August 2002 page 2 of 2
Friday 16 August

We've kept him home from school yesterday and today -- today's the last day of school before the end-of-summer break, didn't seem worth going just for one day. Today, though, was Damian's first official floor time session since we left nearly a month ago. His first official anything. Kahuna came over this afternoon. Damian was happy to see him, very up. At one point, he had the hiccups, and decided he should drink juice to get rid of them (maybe it was Kahuna's idea, I'm not sure). After that, the two of them were pretending all the toys got hiccups too, and Damian got "hiccups" while lying on the bed with a small toy animal on his belly. Needless to say, the toys went flying.

Kahuna reported that Damian was vastly changed since July, that he's much more flexible when Kahuna challenges him or asks him to do something, that he seems far more relaxed and that he was lots of fun to play with. I think part of this is what we've suspected: that Damian has had too many parents. That the floor timers shouldn't try to do as much boundary setting, they should leave it up to us as much as they can. How would you feel if everyone you spent time with was bossing you around and setting restrictions all the time? You'd get pretty damned irritable. It could easily contribute to his supposed rigidity and supposed anxiety. On the other hand, they do need to set some boundaries, don't they? Especially if that's one of his issues. It's complicated. But I'd rather they err on the side of laxness and fun and let us teach Damian how to behave properly. Too many parents.

While I dressed Damian in his PJs tonight, he lauched into a long description of the game he'd just been playing in the bathtub. "Froggie climbed into the boat house, but then the boat house sank. So Froggie found an island with a tree. But then the island sank too. And then Froggie got eaten by a whale. I scooped him up in the whale." (And then, I think, bath time ended.) Far as I can tell, it's an accurate description of what he'd been up to. Seems like he's starting to do this more and more, voluntarily letting us in on what he's been doing and thinking. So cool. It's one of those "I wish my kid did that" milestones and it's slipping into place nicely.

Saturday 17 August

Went over to Diane & Darin's this afternoon. Sophia was taking a nap. I think Damian was disappointed. He wandered around and amused himself but was clearly at loose ends till she got up. Then it took an hour or so of the two playing near but not with each other. I've come to realize that this is par for the course with Damian. On our trip, he did the same thing with Hannah & Isaiah and with Julie. Warmed up after an hour or so. Problem is, lots of play sessions aren't much longer than that. But we were settled in (ordered takeout for dinner) and sure enough, after dinner the two of them had a rollicking good time in the living room while the grownups sat at the dining table. I saw legs kicking in unison (they were lying on the floor at the time) and repeated exclamations volleying back and forth between the two kids and two little frogs leaping and ribiting across the floor. Later, Sophia wanted to watch Teletubbies. She asked Darin to put it on, then asked Damian if he'd watch with her. They sat on the couch, side by side. She scooted over to sit right up against his side. We saw the backs of their heads, the dark and the blonde, as they enjoyed the show together.

Damian doesn't use Sophia's name. He calls her "my friend."

Monday 19 August

First day back at school. Only it's not really school, it's floor time summer camp on the school premises. When we talked about it this morning, Damian said I could drive him to school (which I'd planned to) and that I should stay with him at school too. I told him that actually I was going to get breakfast while he was in school and he started to cry. Dan reassured him that I'd stay for a while so he could get settled in and that seemed to be more or less okay.

So I was worried when we got to school. But the moment he saw Streak, Colette and Jean (two are current floor timers of his and one worked with him in the fall), he relaxed right into it, saying happily, "Everybody's here!" I had to fill out some camp paperwork and when I turned around, he was gone. He'd already gone into the classroom without me. He was fine when I said goodbye, too. Not a moment's hesitation.

The post-camp report was positive, too. He was apparently very talkative and playful. No specifics and I know they do tend to whitewash a bit, but from his demeanor, I could tell it was true. He was comfortable in the environment, even though it wasn't his normal classroom setup.

Evan's mom told me that Evan lit up when he spotted Damian as they came in. That was very cool to hear.
Silver came this afternoon. Reported that they had a good session. That Damian was much more present and able to engage in a reciprocal play -- that if she introduced an idea, he'd pick it up and run with it, whereas before he did maybe thirty to fifty percent of the time.

Dan told me that he asked Damian recently why he spins. And Damian told him "So I can let it out." Let what out? After Dan quizzed him some more, Damian revealed that he was upset because Dan had been upset. So, though he didn't spell it out (he is, after all, only four years old), it seems Damian is aware that he stims sometimes as a result of pent-up emotional tension. Interesting.

