January 2002 page 1 of 2
Tuesday 1 January

Damian asked his first non-prompted question today: "Does it have a bar code?" I guess I should explain, huh? We bought him a toy cash register. He loves "scanning" the bar codes. So Dan's been "buying" toys: when there's a bar code, Damian scans it in, otherwise he just asks for money. He prefers to scan. Thus the question.

This afternoon I was boxing with Dante. Damian was enjoying watching. He commented, "The kitty is funny!" A first. A big first. It means he identified his own feeling as amusement and wanted to comment on the source.

Did it again tonight: he put a tasseled cord across his nose, looked in the mirror, and said "I'm funny!" Between yesterday's "I'm angry" and this, we're absolutely thrilled.

Wednesday 2 January

At My Gym today, Damian did every single warmup exercise -- following along with alacrity and very with-it. Dan says he did well at the gymnastics too, but fell out at a certain point late in the session. Tiredness, maybe. But Dan thinks it may have had something to do with something that happened during free play, that Damian was lined up to go into the big trampoline and then suddenly realized he didn't have to, that it wasn't a requirement to be with the other kids anymore, and he turned away and went to the ball pit. Alone. Maybe he suddenly felt the sting of not fitting in.

In the bath, he offered Dan a ladle of water, said "It's for Daddy. It's something to drink." Dan pretended to drink from it, then handed it back to Damian. A few times later, Damian said "It's for Daddy" again, but this time said "It's salad for Daddy." Inventive. (And also cool that he was offering: he never did go through that phase of offering everything to people when he was younger.)

Thursday 3 January

First day of school. I got upset going into class: Sidney, a big kid, started lashing out and hitting ME. For no reason, of course. His self-regulation is for shit. And then Damian was directed to a seat right next to this kid. It felt so wrong.

Robin stood him up. I think she didn't realize school was in session this week. So he stayed in the classroom for 45 minutes till someone thought to find out where I was. But it sounds like he had fun playing with Linda, and that she got to get a glimpse of what he's capable of.

He fell apart in the afternoon. Exhaustion and stress from school. But he recovered by evening, and was incredibly inventive with Legos, building an amazing long car with staircases on it and such. Really thinking about how to build the thing, adding and subtracting blocks till he was satisfied.

And he did wonderfully on a computer game. Played it by himself for the first time. Dan commented to me that there Damian was, sitting on the bed playing a computer game, eating Mexican fast food (chicken taquitos from Whole Food), and Dan was delighted to see it! How's that for irony?

Speaking of the computer game: part of it involves spray painting a car. The other day Damian was spraying it one color but leaving spots open. Dan tried to point out the white spaces, suggesting Damian fill them in. Damian ignored him. Then he chose a different color and filled in the white spaces with that one. Then chose a third color and finished the job. He'd had the whole thing in mind from the beginning.

Dan and I took turns today painting Damian's bookcases. When Damian saw the yellow and blue on the wood, he got so excited. He loves the way his room is transformed by color.

Friday 4 January

On the way to school this morning, Damian used this strangled frog voice. It was like he couldn't get the words past a lump in his throat. I couldn't coax him out of it. Dan instead went along with it. I'm not sure what the right approach is.

We had our meeting with the school folk. I'll delineate the details later (I hope) but we didn't get what we wanted. I think/hope we opened the door to getting it, though, and they're willing to make a bunch of adjustments to help make things better for him. It's a step, though probably not enough.

We picked him up after school from Bird. Her supervisor was in there with them. Apparently Bird had kept saying to her, "Wait till you meet Damian!" all morning. And she said she enjoyed him, that he was a lot of fun. In a way, I don't understand it, because I can see that he's still not all there even in her office. He's more relaxed and comfortable than he is in his classroom, but... well... this woman told me that there was one point where he clearly wanted something from the cabinet. He approached it, eyeballed it, etc. But wouldn't say "Open the door." He was waiting for a prompt. Bird kept hinting but didn't prompt, trying to coax it out of him. They both seem to feel that this is his current stage. It's not. At home he says "Open the door!" all the time. Says a lot of other things too. Loves to boss us around, doesn't need any prompting whatsoever. It's just so radically different from the kid they see.

