was very jazzed. He told me Damian learns very quickly, that he (Kahuna) is moving faster with Damian (ie: working at higher levels each session, raising the bar) than usual. They played hide-and-seek, and I could hear Kahuna trying to convince Damian to hide in a different place instead of always burrowing into his bed. So Damian did hide somewhere else, but he kept running out to see Kahuna looking for him. He couldn't contain his excitement. It was pretty funny.

Dan came home and Damian tried to send Kahuna away so he could play with Daddy. We persuaded him that he could play with both of them. He liked that idea. He decided he wanted to play with the marble maze, which is his current favorite toy but I haven't encouraged because he can't put it together on his own, and doesn't really participate in the process, and then he just puts the marbles in and watches them go through -- very passive, very perseverative. But he insisted, so they did pull the game out and put it together. Kahuna told me (I wasn't in the room) that Damian was able to make choices about which piece to put on next and how to assemble them. He had help but he did do a lot of the work (and the thinking work) himself -- certainly more than he's ever done. And then Dan had the brilliant idea to say the maze was an apartment building and the marbles were living there in apartments. The marbles went down elevators to the ground floor and got in cars and went off to the park! I gather some of this was Kahuna, some was Dan and some was Damian furthering the idea-making. I wish I'd seen it, it sounds delightful.

Dan watched Damian play at his toy kitchen and was surprised by how appropriate his play was. Among other things, he pressed the button to make the phone ring, picked up the phone, and followed the cooking instructions (with Dan's support at ferreting out the right foods) Chef Tony (kitchen has a voicebox) gave.

While Dan was filling the bathtub, Damian invented a fun game: he stopped in the bathroom doorway. Dan said "Hello." Damian said "Hello. Goodbye." and ran off down the hall. Ran back, poked his head in, said hello and goodbye again and ran off again. Dan commented afterwards that it was like having a regular kid in the house. And it is, more and more it is.

Damian wanted to read "the sock book" at bedtime, but we gave that one back to the library. (He likes it because he gets to find matching pairs of socks.) So then he said he wanted the "leaf and berry book." Turned out to be one of his new library books, called something like Blueberry Shoe. He'd made up his own identifying name for it.

Thursday 8 November

A moment I forgot from yesterday. Damian was sticking his hands in my shirt pockets. I asked him what he was hoping to find there. He didn't answer. I asked again, "What's in my pockets?" He gave me a winning look and said, "Breasts!"

Damian has Robin for floor time after school on Thursdays. I went to meet him an hour early so she and I could talk and exchange notes/methods, and play with him together. This is a new floor time program policy. At any rate, I got there at noon, opened the door to the little playroom, and walked into a group meeting: Damian, Robin, Nadia (Damian's school-based OT), and Heidi! Heidi's been his OT since April and we pay via insurance and out of pocket for her. Cognitive dissonance to see her there, but very cool. She'd come to talk to Nadia about him (fill her in) and to see Damian in his classroom. Robin apparently walked in to pick Damian up and found him sitting on Heidi's lap. I love that image. It implies the bond that's formed between them.

It doesn't sound like Damian got any actual floor time today during that session, because they spent the next hour mostly talking about him. Heidi told them what issues he had back in April and how very far he's come since then. Robin told me later that everyone agrees that he's very smart and a pleasure to work with. She said that it's unusual to see a kid progress so fast and it makes the work so much more gratifying. We all want to see instant improvement, but the fact is, you usually don't. It usually takes a very long time and many repetitions of the same activities, etc. With Damian, it doesn't happen overnight either, but it does happen much faster. Maybe half the usual time. Maybe even faster.

Friday 9 November

When I picked Damian up from school, his new teacher Linda told me that he'd been very talkative; in small group time, he kept answering May's questions -- he even raised his hand to answer. He dominated the group!

Bird (speech therapist) told me that he's still not saying much spontaneously. She tried something this week: she didn't speak at all till he did. Waited seven minutes for him to talk. I'm so puzzled by this, because he's positively chatty at home. I think it may be about feeling put on the spot even though she's scaled back and stopped asking him lots of questions. I wish I knew how to translate how he is with us to his behavior in the world at large. While she and I were talking, he started running around, jumping on the trampoline, etc -- narrating everything. I asked if he's done this with her. She said yes, but not nearly as much as he was at that moment. I said, "This is how he is at home" and told her some of the other amazing spontaneous moments he's had lately -- moments I've chronicled here. That's part of why I keep this daily log: so I know it's not my imagination, the things he does and says. Because otherwise I'd have to wonder, given the reports I sometimes get from his therapists. They say he's doing great, but their "great" is my "yeah, it was great two months ago when he started doing that."