He seems to be trying on some outdated behaviors the past few days: "needing" to hold hands as we leave the house, wanting to sit in my lap to eat dinner, wanting to be carried (today he told Dan his legs were wobbly and he couldn't walk -- good one, huh?). I can't figure out why he's reverting to outmoded ritual, but I suspect we need to be firm with some and lax with others (but not too lax). For example, no, he cannot under any circumstances sit in my lap while I'm eating, and I told him that tonight. So he kept asking me if I was done eating, and came over to sit in my lap when I finished. After he ate one bite, I suggested I sit next to him instead. He agreed. So it's give and take, but not too much give.

Tuesday 20 August

Tonight was only the second night in Damian's life that I wasn't around during his bedtime ritual. We've never had a babysitter stay past his bedtime (or if so, he simply stays up late.) But tonight I went out to dinner and left Dan with Damian. He wasn't without parent, just without mommy. Around 7:45, pre-bath, they called me. Dan said Damian was sad and talked about missing me. Agreed when Dan said they could call. I had a brief chat with Damian, who mostly repeated what I said back at me but with changed pronouns (ie: "I'll drive you to school tomorrow, Damian." "Mommy will drive me to school tomorrow."). I gather it did the job. Dan said Damian was fine after that.

Wednesday 21 August

Damian had a hard time parting from us this morning for the first time this week. Maybe because it was both parents. Maybe because I wasn't around last night. Maybe because Dan lingered with Damian while I handled some paperwork. I don't know. I don't like it, though.

Streak told me Damian acted out a couple of times during camp this morning. He refused to put his stick away when asked. She finally got him to, but it sounds like it wasn't easy. And he lay down on the floor during circle time and refused to sit up. Streak finally had to take him out of the room "until you're ready to sit up" because it was disrupting the group. They sat in another classroom and were quiet for a minute. Then Damian said, "It's quiet in here. I like it when it's quiet." Apparently he felt the group was too noisy and he preferred being alone with Streak. So her maneuver may have been meant to be somewhat negative but was exactly what he needed/wanted. Sometimes he does get overwhelmed and needs to regroup.

The floor timers running the camp were amused to tell me that they asked him if he had to go potty and he replied, "Not right now but thanks for asking." He's been doing this lately, modelling off us. He's using more colloquialisms and niceties in his language. Which therefore sometimes gets quite colorful and idiosyncratic. I'll try to record a conversation in the next few days. Might make a fun entry.

Colette came over to do a floor time session this afternoon, her first at home. She commented afterward that he's a completely different kid at home. Which, god knows, is not the first time I've heard that. I was hoping that it wasn't so true anymore. But he's apparently not nearly so chatty/outgoing/exuberant at school. Still. Damn.

Thursday 22 August

This morning as we pulled in to school, Damian asked, "Where are we?" One of his "I know the answer to this" questions, and I usually give him wrong answers to provoke him, but this time I said the name of the school. He corrected me, "Actually, it's <name of school> camp."

He had a hard time separating again, but not nearly as bad. I was very matter of fact about it, which probably helped. I know he likes camp. He made that clear later: I was talking to Jean, saying yes, Damian likes summer camp, when Damian overheard us: "I like summer camp because it's fun." And later when I told him he had one more day of camp and then a week's vacation, he got mad and insisted he'd have camp next week too. I wish he did; Dan's going back to work and I'm not ready for solo all-day duty. But so it goes.

Colette said again how different he is at home. She said now she knows how high her expectations should be. A great way to look at it. I like her style very much.

Damian and Colette made play-doh together. They played with it for a while, then Damian said he was done and wanted to play with real toys now. Later, as she related this anecdote to me, I said, "But Damian, you love play-doh. That's one of your favorite toys. Play-doh and legos and Mousey and Froggie." He said, "I like toys with wheels too." True enough. I'd forgotten one of his favorites so he reminded me.

Damian told me a story this evening. Well, he called it a story. It was about how I drove him to school and left him there and went to eat something while he was at school and how he missed me and then I came and picked him up. He's talking more and more about his emotions. Volunteering things, too. Talking about events. So encouraging.

Friday 23 August

Today, just like yesterday and the day before, Damian was cheery when I picked him up from camp. Cheery in the car. And completelyl fell apart when we got home. First week back blues? I don't know exactly. Certainly it's about letting all the pent-up emotion out in the safety of home. After he recovers (this usually requires rocking and juice and food), he's in a great mood.

He told lots of stories, acting them out. One involved Froggie being chased by a scary monster, who threatened to eat him. And did eat him. (A new monster-shaped Duplo toy.) And then somehow Froggie was out of the monster's mouth and went on his merry way. I love the way everyone recovers in Damian's little stories. Disaster strikes -- planes crash, frogs get devoured -- but it's okay because we can fix it.

