July 2002 page 1 of 2
Monday 1 July

Silver had a double session this afternoon. A mistake, it seems. She doesn't have the stamina for it; she was barely going through the motions. Nobody's perfect.

Tuesday 2 July

We went to the beach. Damian refused to take his shoes and socks off. And when we got to the water's edge, he backed away and then ran away, scared of the (very gentle) surf. It made me sad. I know he's going through something right now (the viral mouth sore and/or something else) that's making him very stimmy (hand flapping, spinning), and that this sensory overreaction is part of that, but still. It makes me sad. Two years ago, Damian walked barefoot on the sand and laughed every time the surf rolled over his legs. I don't know how to get back to that.

Tonight Damian asked me, "Does the moon have more gravity or less gravity than here?" I asked him what he thought. "Less gravity," he said. Dan had explained the concept, appropos of a current library book (The Mice on the Moon). Damian seems to have actually understood. We're seeing it starting to happen more lately: you tell him something, you have no idea what he's taken in, but later -- even days later -- he says something and you realize that yes, he got it.

Wednesday 3 July

This morning Damian wanted to help me scramble some eggs. He watched as I cracked the eggs into the pan and wanted to know, "What's inside the egg?" Later, he answered his own question, "Whites are inside the egg." He helped me stir, commenting on the egg yolk mixing with the white.

Unfortunately, he picked the wooden spoon up again when I turned away to get plates. He wasn't quite careful enough and his knuckle brushed the edge of the pan. His first burn. I think the pain took him by surprise: he sounded as scared as he was hurt. I had him hold his hand under cold running water, not something he'd ever go for under normal circumstances. He got it after a few moments, though -- under water=no pain, not under water=pain. He spent the next few hours with his finger in a cup of ice water. Not complaining a bit. I was oddly proud of him.

Tonight he was out of control. Tearing a page from a pop-up activity book, picking up a (soft rubber) toy and hitting me with it, grabbing paper from Dan's desk and crinkling it into a ball, dumping a cupful of water out of the tub after Dan had told him not to splash. Very atypical behavior. Really acting out. Coincidentally, I was really upset about a phone call I'd just had. Right. No coincidence, I'm thinking. The kid is very sensitive to our emotions. I think he always has been, actually. It's just that his behavior hasn't always shown it because he doesn't know what to do with the emotion, doesn't know how to handle it. Can't process it. Hell, he has trouble processing his own, of course ours feel like too much for him.

He's becoming a great negotiator. Tonight's example: after the regulation three bedtime books, Damian picked up a fourth, saying "Just one more book. One more book and that's enough."

Friday 5 July

We went to buy a big toy for Damian to get after he poops in the potty three times in a row. He was very into this idea, kept talking about it. He told us he'd poop tonight, tomorrow, and tomorrow night. (Did he? No. But I like the notion.)

Bad transitioning today. We had to drag him crying from one place to another. He'd calm down fairly quickly. Something was throwing him off. Don't know what.

Damian's still very stimmy, though fewer spins today. He ate pancakes for dinner and the waiter saw him careening around the dining room space being wonky and said the sugar's already taken effect. I guess it goes to show that every kid acts like this sometimes, but to me it looked autistic.

In bed, when he was supposed to be going to sleep, he was chattering away. First talking about the fan blowing air, then about how the windows were open to let air into the house. Etc. Then I shushed him and he quieted for a minute, then said goodnight to me and gave me a kiss and told me he loved me. Then he told me I loved him. Then told me I was his friend. Very talkative. Very sweet. As soon as he stopped talking, I knew he'd fall asleep. The trick was just to get him to shut up. Not a problem I ever thought I'd have!