We visited Dan at work; Damian was appropriately cute and charming. Very -- dare I say? -- talkative in the offices, but when we all went out for lunch, he was much quieter.

At the restaurant, Damian commented that the fan was spinning. Dan asked, "Why is the fan spinning?" Damian replied, "Because it's blowing." Quite a reasonable answer.

When we got home, Damian and I were perusing the current Entertainment Weekly, commenting on the pictures. Whenever we came upon a photo of someone emoting (ads and movie stills both show this more often than you'd think), I'd ask Damian how the person felt: happy, sad, upset, mad. He always answered easily, correctly identifying the emotion. This is very significant: much older kids with Aspergers can't do this. Damian can read faces now. This means he has an excellent chance of being able to be socially appropriate as he gets older.

We flipped the pages and found a picture of a bucolic country setting at night. I said it was nighttime, Damian commented on the dark night and we talked about the fact that it was night outside right now, etc. Then I asked how he could tell that it was night, "Why is it nighttime?" I was very curious what he'd say. He thought about it, didn't answer right away. Then he pointed to the sky: "Because there are stars." Bingo. Kid can now answer "why" questions. Not consistently, not all the time, but still. Doing well. When he doesn't know the answer, he just repeats the question, switching the phrasing: "Why is Mommy tired, Damian?" "Because Mommy is tired." Isn't that called solipsism? It's a clever non-answer. Especially for a three year old with issues.

Saturday 10 November

We spent the day with Diane & co., going to a mall and a kids' museum and a restaurant. Damian did fine at the mall -- we didn't stay long and he and I played a computer game together.

He did less well at the kid's museum -- there were too many kids and he wasn't in a confident mood. He didn't try much at all. He didn't even go into the big indoor sandbox or enjoy the pretend fire truck (admittedly, it wasn't that exciting). He only wanted to do the easiest, most low key and least challenging activities. Frustrating, also a little sad. On the other hand, he crawled into a dark tunnel that some other kids were scared to go near.

He did surprisingly well at the restaurant, I'm glad to say. It was very noisy and crowded, and I was tempted to zone out myself but Damian played imaginatively with the small toys I fished out of my bag and kept alert. When Sophia cried after her twenty-month-old's wishes were thwarted, I asked Damian how she felt. He said "She feels mad." Which was a very accurate reading, I think.

We stopped by a bookstore before going home. The kid's section has a train table. Three other kids had already staked their claim to the table. Damian walked right over and started pushing a train. Very cool.

Sunday 11 November

This morning Damian rolled into me on the bed, saying "I'm a steamroller." Later, he hung from the kneeling chair, saying "I'm a bat hanging upside down."

We went to the mall again. Damian got overly stimulated, I think. Bored too. He was hard to reach and a little stimmy. By evening, he wasn't quite present. Nevertheless, he had a great time in the bath, making a storm at sea and having boats capsize, narrating the whole while.

Monday 12 November

Damian had the day off from school, but Dan had to work. Damian and I went to the park in the morning. I had told him after he woke up what was on the day's agenda, and after playing and having breakfast, he got impatient to get going. Kept telling me "I'm ready to go to the park" even when he was still in his pajamas. Ha.

He had a good time at the park, especially before it got crowded. He's still kid-shy. And I think the OT workout (he slid but most especially swung (swang?)) did him a lot of good. He was more centered the rest of the day, though I noticed him playing while lying down on the floor, something I haven't seen for many months. In this case, though, it's not shutting out the world, I think it's fatigue. He may be fighting a mild bug. I think I am.

Bonnie was thrilled with her time with Damian, said he was very responsive, very engaged with her. I like her affect. She's very imaginative, but in a very appropriate way. And she's the only one who can successfully coax him away from me when he gets into his "I want to see Mommy" mode.

Tuesday 13 November

Dan and I drove both cars to Santa Monica this morning. Damian loved seeing Daddy in his car out the window.

We had the first of what's scheduled to be a monthly floor time clinic at school, with the school director, Damian's floor time team leader, and one or both parents. I started to describe it here, but it got very long and I think deserves a whole entry in and of itself. So. Suffice to say Damian did well. I think the school's directors were surprised to see just how well. (If I don't write up a full entry, I'll detail the session here and put a link to it when I do.)

In the afternoon, he wanted to play with me -- and play with me -- and play with me. We played for over an hour before Gamma came, and then about two after she left. We played bears in a cave (under the blanket on the bed). Also the falling down on Mommy game, which turned into chopping Mommy down and yelling "timber!" so Mommy Tree would fall down, then plopping down on top of her. Also the steamroller game (roll on mommy, shouting "I'm a steamroller!" and "I rolled Mommy flat!"). When Dan came home, Damian wanted to play with Mommy and Daddy together. Sweet, but Mommy needed a play break. Mommy's not three years old anymore and wants to do boring things like check her email and make dinner.

