September 2002 page 1 of 2

Sunday 1 September

Damian used to be nervous about things like washing his hands or getting wet. Still is... sometimes. But hand washing is getting easier and easier. Today he came in from outside and told me his hands were dirty and he needed to wash them before eating. I nearly fell on the floor.

Tonight I lay down with him at bedtime for the first time in over a month. Dan's been doing it every night but now that he's working, he really needs the time. We've been suggesting to Damian that I do it, but he's been resistant. But last night I took over for Dan after an hour and Damian liked that. So tonight I said I would come in after two songs. But Damian didn't like that idea one bit. He wanted me in right away.

He was very talkative. Talking endlessly about how it was now time to go to sleep. I kept explaining that he couldn't actually fall asleep unless he stopped talking. So then he wanted to talk about that. Sheesh. At one point, he said "Mommy, thank you for asking me to go to sleep." Um. Yeah. Finally, though, he pushed his head up against mine (he falls asleep best when he gets some proprioceptive input, preferably pressure on his head) and fell asleep very quickly. Just had to decide to actually do it.

Monday 2 September

Watching Tom & Jerry cartoons this morning, Damian's favorite. Dante came sauntering into the room. Damian spotted him, said, "The cat came out of the movie! Now there's only a mouse on TV!" He then addressed Dante, trying to convince him to go back into the television set. (And yes, he had a smile on his face the whole time. Knew he was being funny.)

Wednesday 4 September

Damian's first day back at school (real school, not summer camp) since July 23rd. In the car on the way there, he told me I was going to stay in the classroom with him. I told him I'd bring him there but then I had to go get breakfast. We discussed it briefly (both reiterating our positions) and then he said, "I thought Mommy was going to go with me to class but she's going to bring me to class instead." And that was apparently that.

When we got to class, though, he didn't want to let go of my hand. Not a good sign. But he soon got engaged in play, and when I said goodbye, he had that quivery lip look like he was about to cry but never actually did.

The report after school was that he was very verbal, especially when Kenny (TA) read the kids a book. Guess it was an interactive reading. Also that he was very good at yoga (something the OT is introducing into the class).

Tania also told me that after the kids get acclimated, they'll each be spending time in the typical preschool class down the hall, the one Damian visited every day last year. Last year it was crucial because he was in a class full of lower functioning kids, but now it feels like icing on the cake. Especially since he'll be getting the interaction with typical kids twice a week at his other preschool, starting in a few weeks. Still, it's a good thought.

He has a new floor time therapist, Mary. She started today. Came by the house (she'll be seeing him at school starting next week, though). We lost Colette, which makes me sad; she was the best I've seen. Really has a knack. But Mary seems good. Better than I'd expected. I've seen her with another boy and she didn't seem to know how to enter into his world so I was worried. But I had Damian show her his room and she said "What a great room! Where's your bed?" And he pointed and said "Here's my bed."

And then she looked around some more and said "Oh, and what are these?"

"Those are my books."

"And oh, you have a lot of great toys on your play table! All sorts of cars and things."

"This is an airplane. It flies like this." He picked it up and started running it on the floor, having it take off into the air. Soon after that, he kicked me out so they could play (she and I were talking too much, you see). So they were off to a good start. She'd opened the door, invited him to take the lead in telling her about his stuff, and he warmed right up.

Later, she told me that he really took the lead in their play. She was very pleased. She had trouble at one point; she was trying to change things about the play scenario (add a character, I think) and he got mad. But she kept trying and he let his defenses down and went along with what she was suggesting. I said I didn't (and I don't) think it's about being rigid or repetitive in his play. She agreed, said it's more like he wants to be the one in control. And she's right. And it's completely appropriate. I suggested ways to enter the play when he gets like that. Things I've found useful. I have my character pout and even cry, acting rejected. I have my character get silly-mad and knock things over. Things like that which allow him to respond to the character's emotions.

I brought him to a restaurant to meet some friends. He didn't want to go. Said the restaurant was noisy and crowded. I enticed him with the thought of ice cream for dessert and helping him pick out restaurant toys. He ended up having a great time. Said "I love this restaurant." He didn't mind being the only child at the table (four adults and him) and he played happily and imaginatively.

Some play examples: Froggie was a farmer; when he pushed his wheelbarrow, it jumped like a frog. Froggie put the veggies in upside down so the dinosaurs (who have big open mouths) could eat the food without taking it out of the ground (a row of holes in a wood board).

Thursday 5 September

Picked Damian up from Robin after school. She said they had a lot of fun. Said he's much better at sustaining an interaction. That they used to go through fifteen activities in an hour, today it was more like one or two.

I told him Kahuna was going to come play with him at the house. Damian disagreed: "He's NOT going to come!" Why not? "Because he doesn't love me anymore!" Oy. I tried to talk him out of this notion. He was adamant. I brought him to find Kahuna, who was having lunch. Damian marched up to him: "You don't love me!" Kahuna was baffled. I explained a little. He put Damian on his lap and assured him he does love him and he was looking forward to playing together. And that seemed okay. In the car on the way home, Damian told me Kahuna was coming to play and that he liked him.