Saturday 6 July

When he first started asking questions, they were all the same: "What is that?" They've become gradually more sophisticated. "What's in that?" "What's that for? "What's that from?" One of his favorites: "Where did we buy this?" I have no idea why. Maybe because he's trying to understand the evolution of objects? How they came about, etc. I'm not sure. Tonight he switched, though. He started asking me, "What does it look like?" He wanted to know about Tiffany's looks (a character in a book he'd just read with Dan). (I turned it back to him, asked him to tell me what color her hair was.) Then he wanted to know what I look like. (Hmm.) Then (sitting on the potty) he wanted to know what his poop looks like. (His evaluation: looks like a brown worm.) It'll be interesting to see if this carries over into tomorrow. Again, I have no idea what it means, this new line of questioning.

Another big question of late: when we're watching TV, he periodically asks, "What's happening in the movie?" We're pleased by this; for a long time he just let the action wash over him and didn't pay attention to the actual content. It was too hard to understand. Now it may still be too hard, but it's more tangible and he's more interested, so he asks us to explain. Today he started to ask me about a video he's watched a hundred times (Road Construction Ahead), so I turned the question back to him. And he answered it. And then proceeded to comment/narrate on various things that were happening. He understood it far better than I did, truth to tell.

I think all the questions are his attempt to make sense of the world and that his particular line of questioning reflects whatever nook he's working on at the moment. What I love is that he's starting to answer his own questions, which gives us a glimpse into his thought process.

Halfway through changing from clothes to PJs tonight, he started bouncing around the bed, exclaiming and jumping and having fun. Naked. So ordinary a moment for a typical kid but this child has never willingly been naked except in the tub. I was thrilled watching him revel in this simple pleasure. Sheets against bare skin, air against bare skin, watching himself in the mirror, seeing himself fully for the first time.

Monday 8 July

First day back at school. First day in Jumpstart class. He woke up in a great mood. Was chatty all the way out the door. Didn't insist on holding hands, either. Talkative in the car, too.

When we got to school, he made a beeline for his classroom (same classroom, different teacher/class). Reluctantly greeted two of his now-former teachers. He stopped in his tracks when he got to the classroom door; Tania (his new teacher) had redecorated it over vacation. He hesitated. Tania greeted him, enticed him to get involved in one of the play areas set out. Fortunately there were only two other kids there, so it didn't feel too overwhelming. He ended up at the sensory table, scooping (raw) beans and rice into a scallop shell. Chattering away. Tania told me I could stick around as long as I wanted, but I asked Damian if he wanted me to stay or if he was okay with me going, and he said he was okay with me going. He added, "Mommy brings me to school and Mommy leaves me at school." IE: Bye, Mom.

I got three reports on his morning:

Tania said he did well, but that he didn't want to sit at the table with the other kids for snack. So she had him sit at a different table. I said that's never been an issue before. She thought maybe it was too crowded for him and decided to split the group tomorrow. Which I was touched by, that she was that responsive to his perceived need. (Though when I asked him about it this afternoon, he implied that he wanted to sit at the half-circle table, which is where snacks had always been in Linda's class. So it may have been a ritual thing.)

She said, though, that he played near the other kids comfortably during free play (ie: not avoidant, which the snack thing probably led her to believe). Parallel play, though Evan kept asking for things Damian had (ie: can I have the red Lego block?), so Damian was pulled into interaction.

Also, he told the TA when he had to pee. This is already better than his previous class. He either feels more comfortable in this environment (all the kids are on his level, no low functioning kids) or he's just that much further along in pottying after two weeks of vacation.

Bird told me she'd gone into the classroom for a short time, and that Damian was sitting in a rocking chair, talking about how he was rocking in the chair. Another boy wanted to climb up. Damian told him, "No, it's my rocking chair." On day one with new kids? That's a great sign.

Colette said she saw Damian and Cory together, either outside or in the hall. Talking, I think. This seems remarkable to me, because from what I've observed, he never talks to another child directly, only through an adult buffer or with adult prompting. I wonder exactly how it went, this little conversation. I checked to be sure and she confirmed that yes, Damian was talking, not just Cory.