Bird told me something kind of cool, though: she pairs Damian with another kid twice a week now (she sees him four times a week for half hour sessions). She says Damian's more involved, more high affect, maybe even more verbal (have to check this) when he's with another kid! He likes the peer interaction!!

When we got home, he fell apart again. I forget why exactly now, something to do with a branch in the front yard, but what I found interesting was that he asked me to sit with him in the rocking chair. He still cried, though, still couldn't calm down. So he asked me to read him a book. Chose the book. He gradually calmed down over the course of two books. It seems he's starting to get a sense of how to help himself get regulated.

Sunday 6 January

This morning Damian loaded up his wagon in his room, pulled it down the hall to me in my bedroom, and offered me his toy. I gave him something to bring back to Daddy, and off he went. We did this half a dozen times. Very cute. Very sweet. Very much like a toddler. It's a stage he never went through, this giving stage.

He did it again later, in a different way. He was with Dan in the back yard. Damian was playing by himself in a fairly perseverative way, pushing his popper. Dan said he was bored, he couldn't play with Damian's toy. Damian marched up the steps to the back porch, picked up a digger, and handed it to Dan, saying "Here's a toy for Daddy to play with."

He had a hard time at dinner, wanted us to pick up his fork for him. We didn't. He left. Later, he slithered into my lap. I let him. He tried the food again, decided he didn't like it (eggplant parmesan -- major points for trying it). Dan made him a quesadilla. Damian took one bite, then left. Came back pushing the laundry basket. Inside was a toy pot with lid from his play kitchen. He put a piece of quesadilla in the pot, then pushed it back to his room, where we heard the burner turn on. He was cooking his food.

Monday 7 January

Damian woke at 3am, went back to sleep easily but slept restlessly. Decided to keep him home. When he woke in our bed at 8:30 am, he ran down the hall to go find Daddy. He was heartbroken to find Daddy not home. This readjustment to life-as-normal (work and school) isn't so easy.

He was a bit out of it today. Responsive enough, at least sometimes, but, well... he wanted to run around shaking his head. Wanted to get deep pressure on the top of his head. We played a lot of physical games, which got him going.

Rivka noticed that Damian did great while he was on the swing: She had him say "Hi, Mom!" every time the swing came around to face me -- he would start grinning at me as soon as I came in view, and belted out a really big "HI MOM!" He did well on the trampoline too, singing his ABCs in a loud voice. But as soon as she stopped the vestibular/proprioceptive input activities, he shut up. Right now he just really needs that to keep him on course.

Dan thinks Damian's sensory discombobulation today is related to his (Dan's) going back to work (also today). I think he's right. It's becoming ever more important to talk to Damian about his feelings.

Silver got down on Damian's level; they did some quiet play. Sounds like it was pretty productive and imaginative, though. They started playing with the Brio trains and tracks. Damian found the little pine trees that go with the set. He set them up alongside each other, talking about the Christmas trees. Then he had a little Brio truck bring over a payload. It's shaped like a box. Damian put the box down next to a tree, said it was a box of toys (ie: Christmas presents). He did this again and then again, until every tree had presents underneath.

Tuesday 8 January

(Another midnight waking, another shared bed.)

Dan and I brought Damian to school together. We got there late: they were sitting down to circle time. Damian nuzzled my nose with his (he often does this and says our noses match) and then went willingly to join the circle. Moments later, he was bowed over in his chair. Just folded over, his head between his knees. I was appalled. He looked over at me with unhappy eyes. I came over and knelt behind him, my arms wrapped around his chest. He sat up straight. Held onto my hands. Even when he had to get up to get his picture (part of the hello circle ritual), he wouldn't let go of my hand even though it meant stretching across the space. I didn't want to leave him there, in that room. But I had to. I told Linda Damian wouldn't let go of my hand. She did something I thought so very smart and understanding: she linked his hand with Percy’s. Percy, sitting next to him, is a quiet, smart boy too. Damian felt comforted enough to let me leave. She told me later that Damian held Percy's hand the whole of circle time. When they got up to dance, their hands unlocked. Damian reached out to grasp Percy's again. Linda saw, and told Percy, encouraging him to hold hands again. Which he did. I'm so glad. She's becoming Damian's advocate.

