February 2002 page 2 of 2
Tuesday 19 February

So we went to Vegas. Survived the trip. Lived to tell about it.

Actually, Damian was a trooper. A great traveler. He got restless on the (incredibly, painfully) long car ride on the way there but fortunately we had a supply of toys, books, and DVDs to amuse him. Discovered he doesn't necessarily have the stamina to watch a whole movie beginning to end, especially one he doesn't know already. I think he falls out of the story without someone to explain it to him. (He had headphones on, watching movies on the computer.)

He liked the idea of staying in a hotel. Had no trouble skipping the rocking part of his bedtime ritual (but tearfully insisted on it when we got home and I tried to suggest skipping it here too). Loved using the huge bedroom closet as a hideaway. Played hide and seek with Dan. Knows to count and say "ready or not, here I come!" Not necessarily great at finding more than one hiding place, but getting better.

My mom is here for a week. Damian says he has two moms. He's very comfortable with her, very warm.

He spent much of the sightseeing part of the trip in a backpack on Dan's back. When we asked if he wanted to get out and walk, Damian said he wanted to stay up there. I think it must have felt safe, secure. May have helped him from getting overloaded. He was surprisingly present. If you talked to him, he'd respond right away, and he sometimes commented on things on his own.

He had a great day today, his first day back at school. Cheerful, using a big voice all day, interacting well with the teachers. We went to the park in the afternoon and Damian tried some things he's never dared -- climbing a ramp while pulling himself up on a rope (basically rock climbing) and walking on a very shaky rope bridge (he needed to hold my hand for that, but I was walking beside the bridge, not on it).

My mom was impressed with how much he did, how fearless he was, at Heidi's. She last saw him there in April. Boy has he come a long way since then! He gets into the swing and just whirls himself around. Heidi was working on getting him to use prone extension (hold his legs out straight behind him while lying in the swing) -- it's very hard for him, he doesn't yet have the muscle tone or complete body awareness. He does it a bit and then forgets and flops over.

He now can copy her and draw an oblique (diagonal) line. She says he couldn't do that a few months ago. And that he now has all the pre-writing skills he needs to shape letters. She suggested a video called Zoophonics, she thinks he could be an early reader. I have some doubts that he will, but hell, the exposure can't hurt.

He's starting to do something that I find very exciting: he'll voice his feelings without prompting. He stopped going up the ramp-with-rope yesterday and told me he was too tired. I asked him how he felt one day last week when he was clearly upset and he told me he felt bad. Bad isn't a word we normally use, but he picked it up from a book on feelings and was able to apply it to his emotional state.

He also asked a question in a totally genuine way and at an appropriate moment a few days ago: a small toy slipped behind a table and Damian didn't see where it had gone. So he asked me, "Where is it?" Non-theatrical, non-self-conscious, non-rehearsed. It's probably the first time that's felt completely natural. I'm very pleased.

Heidi gave Damian a toy keyboard today. He played it on the car ride home. Loved it. He announced, "Mommy doesn't like the music." The background: when I turn on the car radio, he always tells me to turn it off -- he doesn't like hearing music in the car. So now that he was playing music, he told me I didn't like it! Kid was making a joke! I was very amused. I told him that actually I did like it, I thought it sounded good. He contradicted me: said I didn't like it and that it was bad. Kept this up for a while. Kid humor lasts longer than the adult version.

Wednesday 20 February

Recently Damian has been using this tiny croak, but only in one circumstance: to ask for something to eat or drink while sitting in the car. We've tried cajoling him and reasoning with him but to no avail. Dan's solution: ignore it. It's so soft we can just pretend we never heard him. So that's what we've been doing. Seems to be working, at least somewhat. His croak gets louder and sometimes turns into a normal voice.

Tonight in the tub, Damian announced that he hated Dante. Dan ran through a whole bunch of people, asking how Damian felt about them. Damian liked everyone. Just not Dante. Wonder what that's about.

Thursday 21 February

Damian had flushed cheeks when I picked him up after school. Linda commented on his red cheeks and he echoed her, "I have red cheeks." I asked, "Why are your cheeks red?" He answered, "My cheeks are red because I ate red food." "Oh really? What red food did you eat?" "A raspberry and a strawberry." Hmmm... Thing is, if he eats those foods, his cheeks DO get red, but I didn't think he knew that. Linda said she hadn't given him any berries and asked, "Who gave you the red food?" "Mommy gave it to me." Oh. Okay. He was just making it all up. His cheeks were flushed from running around outside in the heat.

Friday 22 February

Bird said she joined forced with Nadia for her session with Damian. Had him in the lycra swing, and the vestibular input helped him regulate his voice tone. Smart.

We hung out a little at school. Bobby (a boy who used to be in his class) came trotting over, wanting to check Damian out. He doesn't understand the concept of personal space. Damian started crying when Bobby came near. Bobby's floor time therapist and I soothed Damian and got them playing together -- just a little.

At the park, Damian wanted to go up on the jungle gym but three kids were there. He hesitated but went through the crowd and down the slide. Then went back to the top where they were. I thought it was despite the other kids but no: it was because of the other kids. They left that jungle gym for the other one, and Damian followed them over. They came back, he came back too. They stood spinning little blocks on a rack. He stood right next to them and joined the activity. Wow.

Tonight during his slideshow when the picture of Damian and Bobby came up, I asked Damian how he felt when Bobby came over. "I felt upset," he said in this small voice. "Why did you feel upset?" "Because Bobby doesn't like me." My god. That was rather extraordinary for him to say. Really in touch with his emotional reaction. So we talked to him about Bobby and how he doesn't know how to be gentle the way Damian does.