At home, he kept coming up to me -- three times, at least -- saying "I don't wear underpants," Damianese for "I need to poop." I convinced him with bribery to sit on the potty, but unsuccessfully. At one point, Dan sat and read Damian at least four books. No poop. Then tonight Damian was suddenly desperate for a diaper. We used bribery again. He finally agreed when, on top of the bribery, Dan reminded him what happens when he holds it in (constipation). And so the grand poop was released unto the world. (Hey, look, if you're squeamish about this stuff, you probably shouldn't be reading a daily account of a four year old's life. Poop is a big deal around here.) He was very pleased with himself. Which goes to show. Bribery works. Well, when mixed with a little logic.

Tonight he was adorable. He took the laundry hamper and put it over his head, declaring himself a statue. Then he told a little story: "Once upon a time, there was a little mother who wanted a boy but she had a statue instead. Then the statue broke and fell down and a boy came out. And she lived happily ever after." Acted out as he spoke, of course.

I was on the phone. He decided it was bedtime, came to our bedroom, set out the books he wanted to read and found his pajamas and wanted his juice. So I got off the phone. We had a pleasant nighttime ritual. At the end, he told me I was going to bring him to his room, and then hopped off the bed and ran there ahead of me. He told me "I'm too heavy for Mommy to carry." (Which is starting to be true.) I told him that was very nice of him to think of me and asked if he was going to walk to his room every night now. He said he was. I hope he means it!

Tuesday 9 July

Damian had some seperation anxiety when Dan dropped him off this morning. Funny that he didn't have it with me yesterday. Dan was very pleased with what he saw in the classroom, though. The teachers are doing honest-to-god Floor Time. I think it's a combination of the fact that two of the three teachers are also Floor Time therapists and that the kids are advanced enough so they can in fact play cooperatively and imaginatively, whether on their own or with assistance (mostly with an assist, I imagine). This is so exactly what Damian needs, we're doing the happy dance.

His first session with Colette. She wrote up a report that sounded like she was doing classic Greenspan Floor Time (not always the case) with a lot of imaginative play. I'm delighted.

He did well at Heidi's, too. She can see him at 1:30 this month, I think it helps that he's actually, y'know, awake then.

Thursday 11 July

More separation anxiety yesterday with me. He was absolutely fine, involved in playing, but the moment I said goodbye, he clung to me and started to cry. Tania brought Laura into the room. After I left, Laura knelt by Damian and talked about/illustrated breathing deep and slow, and he calmed down.

Today Dan brought him. He fussed briefly but that was all. So I guess it's getting better. It's got to be overwhelming to be in a class with wholly new kids and new teachers. He knows some of them, but it's not the same set of people.

I was worried about his session with Robin, but she was gentle and kept it fun and it sounds like they had a great time. Which is a huge relief.

He keeps saying "Who's coming today?" He's gotten used to having lots of floor timers in and out and is disappointed because his schedule has gotten freer. What do you say to that? Just that we need to find more fun things to do out of the house, I guess, but it's been too hot to go to the playground, which is what he really needs. And it's not like we don't play with him ourselves. But floor timers bring toys and more energy (because they're here for shorter slices of time).

He's also getting to know the days of the week. Keeps asking what day it is and what happens today, that sort of thing. He knows Silver comes on Mondays and that the day before Monday is Sunday. He actually knows all the days and now wants to understand how his schedule fits together. I'm thinking of making him a wall chart with pictures to represent each time slot (ie: a picture of Kahuna for a session with him, a picture of circle time for school, etc.). I think he'd love that.

Today was the third poop in a row on the potty. Instead of telling me he didn't wear diapers, he simply came up to me and looked upset. It's an improvement of sorts. He was easy to persuade to go to the bathroom, and that's the important part. It helps that he knew the third poop meant getting the big toy we'd bought last week. I guess we should get a new big toy, huh? I'm not sure he's completely comfortable with the whole poop-on-the-potty concept yet, though it's certainly getting better. Still wish I knew why that's harder for kids.

Friday 12 July

Still with the separation anxiety at the morning dropoff. You'd think he'd figure out that he actually likes this class and look forward to it.