We (Dan and I) visited the preschool inclusion class. Saw circle time and a little small group time. So much more civilized, interactive, educational. During small group, some of the kids were working together to build a structure from the big foam blocks. They called it a car wash. If Damian could feel comfortable there, he'd learn so much just from watching them play together and eventually joining in.

Floor time clinic today. Ended up, of course, talking more about Damian's class placement (our FT supervisor is the school director). Felt like she was more truly sympathetic than on Friday. Maybe because she's had a chance to think it over. I told her what I'd witnessed this morning in class. She made a pained face when I told her how Damian had folded over in his chair.

The clinic -- the part where we played with Damian -- was mixed, I felt. He wasn't interested in joint pretend play -- he played at the toy kitchen in a very complete way, cooking a doorstop on the burner, flipping it with a spatula, running the spatula under the faucet -- but didn't respond at all to Dan's desire to join in. We ended up doing some more roughhouse type play with him, and that worked far better. He got animated, laughing, talking, and involved with us. Damian tried to run from me but I grabbed him and yanked him back. Cheri grabbed his arms as he came close to her (as he ran from me) and then I tried grabbing his legs, and we played tug-of-Damian. He was a happy camper, getting his sensory input combined with fun play. She talked a bit about how this is (obviously) a crucial part of his floor time, and just as relevant as the imaginative play. Floor time has three equal components: the imaginative play, the sensory-motor play, and semi-structured play (board games and such -- things that require turn taking and understanding rules and sequence, etc. -- computer games also qualify). We do all three, but tend to obsess about the pretend play element.

He was a little out of it in the early afternoon, a little harder to reach than usual. But Dan took him to Heidi's (and got to witness Damian's newfound pleasure in shaving cream) and afterwards, Damian was very present. We had a lot of fun in the evening.

He willingly brushed his teeth tonight, even put toothpaste on the brush (his idea -- we usually don't push it).

Wednesday 9 January

(Another midnight waking, another shared bed.)

Damian had a good day at school today! Linda told me some of the details; nothing earth shaking, but it sounds like she's much more aware of his needs and working to make the TAs likewise aware, and that he's sensing it. For one thing, during goodbye circle, she asked him to say goodbye. He did, in his usual-for-school subdued voice. She coaxed him to try again, louder. He did. The TAs clapped. Surprised, probably. Another: she saw Damian looking at himself in the mirror. Went over and started making happy, surprised, sad faces with him. She and he demonstrated later for me. He loves this stuff, it's not new to him, but it is new to be doing it in class. It's got to help him feel like it's a more welcoming environment.

He didn't do as well at My Gym as last week: something happened in the middle of the warmup, and I don't know what, but he was less focussed after that. I thought about pulling him out and just heading home, but he performed all the gymnastics pretty well, so what the hey. We stayed. I'm glad, because during the free play, he did something I've never seen before: he started by heading off by himself to play on some equipment, but then saw the other kids all playing around and on the long sloping slide. Headed over, climbed up, and ended up sliding slow motion down because he was right behind another kid who was slow motion sliding. Then the kids headed over to the ball pit. Damian joined them! I spotted him tossing balls around and having a good time. Still parallel play, but right in there with the rest of them. What a joy.

Damian got under the lemon trees in the back yard, said he was in the leaf house. I came in and he made a noise at me; I pretended to be scared and asked if he was a ghost. He was. He loved scaring me, kept ordering me to come back in and be scared. So I did, and then ran away as he made scary noises at me. After a while he said I had to come in and be the scary ghost, and scare him. So I did.

He was playing with his popper. He said, "Mommy, steal the popper." So I took it. Then he said "I want it back!" and grabbed it back from me. We got into a little bit of a "I want it!" and "It's mine!" back and forth game. I'm so very glad he's practicing this particular skill. It's become hugely important; it's time for him to learn he has that kind of strength.