Wednesday 14 November

Dan played tag with Damian, yelling "I'm gonna get you!" as he chased him. I heard Damian run by, shouting "Get me on my bed!"

Damian did okay at My Gym today. I explained again before we got there that he had to sit with the other kids even when it got boring (he has a tendency to wander off). I told him he could look around if he was bored, but not to get up. I also talked about how he needed to raise his hand to get a turn. He remembered the former but not the latter. He was very good about sitting on the mat/green line/wherever the kids were, but his attention wandered constantly. He took my comment about looking around too much to heart. And he completely forgot about raising his hand. I talked to the teachers about coaching him to do so, instead of just letting him go last without having raised his hand. Frustrating, that.

Overall, he seemed less focused than last week. And by the second half, he was shrugging his shoulders a lot, which I think is about anxious tension (tight shoulder muscles). But he still got a kick out of being there. You could see it on his face when he relaxed enough to go with the flow. And he was more comfortable around the other kids. He still isolated himself in the circle times, moving to a spot away from the crowd, but he was willing to join the group activities, and at one point another kid bumped him from behind and he didn't so much as flinch.

When we got home, he didn't want to go inside, so I brought out my garden shovel and started pulling up some dead ground cover. Damian wanted a shovel too, but insisted he have his shovel, not mine. So I got his for him and he dug in the front, where it's bare dirt (the zinnias are now gone). Then we raked the driveway together. It felt good to do something useful and know that he was participating in his way. And I only had to tell him once to rake the leaves into the pile, not scatter the pile.

Kahuna played hide and seek with Damian. I saw Damian actually searching for Kahuna in his room, in the bathroom, etc. He's getting the rules. Of course, he also kept coming in my office to take Mommy breaks.

When Dan came home, he pulled his laptop out of its bag. Damian ran off, coming back with his two new game CDs, "I want to play games wif Daddy on Daddy's computer."

I've started noticing him self-correcting himself wrongly. IE: he said, "Daddy took me to school and Mommy took me home." I said, "Daddy took you to school, but who brought you home? Mommy or Daddy?" He said "Daddy brought me home" but then self-corrected, "Daddy bringed me home." He's learned the correct way of using the past tense but hasn't realized there are exceptions. He also corrected "went" to "goed." I find it amusing, and I love the fact that he's thinking that carefully about what he's saying -- it's clear the words are all him -- so I'm not correcting except maybe gently repeating it with the proper use of the irregular verb. Sometimes. Sometimes I just smile at my bright boy.

Thursday 15 November

I met Damian at school during his session with Robin. They were playing with Bobby and his floor timer, Mimi. Damian seemed much more comfortable with Bobby but still wasn't interacting with him unprompted.

I did some floor time with Damian for Robin's benefit. She says I get a lot more spontaneous language than she does, but she doesn't think I have any specific formula she can copy. I'm very physical with him, as he is with me, and a level of intimacy is necessary for that kind of interaction. She said my affect is warm and gentle. She gave me a couple of tips: make sure my voice stays normal, don't raise it higher (I wasn't aware that I did): he needs to model my voice because he still has a tendency to mumble and speak softly. Also when I see him getting frustrated, talk about it before he blows a gasket. (He wanted me to fall over, I said I didn't want to, he ordered me to two or three times and then started to cry. The trick is to teach him to not cry.) I haven't gotten a chance to see her in action yet but she tells me that will come. I don't know, I'm not convinced this "supervision" isn't a waste of time. I know what I'm doing, and I largely do floor time by instinct, so it's hard to swallow too much instruction. But Robin does think it will do Damian a lot of good to be playing with me at school, that his ease with me may translate to more of an ease at school. It's possible. Worth trying, anyway.

We had a makeup OT session today, since Monday was a holiday. When we went into the gym, a pair of twins (maybe 2 1/2 yo) were playing a fishing game. Damian, who had been into the idea of the ball pit, became entranced with the fishing game and said he wanted to play too. Rivka went to find a third rod, but couldn't, so she said he could play after the twins were done. But when she gave him the rod, he became quickly bored. Know why? Because the twins had moved on to walking on a balance beam and he wanted to do that! This is big. He was actively interested in what other kids were doing and wanted to join them. I see so many small signs of this now, of his awareness and interest in other children. I'm so fucking relieved to see it.

Similar thing happened at the library: there were baskets of board books on every table in the children's section. Most tables were empty. Damian went over to the table with two other kids already there and wanted to look at the pop-up book a little girl was reading. She said she was done, and Damian leafed through it. He stood close to her and another boy and was completely fine about it. Even a month ago this would not have been okay. He would have probably fled to another table.

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