The past few days, Damian's become fond of saying "Mommy and Daddy love me so much." Tonight after his bedtime ritual, he said "Mommy and Daddy love me so much, Mommy and Daddy get to sleep with me. But my bed's not big enough for three." (Imagine this in a small child's voice, with three coming out more like "free" and you get more of the cuteness quotient.)

Sunday 25 August

Went to a birthday party for one of Damian's classmates. Damian mostly avoided the other kids. Very disappointing. Feels like he's regressing. I don't think he is exactly, but he's in self-protect mode. He did warm up toward the end -- got in a ball pit and didn't mind at all that a (neurotypical) girl was there too. Didn't interact with her much, but when she lay down in the balls, he did too. And then Corey got into the balls and they both got a kick out of tossing balls out at me and having me toss balls back. Not that they tossed balls at each other or anything. Still parallel, not interactive with another kid. But in that environment (hectic, crowded, unfamiliar), probably all that could be expected.

I finally got an explanation for why Damian hates having Dante in his room sometimes. He told me the cat was going to scratch his new play mat. I tried to persuade him Dante sometimes likes to lie on it without scratching and we could keep an eye on him. Damian wasn't convinced. So I flipped the laundry basket over Dante, trapping him there. Damian was delighted. Insisted Dante stay caged for well over an hour. Dante finally got bored and started trying to get out. Discovered he could basically walk the basket around the room. Which I found funny but Damian got mad. I think because Dante-in-the-cage was banging into Froggie's Lego house. (Dante being the oddball cat he is, when I freed him, he plopped down and decided to stay for a while.)

Monday 26 August

This week is an odd interlude. Dan started back at work on Friday and Damian's got the week off from school. Except for one morning session with Silver, it's just us two. I wasn't particularly looking forward to it, but y'know? It went okay. Went very well, in fact. Yes, he was demanding, yes he insisted I spend all my time with him, but I did get some breaks and we played together and talked a lot and it felt far more like I always imagined it would to be a mom than it ever did in the long days I spent alone with Damian before he ever started school.

After one moment I snatched for myself, I came back in the living room to find Damian had scattered Cheerios all over the floor. I scolded, but only got to the "Damian!" exasperated voice part when Damian defended himself! "It was a accident, I didn't mean it." "What happened?" "I was driving my car and crashed into the Cheerios bowl." Just in case I had any doubts about his speedy development. More and more, sounding like a kid should sound. The words and concepts actually there and accessible in his brain. No longer standing defenseless and mute.

We went to the playground this morning. Damian insisted we walk to the one nearby instead of driving to the one I prefer. Which was fine; they've redone it and now it's quite nice. Damian was scared of the jungle gym at first and altogether refused to go down the big slides. Flashbacks to a year ago. Definitely more timid than he's been. I attribute it to no OT since mid July. Too long. And Nadia is thinking of getting rid of his OT altogether. This worries me. Damian did warm up today, but I don't think it's just a matter of lots of playground jaunts and bouts on the trampoline. He still needs the supervision and special gym equipment to remember that his body does know how to handle this stuff now.

Wednesday 28 August

Finally got Damian out of the house at 5:30 today (he refused altogether yesterday, but we played a lot at home). We went to the local playground. I thought it would be empty. Not so. The big kid area was jam packed with kids. The little kid area looked empty but that was deceptive. Big kids were hiding among the play structures. Specifically, three boys, around nine years old, lounging on the jungle gym. Bah. Damian had to walk around their feet. He was extremely hesitant, took a lot of coaxing. After about two iterations of this, I finally told the kids to scoot (I said, "There's room on the picnic benches, you know. And this really should be cleared so little kids can come through.") And they cleared right out. I told Damian what I'd done. He was delighted. Kept repeating how I'd told them to go away and they did. The books (on typical kids) say not to interfere like that, to let your child learn to fend for himself. But Damian was too intimidated. He needed some help. And I think he may have learned by this that words can be effective tools. At least, that it's possible to change your (human) environment.

Later, we migrated to the big kids area. Damian was much bolder than he was Monday. Thankfully. He climbed twisty ladders and walked across a shaky bridge -- several times. The first time, he insisted on holding my hand, but he gradually got bolder. And when he saw other youngsters jumping and bouncing on the bridge, he tried that too. Picking up from them, gaining confidence.