Thursday 10 January

Yesterday while we were in the back yard, Dante was going nuts scratching at the back door. Damian said "I hear something," so we talked about it. I asked how Dante felt, and Damian said Dante was upset. I asked why Dante was upset and Damian didn't answer. I asked how he (Damian) felt. He said "I'm upset and Mommy's upset." I asked why we were upset. He said, "Because Dante isn't outside." (IE: because Dante is upset, and Dante is upset because he wants to come out and can't. Damian generally prefers the cat stay inside, where he belongs.) When I thought about this later, I realized how very significant it is: he was saying he was upset that the cat was upset. He was EMPATHIZING with the cat's feelings. I mean, wow. This is what we want. This is so crucial to normal social relationships. And it's happening.

(Last night/this morning he didn't come in till 5 am. Progress, but worse in a way -- less chance to for him (and us) to sleep after the interruption.)

Dan came in this morning after I thought they'd already left for school. Apparently Damian had started crying as soon as he got into the carseat and hadn't stopped. He was complaining about his jacket, the carseat buckle... He was a fiercely unhappy little person. So no school this morning. Damian stayed home with Mommy.

He wanted to go into the front yard. Then he picked up a broom, swept. Ordered me to get a broom and sweep too. So we both used rakes and swept leaves. He's gotten good at actually sweeping it into the dust bin -- just a week or two ago, he was only interested in scattering the leaves. Now he wants to be doing something more intentional as he plays. We also picked lemons from the tree in the back yard. He ordered me to move the bucket at one point so he could have access to it. I picked lemons, he took them from me and pretended to be a crane lowering them into the bucket.

He wanted me to play with him in his room. We sat on the floor. He picked up a toy ambulance and started rolling it on the floor, so I picked up a car and did the same. Desultory play for a bit. Then he took his two fingers and sort of jumped them out of the ambulance, saying "Two fingers are hurt!" (Mr. Two Fingers is a recurring play character.) It became apparent that was his intent in picking the ambulance: he wanted to use it as an ambulance, not just a car. So I said "We better get him to a hospital!" Damian immediately drove the ambulance across the floor to his closet. Spotted a rubber snake, said "He's going to the snake hospital." I picked up the snake and grabbed a doctor's kit. Doctor Snake fixed Mr. Two Fingers with a bandaid and we went back to car racing. But whaddayaknow, Mr. Two Fingers fell again. Damian said "Two Fingers fell down again!" Went back to the snake doctor. I was amused. And pleased that he was taking so much initiative. Even as recently as September, this would have been enormous. Now it's still worth noting, but becoming more and more part of his thinking.

Friday 11 January

When Damian got to school, Linda said "Hi Damian!" Damian said hi back. She asked, "How are you?" He replied, "I'm good." As if it was the most natural thing in the world. A first.

Linda told me about an incident during snack time. The kids were all seated around the table, eating. Damian was slumped down in his chair, seemed to be doing something under the table. She peered underneath. He was touching the other kids' feet with his own! Playing footsie with his classmates.

A few minutes later, he took his two sippy cups and pressed them together, then pushed them a little bit apart and peered through them at Percy. With a playful smile on his face. Trying to play peek-a-boo with Percy. I think Linda prompted Percy to respond, but I don't know that the game went any further.

Damian's starting to initiate play with his classmates. This is thrilling. I just wish he was in a higher functioning class, where at least some of the other kids would easily respond to his overtures. I'm glad he'll be in a typical class for at least half an hour a day.

As I walked past Damian's classroom on the way to get him from Bird, Linda stopped me. She was sitting with Denise (a TA) and Kahuna. She said they were talking about my baby. Sounds like she was filling Kahuna in on everything Damian did today. (He also used his big voice all day and talked a lot. And after she had Vincent use hand-over-hand to get him started, Damian got into circle time too, clapping and so on. When she asked him who he wanted to go to the yard with, he said he wanted to go with Denise. This last doesn't feel like a big deal to me, but I guess because it's a choice and a response, it is.)