They had a good play session, though Damian flagged around two hours in. That's when the sessions usually end, but Tuesdays and Thursdays are going to be three hour sessions so Kahuna can be his shadow at the typical preschool. But it's too much for a home visit. Damian took a break with me. I segued to having Kahuna read to him while Damian ate yogurt. That worked. A child cannot live on play alone.

Friday 6 September

Picked him up from Kahuna. I met them as they were coming out of the bathroom. Kahuna told me he'd done a little button pushing and Damian had taken it in stride. For instance, they were in the sand yard and he (Kahuna) poured sand on Damian's sneaker. Damian didn't get angry; he simply poured sand on Kahuna's shoe and turned it into a fun game.

As Kahuna told me this, Damian gave me his own report: "While we were waiting for Mommy, we went to play in the sand yard. Then we decided to come inside and have a snack and then I said 'I think I have to go pee.'" I'm loving this chatty remembrance. It's been a long time coming. He did it again in the car, with different words and a somewhat different set of events.

Kahuna said, "He's really silly. He's a ham." Yup. Now we just have to get him to show that part of himself with other kids and 90% of the work will be done.

Kahuna was trying to get Damian to clean up and put the containers back in his snack bag and throw out a wrapper. Damian refused, said I was going to do it. So I did. I put the small lid on the big container and said "Is this right?" Damian said it wasn't and did it right. Kahuna caught on and put the wrapper in the container. "Does it go here?" Damian said no and threw out the wrapper (which he'd been adamant about not doing the previous minute). Best not to engage in a battle of wills. Important to give him some personal power, I think.

Damian fell asleep in the car. Woke when I opened the car door on his side. I expected a sleepy grumpy "carry me," but he got out of the car and walked into the house, all the way into his room, without a comment. Then burst into tears. I guess he'd finally woken up enough to realize he couldn't handle being awake.

So we watched a video. House Construction Ahead, his favorite. Damian got chatty midway through: "This is my favorite part of the movie," he told me.

"What part is that?" No response. Rephrase: "What happens next?"

This was concrete enough of a question for him. "They put dynamite in the holes and blow it up."

As the workers finished putting the sticks into the ground, Damian got excited, told me more: "They press the button and the ground goes BOOM!" It did. Several times. Then Damian informed me the explosions were going to go backward now. (The video runs the explosions backwards, getting the most bang for the buck.) He loved that too. I loved that he was telling me about it.

Saturday 7 September

Spent the afternoon at a fellow student's house, a kid from Damian's old class. He's more severely affected than Damian but has language and interest in the world. I'd call him mild-to-moderately autistic. The two boys mostly played side by side but not interactive, but at one point they actually got into a game together (with much coaxing). Damian was plopping down on the grass and asking us to pull him up. We got the other boy to do it instead. Then he started "falling down" too, and they both ran across the lawn from end to end. Damian took the helper role a couple of times too, before he lost interest. We still measure interactive play by such small, discrete sessions. Odd to think that even though the other boy is more impacted in most respects than Damian, they're not so far apart in this one way: social interaction with peers.

Sunday 8 September

We walk into the house after playing in the back yard.
Damian: "What do we do when we come inside?"
Me: "Um... walk inside?" (Is this a trick question?)
Damian (insistent): "What do we do after that when we come inside?
He heads through the house. I follow him. Headed for his room? Ah. Maybe: "We play in your room?"
"What do we do before we play?"
Damn. Stumped. Until... he stops in front of the bathroom door. I feel like I just won the lottery: "We wash our hands!"
He nods. "We wash our hands."

Who's the parent here?

Minutes later, as we enter his room. "Remember to take my shoes off when we're in the house."

I'm telling you. Or rather, he's tellng me.

Monday 9 September

School report: Bird and Nadia had a joint session with Damian and Corey together. Said Damian initiated some conversation with Corey. This is good. This is very good. Usually he responds to another kid but doesn't initiate.

Also said he was a bit tactile avoidant (didn't want to get his hands in the paste/rice concoction). This is a backslide. But apparently he warmed up during the session.

Bird commented that Damian sometimes doesn't answer questions directly, that he'll say something else altogether, commenting on something in his head instead of your question. It's true. I've seen it too. She thinks it's about his not being easily able to come up with the answer. Dan thinks it's just that Damian was thinking about something else (the subject of his commentary) and didn't really register the question, and that it's not a big deal. I suspect he's more right than she is.

The three of us were standing outside Damian's classroom talking when Damian burst out, with a big "Hi Mommy!" and wrapped himself around my legs. We talked a little more. They asked Damian what he made in speech/OT today. We waited during a long pause, then he said "I made a boat." It's getting easier for him to answer, though it's still not facile.

I spoke with Tania too. She said she's seeing Damian getting closer to interaction with the other kids, though he's not there yet. But his parallel play is edging closer -- ie: he plays in closer proximity to the other kids but not actually with them yet. Today two boys were playing with cars together and Damian was playing nearby. He came into their play, interacted for a moment, then backed off to play by himself. Did this a few times, not just once. Testing the waters.