He ran into some trouble with the other kids. Not unexpectedly. A girl blocked his way on the slide. He had to make his way past kids on the bridge. That sort of thing. Usual playground negotiations. In the past, Damian would have retreated. Now he told the little girl, "I was using that!" in a belligerent tone. I told him maybe next time he could be nicer about it, say something like "Excuse me, can I have a turn?" And you know? He did. He used the technique several times. I fed him phrases and he modified them -- added a please to one, etc. He just needed to know what to say, he couldn't come up with the words on his own. I don't know if this is something typical kids go through or not, but I find it interesting. He had the desire, just needed the tools.

Thursday 29 August

Damian's been recapping our conversations lately. It's very odd but kind of interesting. This morning, for instance, I was sitting on the kitchen floor, Damian in my lap, as I talked to Dan. Damian flopped over in my lap, wanted me to pick him up by the arms and then let him drop again. At one point, he hit the floor a little hard and I suggested this wasn't the best game and that it was hard to fall just right, etc. He commented on what I said, we talked about it a little, and then he said, "We're talking about falling and getting up." As I say, he's been doing this a lot lately, specifically saying "We're talking about" and then filling in the subject matter. I love that he's able to process and encapsulate the conversation like that, it's a skill we were worried he might not have. But it's still quite odd. I can only guess he's picked it up either from a TV show or from last week's summer camp.

Went to an indoor play gym today. We stayed for two hours. Damian loved it, didn't want to leave. He survived other children running past him, trying to get into his space, trying to take his toys. Managed it all with a reasonable equanimity, though he certainly didn't try to make friends. Underlining the fact that he's still got a way to go before he's socially comfortable. I know he's got it in him, he's so exuberant with us, but he only shows it with other kids in fits and starts.

The big challenge of the gym was this play structure, sort of like a 3D maze -- you climb up levels, go through tunnels, climb around inside. Hard to describe. Damian was fascinated and scared. He went up levels oh so slowly. Climbing up to Level Two was too scary at first; he had to quickly go back down to the ground. But he went up again. And again. He eventually made it to Level Three and then just sat there, unwilling to go forward to get into the tunnel. I have a feeling if I'd been willing to spend eight hours there, he might have made it through the entire play structure. It's a little disappointing, because he did far better when we visited the place back in May. But he's clearly regressed some with this kind of vestibular/proprioceptive stuff after going without OT for so long. Still, good to see progress in a single two hour block.

Friday 30 August

Went to see Sophia today (oh yeah, and Diane and Simon too). Not that much interaction. Sophia talked to Damian a bit but he needed coaxing to respond to her. I've noticed this, though. May have mentioned it before, I can't remember. But he needs at least an hour to warm up to another kid. In that first hour, he acts indifferent. After that, though, he can get silly and nicely interactive. Especially if there's gross motor silliness involved.

Somewhere in the past month or so, he's finally started to use a fork or spoon entirely by himself. Without fanfare, without our urging. Just started to spear macaroni noodles or scoop yogurt out of the container and bring it to his mouth. He'd been doing the second part for a long time, but the first half of the process always intimidated him. A sign of more manual dexterity and/or arm strength.

Every damned time I bring him to the bathroom, he says "It's quiet in here now but it will get busy soon." Which makes no sense. It's a quote from one of his favorite videos (House Construction). I've tried to make it meaningful by asking him when it's going to get busy, so now he says "It will get busy when Daddy comes home." Which isn't quite true either. So today I challenged that and he agreed the bathroom would probably stay quiet even when Daddy's home. It's like these phrases get stuck in his brain the way song lyrics sometimes do with us and even though they're meaningless out of context, he can't help himself. It may be perfectly normal (and doesn't crop up that much) but because it reminds me so vividly of his former scripting ways, it gives me the creeps.

Saturday 31 August

Last night I heard Dan and Damian in the bathroom; they were playing their current usual bathtub game, Pirates. This involves Dan animating a toy sized person (the pirate), who tries to steal treasure from Froggie, who is in a boat or sometimes a submarine. Recently, Froggie has become an evil pirate too (voiced by Damian in a gruff voice) who steals the treasure back. Used to be, Dan needed to do a lot of hinting and prompting to get Damian to take the next step in the game. Not so lately. Damian likes the game so much he wants to jump in the bath every night and then he plays with gusto -- and sustains the scenario with no prompting.

Last night's iteration was especially pleasing. When Dan's pirate had the treasure, he taunted Froggie with a sing-song jeer. After Froggie stole it back, he did the same, but in completely different words. Damian understood the meaning of what Dan had had his character do, and did it of his own accord and in his own words. This feels like an important step forward. Damian's obviously been able to come up with extremely imaginative ideas for at least a few months, but they don't involve a whole lot of interpersonal emotional content. Someone teasing someone else? That's the heart of interactive play. That's new.
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