Report from TA Lexie: Apparently yesterday they brought squirt bottles out to the yard. The kids loved spraying with the bottles. Damian was very high affect. This particular moment: Lexie was busy with another kid. She saw Damian run past, chasing Cory and squirting him. Shouting, "I'm gonna get you!" This is new. This is huge.

Bird is working on having him answer questions like "Who is in your class?" and "What games did you play today?" Which is perfect. She also told him "'I don't know' isn't an okay answer in speech class." Blocking his escape route. He did fairly well, though he clearly still needs work in this arena. I think mastering this will open up a whole world for him, the ability to talk about what's going on in his life, to process and also share it. It changes things more than you might realize.

Cheri told us that sitting down (on the potty) to poop uses different muscles than standing to do the same (in a diaper). So there's a specific reason it's harder to master than peeing. It's going to therefore be a different sensation too, which is why it's harder for a kid with sensory issues. She thought highly of the reward technique we're using. Parents of typical kids use it often enough. Potty is a big deal, deserves some rewards for getting right.

We brought him to get a haircut. His third one with Hugh. Damian did really well for about fifteen minutes. Tolerated the process. Until Hugh got to the back of his neck. That combined with scratchy hair cuttings on the sensitive skin of his shoulders and he started shivering and tensing up. We had an unhappy boy for the next ten minutes. Hugh had him take a break and play a video game. Finished the cut during the video game.

While we were waiting for Hugh, Damian and I went downstairs to a tchotchka store. Damian spotted a stuffed animal display. He picked up a rainbow striped stuffed snake and told me he wanted to buy it. He said, "This will be my new snake because my old snake broke." We'd gotten him a rubber snake last summer, which somehow got decapitated. I said fair enough and bought it for him. He loves it. It's become Froggie's friend and Damian companion. This is the first stuffed animal he's become attached to; heretofore it's been a collection of tiny creatures: catnip mice and stretchy frogs. This is the first one you can hug.

Kahuna came. He and Damian had what sounded like a good, fun session. But he warned Damian that he'd have to clean up at the end. Damian agreed. At the end of the session, of course, Damian had changed his mind. It became a power struggle. I've told Kahuna in the past not to push it, just to let it go, but that was because Damian was so stressed and everyone was pushing him all at once. But now he's doing well and Kahuna's the only one pushing -- and in a very appropriate way at a very appropriate time (you said you'd clean up, now it's time to do just that). So I supported him in it. I told Damian if he didn't put his alphabet playmat back together I'd put it in the closet. It had no immediate effect. I left Kahuna to it. He did (after a lot of yelling) end up getting Damian to clean up. And -- the big clue -- Damian was perfectly cheerful afterward. So it was the right thing to do. Kahuna thanked me for supporting him. Said many parents don't. Which I can understand. It's hard to know when it's appropriate to be firm and when it's too much.

Tonight. Bedtime. Damian entered his room, saw the snake lying across his pillow. Smiled. "I have a snake to cuddle with," he said. He lay down with the snake. I joined them. After a moment, Damian decided the snake needed a new bed. "Where do snakes like to sleep?" I didn't know. But he did. "Snakes like to sleep here." He put the stuffed snake down on the narrow floor space between bed and wall. Later, Lion joined the snake (I'd been holding Lion). Damian commented, "The snake has a friend to cuddle with" and then added, "I have a friend to cuddle with too" (me).

Saturday 13 July

Naked boy strikes again. I started to take his PJs off. He finished the job and declared, "I love to be naked!" He then streaked around the house. Probably spent an hour that way. Maybe more. Even went outside that way. Dan commented later that the nude spell seemed to help Damian's sensory integration, that he seemed more regulated afterward. Could be.

We went over to a friend of a friend's. They showed us their multiple dogs, most of whom were barking wildly from behind a gate. Damain was curious albeit nervous. He asked, "What are the dogs' names?" Which I thought was a very appropriate question. His questions have been getting better and better.