Apparently, though, he's more social during snack time. He shared his cheese doodles with other kids, and he tried (and apparently tries every day) to get the other kids to laugh again, a la his walrus joke. Only thing is, he doesn't know what he did right that time. Doesn't understand that he has to do something silly to get them going. So sometimes he just laughs and hopes they'll join in. Today one boy actually did and they laughed back and forth. Kinda cute.

First session with Rivka since July. Damian was much better about transitioning and taking off his shoes on his own. Also much more verbal and responsive and connected than I think I've ever seen him in her gym. That was nice. It was clear, though, how much he needed the vestibular input. He refused to get out of the swing and balked at getting out of the ball pit too.

Tuesday 10 September

Kahuna had a three hour session at home with Damian. I think it's too long for both of them. Damian seems to check in with me hourly, wanting down time. So I gave it to him each time. Read a book to him and then slipped away (which he knew I would). The session is designed to cover Damian's time at the typical preschool, but we delayed the start date until October. I'm having second thoughts about this; we'll go to the school Thursday for a look-see, and then we can start any time.

After Kahuna left, Damian decided to play bookstore. He was "the man who sells books." He gave me several Beatrix Potter volumes. When I said I wanted big books, not just small ones (the Potter books are practically board-book sized), he said he only sold small books.

Then he decided the store was also a toy store. Told me, "It sells little toys but the big toys are for me." (ie: not for sale). I said, "Okay, then I want to buy Froggie." (Froggie is quite small.) He informed me this was impossible because "Froggie is a big toy." I call this thinking on your feet. Didn't want me to have his favorite toy, made it fit his criteria for no sale.

Wednesday 11 September

I'm a little concerned about Mary. I'd talked to her about how important it is to have Damian interact with other kids in a fun way (ie: gross motor, blowing bubbles, etc, things to rev him up) but it sounds like Damian and Corey had some joint floor time which involved both floor time therapists prompting for each interaction. This is not going to help him learn kids are fun. And it's what I've observed her doing with another boy, so I was wary of her for exactly this reason.

On the other hand, it sounds like she did well with the one on one time; they played in the sand box building castles and moats and creating a path from one play structure to the other. And when she started to tell me about it, Damian interrupted, told me himself and then showed me the path. So he was open and happy enough with her to be that verbal/spontaneous at the end of a session.

Thursday 12 September

This was Damian's first day at his Other School (the typical preschool). I brought him there to test the waters but ended up deciding we might as well start the program right away rather than wait two weeks. He's ready. It's hard for him but he needs this and has the ability to take it on, whether or not he knows that. I'll write more on this in a real entry (in progress)...

We went out for Dan's birthday, all three of us. Damian and I waited for Dan a the curb afterward. Waited a while. Damian and I watched the lights of the cars flash by in the dark. He said he liked watching the cars. Then he commented, "I keep thinking the cars are Daddy's but then they're not." I thought that was a very apt way to sum up the experience of waiting for someone.

Friday 13 September

I hate to admit this, but I've gotten lazy about floor time. I usually just watch and enjoy Damian's play, at least the past few weeks. I've been meaning to get back into it -- I know he's not done with learning through floor time. Not sure he ever will be, not while he remains a child. It's an ever-fluid, flexible, warm way to deal with any issues that need to to be addressed. But last night Dan worked very late. I picked Damian up at 1:30. From there to bedtime is a long time to go without floor time. So I roused myself and got into the play. You know? It was easy. And fun. And made me feel good. Damian is so much more able at it now, I really can follow his lead and build on it, help him shape the separate ideas into a longer flow and bring up possible emotions the characters might feel. I think I might be ready to get back to being a floor timer for my kid again. And he loves it. Likes playing on his own now but adores the interaction.

Saturday 14 September

We met up with Diane, Darin, and Sophia (and baby Simon) at Vroman's bookstore in Pasadena and spent the afternoon and evening with them. Damian was fine at the bookstore playing at the train table with two other children (parallel play) until Sophia got there. He gave her a really big smile in greeting but then got shy and withdrew. He ended up burrowing into some huge stuffed animals. For the sensory input or to hide, I'm not sure which. Either way, the same need: he felt unsafe, wanted to feel safe. He did gradually loosen up, especially after I read a book aloud to him, Sophia, and another girl who wanted to hear it. They took turns unfolding flaps and I think that helped him relax.

As we left a plant nursery (our second stop), Damian said "I want to see Sophia and her family at our house." And then repeated it but differently, "Diane, Darin and Sophia are coming to our house." So that was okay.

Damian and Sophia played in his room for a long time with Dan directing traffic. Sounds like there was some occasional push-pull over toys but that Damian was fairly easy going about it. And it felt like there was a nice back and forth -- somewhere between parallel and interactive play. Doing the same things as each other, responding to each other, but not actually playing *together*.

At the dinner table, Damian looked around at the six of us (Simon was asleep in his carseat) and said, "It's a big family. Two families are one big family."

When they were getting ready to go, Damian came up to me. "I'm sad. I'm sad because the family are leaving."

Sunday 15 September

Damian buttoned his shirt all by himself this morning and then unbuttoned it at night. All by himself. More self help skills. This is good.

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