November 2002 page 1 of 2
Friday 1 November

Damian was more rigid than he has been for a while, or maybe he's been getting more so and I haven't noticed until now. But when we went to the bank, he got upset that we were staying outside at the ATM. Had a bit of a hissy fit, insisting we go in. We didn't. Three or four other examples from today.

On the other hand, he's getting far better at calming himself down. Used to be, he could calm himself enough to talk, but he still sounded panicky. Now if you tell him he needs to talk to you in a calm way, he takes a short beat and then sounds completely normal. It's rather impressive, especially coming from this little boy.

We've been playing a game together every afternoon. It involves his red stretch frog, now named Burgundy. My character is a green stretch lizard, dubbed Grass. We start with whatever scenario we ended with last time and go from there. It's been fascinating, because it's all coming from him. He seeks me out, insists we play, determines what we play, and starts the game. He wants me, I think, because he knows I can add to the unfolding story. Though he does too. I love the ongoing interactive game. Today, though, I was exhausted. We played well for a bit but then I made the mistake of lying down. I apologized to Damian and said I had enjoyed it but I was too tired to continue tonight, but I'd love to play again tomorrow. He had his frog say goodbye to my lizard and tell him he had fun taking a bath together (which is what they'd been doing). Giving the game closure of his own accord.

Saturday 2 November

Dan worked. Damian and I went to school. His morning school was having a parents work day. Provided childcare. Damian was resistant at first to the idea of school on a home day but I explained that this was a special home day. He bought it, more or less. Kept commenting while we were there about how this was a home day but we were at school. I worried that he'd cling to me and not want to play with the succession of TAs and administrators acting as babysitters, not to mention the two NT girls (daughters of administrators). But he took it all in stride. Wanted to be near me at first, but when he tackled me from behind while I knelt with a plant pot in my hands, the TA coaxed him away. And he went. It sounds like he had a quiet day, not completely absent but not fully engaged either. I wish I wish I wish. But he may never be that kid, you know? And yet be normal for all that.

He remarked as we said goodbye to the girls that one was named Sophia and he has a friend named Sophia. Later, he brought her up again and said she should come over tomorrow to play. So I invited Diane to bring her over. It's probably -- no, definitely -- the first time he's ever expressed that particular desire, to play with another child.

Sunday 3 November

Damian woke with a paroxysm of coughing. Coughed so much he gagged and spit up. This happened half a dozen times over the course of the morning. I've never seen him like this. Not even as an infant did he spit up that much all in a row. Thought about cancelling the play date with Sophia but he seemed in good spirits otherwise, so we went ahead with it.

The play date went well overall. We're starting to let them go off into Damian's room unsupervised and see what happens. I occasionally hear a back-and-forth conversation, and they come running out and then go back inside. So there's genuine interactive play going on. They played hide-and-seek, that much I know. And Damian gave Sophia the yellow stretch frog (Goldie) to play with. Really, though, the hide-and-seek with zero adult prompting is in an of itself an important accomplishment. Sophia must have suggested it and Damian took her up, counting and then making a great big show of looking for her in all the wrong places and then the trumped up triumph when he found her. Playing like we play with him. Feeling comfortable in that role.

It ended on a somewhat difficult note: Sophia brought the doll and stroller out to play with. Damian wanted it. "It's mine!" Tried to grab it from her. It took a lot of persuasion and downright limit-setting to get it away from him. I said Sophia could have it for two minutes and then it would be his turn. He negotiated with me! Said, no, one minute. I agreed. I want to let him feel some sense of power when he's behaving appropriately. (Discussion/debate, not aggression.) So as far as I'm concerned, the little power struggle was a plus, not a minus. It's part of learning to socialize -- learning to assert himself and to conversely accept boundaries.