Sunday 24 February

Damian made up a new song today: "Mommy loves me, Mommy loves me, Mommy loves me a lot a lot a lot." When I told Dan about the song, Damian sang a variant: "Daddy loves me" etc. And last night he said he loved me and for the first time it felt like a spontaneous expression of love (he often says it back to us when we tell him we love him but this time he said it at his own initiative).

He picked up the tube from a used-up roll of wrapping paper. First it was a sword and we had a sword fight -- he finally gets the concept that you try to stab the other person with your sword, not just whack the other sword. Then he decided it was a laser gun! I have NO idea where he got this from. He developed this whole system: he stuffed some fluffy balls into the tube and declared the green one a battery and the red one a button. When he pressed the red one, he said, "The laser gun goes BOOM!" If he pointed it at me, I shrieked and fell over. This he loved. The coolest part? He put on this gruff growly voice when he was manning the laser gun. We called him a tough guy. He said he was a tough, mean guy. I never thought I'd be happy that my kid was playing with toy guns, but I am. It's all about learning to handle aggressive feelings and I'm all for it.

We went to visit a colleague of Dan's. He has a two year old daughter who was very interested in Damian. Damian was very anxious around her. I can understand it: she was pretty aggressive with him, wanting to both give him her toys and take away any toy that he was enjoying. And there may have been another factor...

... on the way home, he barfed in the car. Twice. The second time was projectile. Ugh. We thought it was just a cough-turned-bad and stopped in a diner to change his clothes and sit down for dinner, but he barfed there too, so we came home. He barfed again a couple more times. I know, you're probably not enjoying reading any of this, but you see -- this is the first time we've encountered this since he was just a few months old. We're not a barfy family. It makes me feel kind of queasy myself. I'm just not used to dealing with it. So tomorrow he stays home. Poor kid.

Tuesday 26 February

Stayed home yesterday even though it quickly became clear Damian was no longer sick. Went back to school today. When I picked him up, he got upset. We got to the car and I sat him down and asked him how he felt. "Upset." Why? "Because I was at school." Uh oh. What happened at school that made you upset?" "Mommy came." Ah. Okay. Yep, he was upset because I had lingered talking to his teacher when he'd made it clear he was ready to go. Hey, he knew why and could articulate it. That was cool, even if the overreaction wasn't.

On Friday, Linda and the TAs (and Bird) saw the video we made. Sounds like they didn't really feel like it revealed a new Damian, but they enjoyed it a great deal. In a way it's good that they feel like it's essentially the same kid they see in class; it's a sign that he's really come out of his shell there. And whether or not they admit it, I bet it will influence how they act toward him -- he's so damned loveable on that tape. Dan saw signs of a change in Kenny this morning: he was warmer and more involved with Damian first thing.

Damian is still being a tough guy and shooting us with his laser gun. It broke in the car (it is, after all, a cardboard tube). He wanted me to fix it but I said I lacked the proper equipment in the car (ie: duct tape). He let me put it on the front seat for safekeeping and said in this forlorn voice, "I'm a person now." No longer a tough guy, just a person. Awww.

Wednesday 27 February

Lately he's been appending "Mommy" or "Daddy" to a lot of his observations or requests. Appropriately including us in his conversation. I love it.

Kahuna worked with Damian on two main things today: playing with other kids (some of the kids in his inclusion class, so typical kids) and self-help. He hates to pull down his own pants or take off his own shoes, etc. Tries to convince the person with him to do it for him. Kahuna thinks it's a confidence issue, and it might be -- it used to be hard for him so maybe he thinks it still is. But he gets himself undressed every night for his bath, from socks to diaper, and does it well. So I think it's partly a habit of helplessness. Which is going to be a bitch to change.

As for the play with other kids? It went okay -- he didn't join in the group that much, mostly played near but not with -- but Kahuna said he saw none of the anxiety Damian showed a month ago, so that's something. I'm seeing a lot more than even this, though -- Damian is modelling and following groups of kids at My Gym and the playground. School, as always, is the toughest hurdle.

As Kahuna and I talked, Damian scooted by in a ride-on car (you walk it with your feet, no pedals). He stopped in front of me and said, "Be a traffic light, Mommy." So I was. Kahuna was very impressed. How they underestimate him.

Tonight Damian was playing tough guy with his laser gun. I needed to change the batteries in the camera. Damian put the new batteries in and the old ones in the recharger, then announced, "I'm a tough guy helping Mommy." Heh.

Thursday 28 February

Damian made up a story with Robin. It went something like: "One morning there was lettuce. Someone ate the lettuce. The lettuce went in the bag. The lettuce was on the plate. There was no more lettuce! (the end) She wrote it down and gave it to me, but I lost the paper (yes, I'm kicking myself).

Later at Ralph's, Damian made up a couple more stories. They all involve narrating exactly what's going on at the time, but hey, it's a start.

Then at home, he actually did things so he could talk about them: he said "Once upon a time there was a snake." Then he picked up his rubber snake, tossed it and said "The snake flew!" Then he put it in a cardboard box and shook the box, saying something like "bippity boppity" and then tossed the box too. And that was pretty much it for the snake story.

He's become a major pain in the butt when I'm on the phone. Hates it. Wants my attention immediately. How typical is that? A blessing and a curse (but mostly a blessing).

We're working on socks. Last night and this morning, he had to put on his own socks. He whined a lot but ended up doing it with hand over hand help.

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