We started talking about him and I had Kahuna fill them in on how playful and up Damian is at home, how animated he gets when they play hide and seek and so on, and Kahuna brought up the "I see a scary face!" game that Damian played recently. So when Bird came in with Damian, he started playing the scary face game. And ordered Kahuna to be scared of him (actually, he said "Somebody be scared of me.") So Kahuna acted scared. I said Damian should give him a reason to be scared, so Damian started shrieking. Neither Linda or Denise commented, but I was glad to see him be more himself at school.

But when we got to the car, he had a tiny breakdown. Basically wanted to sit in my lap and not get into the carseat. I had to push him into it eventually (we were off to see Heidi). He then wanted to hold my hand while I was driving. Ever drive a stick shift with one hand? I have now.

He started low energy at Heidi's. Amazing what a lycra swing (like a hammock) and a glider will do for a kid's energy. He had a great time. Rest of the day was good too.

Saturday 12 January

Damian came into the living room. Said to me, "I had fun!" I said "What did you do that was fun?" He replied, "I pulled boxes into my room." (Dan took Damian to Toys R Us today. Toys were in those boxes Damian brought into his room.) Then he said "I'm going to play with the toys." I just sat and grinned. It was very nearly a typical kid's conversation. He wanted to tell me how he was feeling, what he did, what he was going to do. Being chatty. I loved it.

Sunday 13 January

Damian's been using his frog voice a lot lately, a hoarse incredibly quiet voice. We try to tease him out of it, but he's pretty damned stubborn. I wish I knew what it was about, why it comes on. At least it also goes away again.

He often comes home now and stops outside the house, declaring "I'm going to stay in the front yard!" And does. This afternoon he was jumping from one stepping stone to another, talking about how he was, well, "jumping on the stepping stones!" We asked him what kind of hopping animal he was. Yesterday Damian declared himself a frog hopper. Today he said "I'm a grasshopper!" He added, "I'm hopping on the grass."

Jami came. Damian was happy to see her, though a little shy. When we came home from the movie, we could hear him shouting to her, though, so he obviously warmed up. In fact, he was very up and loud and involved when we got home. He got quiet and withdrawn as she was leaving. I think he was sad to see her go. We talked to him about it. I'd love to have her more in his life again. She's still the best. Even better now that she's got real floor time training herself.

Monday 14 January

When I dropped Damian off this morning, Kenny (TA) immediately engaged with him, coaxing him over to play with the cars and garage. It felt more genuine than it ever has before. Linda has clearly talked to him about Damian.

I got to school early to pick him up. Watched Denise playing with him in the sand yard, went inside to talk to Eliza (we get Streak for floor time! Yay!), came back out to discover Vincent now playing with Damian. This is a first, I think. I saw Damian three times today and every single time, a TA was engaged with him. He's finally getting the attention he needs and deserves. Seems like the TAs simply didn't have a way in to understanding him. Now they do.

Vincent was having Damian fill buckets with sand, pat them down, and carry them to the other end of the yard, where he dumped them out. Apparently they'd gone this route three times already. I'm not sure how much it helps Damian's initiative or confidence building but I liked that Vincent was doing it, that he was being that interactive and involved. He told me he's been getting Damian to talk louder too; when Damian says something softly, Vincent says it again but louder, getting Damian to respond louder and then louder still. He said, "I hear he talks loud at home?" I said yes, that he bosses us around, and shouts from the other room for us to come. I'm glad the TAs are starting to really get it. And I'm liking Vincent.

Tuesday 15 January

Dan went to acting class last night for the first time in several months. Damian was more sanguine about Daddy coming in and then leaving half an hour later than I'd expected, but he woke up around midnight and came into bed. Had a restless night. Was therefore very tired today and fell apart around 3pm. I'm wiped.

Linda reported that Damian had a good morning at school, though. Nice loud voice. Wanted to be her helper at circle time. Sidney got up and pushed him in the chest and Damian was completely unfazed, just moved on to do the next part of his task.

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