Sunday 14 July

Damian was playing with my Nordic Track in the guest room. He pulled the ropes taut in front of the machine and yanked on them in the left-right sequence you use when you're on the track. He could see me (I was in the bedroom straightening up). Commented, "I'm exercising on the Nordic Track just like you, Mommy." This thought sequence, the parallel between himself and me, that felt so very typical, and the way he expressed it even more so.

We went over to a friend's house, a friend with a pool. Damian is not a pool aficionado. First he refused to go near it. Then he knelt by the edge and splashed me (I was in the water). Then, finally, with a lot of Daddy coaxing, he agreed to have his shoes and socks off so he could put his feet in the water. He splashed me with his feet and loved it. Then Dan persuaded him to stand on the top step. That was okay. The second step was a problem, though: Damian got the bottom of his baggy shorts wet and freaked. And that was pretty much that. Promising, though. We need to get him swim trunks and pretend they're just another pair of shorts.

He was much quieter and more withdrawn there than usual. I'm not sure why. I mean, yes, it takes him a while to warm up, but he knows these people and this house, I would have thought he'd be more comfortable. Maybe it was a lingering reaction to the pool thing.

Monday 15 July

Still some separation anxiety as I left the classroom. Waiting for it to go away. Waiting impatiently.

When I came back, I peeked in the window. The kids were in three small groups. Damian was with two other kids, with Tania supervising. They were taking turns with a magnetic fishing puzzle. They had to tell her what fish they wanted before they took it. Nothing new. Damian's been capable of this sort of thing for several months, including the turn taking, but there was something about the scene that felt right. Maybe that all the kids were doing the same thing (it was clear that they rotated around the different small group activities: I saw kids doing artwork that Damian had clearly done earlier -- saw a similar picture with his name on it). Maybe the calm style, and the fact that it was clear part of the goal was to help every kid keep a good focus on the activity. And when Damian spotted me peeking in the window, Tania told him, "Take one last turn and then you'll go with Mommy." And he listened to her.

As I settled him into his carseat, he said, "I need to pee before we go." So we got back out of the car and went back into school. I was proud of him for that.

At Rivka's, after OT, she was telling me about the session and Damian was trying to find the mole on the side of my breast (I was wearing a sleeveless top). When he found it, he started singing, "I see the mole, the mole sees me." I was amused but also, need I say, embarrassed. As was Rivka. She tried to get him to see that it wasn't appropriate talk, but I think that's a stage he hasn't hit yet -- understanding social/public behavior/talk, what fits and what doesn't. And I don't feel like pushing it too much just yet.

This afternoon was gardening time. Damian was a very enthusiastic helper. He watered most of the plants, dug in the dirt, scattered peat moss, picked lemons (until he got scratched by a branch). The three of us all working in the back yard. Which felt tremendous to me. That he wants to help. He asks all the time, "Can I help?" and we find things for him to do because you never want to say no to that! That he had the focus and the ability to do some of the things required. To water: turn on the hose faucet, bring the rain wand to the plant, turn it to on, water, then turn it off and move to another plant. To spray a bush for bugs: hold the spray nozzle in such a way that it'll shoot out a hard stream and aim your spray across the leaves. (Okay, he needed a little help with this last bit -- he kept getting excited by the "It's raining!" effect.) He was so fully present and problem solving, it felt so right. A small triumph.

When we came in the house, I said we'd have to take our muddy shoes off. Damian said "Mud is dirt that gets wet. Dirt that doesn't get wet isn't mud. I have to take my shoes off so I don't get mud in the house. I have to walk like this" (he walked on the edges of his shoes) "so I don't get mud on the floor." Where did he get all this? I think he just put it together in his head. He's getting good at cause and effect reasoning.

He took the filmy scarf from the bottom of our bed. I played tug of war with him. "It's mine!" "No, it's mine!" Etc. He ran off with it, saying "I want it so I can run through the house with it and play and have fun!" Dan and I were giggling. He expresses his thoughts so clearly now and they're delightful to hear.

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