Shortly thereafter, though, Diane told Sophia it was time to go home and Damian chimed in with a hearty "You should leave now, Sophia!" Diane was a little taken aback, I think. I think he'd simply had his fill. Socializing can be exhausting. He did say a few minutes later that Sophia should come back next Sunday.

A prospective babysitter/driver came by this evening. Damian was friendly with her but then curled up in my lap and fell asleep, a good two hours before bedtime. Extremely uncharacteristic. He probably is sick after all. Of course, when Dan tried to gently lay him down on his bed, Damian woke up, indignant and wanting to play.

Monday 4 November

Sure enough, he woke up sick. So he stayed home today. Mostly in my lap. We watched a lot of TV. His self-regulation was lousy. Tears and panic over the smallest thing. I hate sick days.

Tuesday 5 November

Another home day, although Damian perked up around 9 am and was good for the rest of the day, including a good play session with Kahuna. His eyes, though, were at half mast. Droopy.

He told me that on home days he likes to leave his bed and come to sleep with Mommy and Daddy. At least it's now just home days and not every day. Not sure this bears out in fact, but maybe it does and I simply haven't made the connection he did...?

We played frogs and trucks this evening. I'm no longer operating the green lizard. Now I'm Goldie the yellow frog. Goldie balked at riding in Scoop tonight. Said he wanted a car. Found a red convertible and tootled around in that, zooming fast. (My goal: to get Damian to accept a change from the routine.) But Goldie wasn't a very good driver, kept banging into people (Damian and Muck the truck) and making a mess of things. Damian said he should ride in Scoop, that Scoop was fast too. Goldie didn't want to, said "Why should I ride in Scoop when I have this shiny red car?" Damian: "You should ride in Scoop because Scoop doesn't bump into things and knock things over." Damn. That's good reasoning right there.

Wednesday 6 November

First day back at school. Went smoothly. We lingered in the grass yard after I got to school. Some kids came out from the regular preschool class, including Corey, who was there for a long day today. Damian was bouncing on a ball-with-handle (what are those things called? I know they have a name). Corey joined in. Later, Damian and Corey chased each other around the yard. Damian wasn't quite as interactive with Corey as Corey was with him, but he was game nevertheless.

Note from class: they worked on the letter C today. When the teacher asked who in the class had a name beginning with C, Damian was the first to answer. This is remarkable not because he figured it out -- he tells me all the time what letters various words begin with. But that he spoke aloud in a group, volunteering the information? That is noteworthy.

Heidi told me that her husband asked her after last week's party why she sees Damian (why he needs services). He didn't believe the autism diagnosis. He's seen enough kids she works with to know how to evaluate what he's seeing. Said Damian seemed shy, yes, but not overly so, and very well behaved and appropriate, and that he handled the group of grownups well and played well with "that little girl" (Sophia). All true. Damian's issues are diminishing by the day. Not gone, though, no matter what Heidi's husband thinks. But on their way out. He's right about that.

As she and I were talking, Damian was on a nearby play structure. Soon he ran over. "Mommy, that kid is following me!" Heidi and I said, simultaneously, "That means she likes you." Heidi added, "Go play with her." He ran off. Kept scolding the (very young) girl, but at one point, I saw him say "Go away!" with a big grin. And then they chased each other around the jungle gym.

Thursday 7 November

I peeked in the door, observed Robin playing with Damian. She was lively, fun. He giggled a lot. They were playing with zoo animals, animating them in a pretend game. Looked to me like she was doing more of the work, but she was doing it well.

She told me that they lined the animals up and labelled them, asked which was his favorite, etc. Commented that his response time was excellent.

Kahuna had to leave the afternoon school early today -- after just an hour (instead of the usual three). So I came back and lingered there. Damian, of course, wanted to leave immediately, but I found excuses to stay and pretty soon he was eating his snack alongside a few other kids. I tried facilitating conversation, but Damian really just wanted to answer me and not talk to the other children. Though when Rosie left with her mom, Damian told her we live near school. One of those semi-random things kids sometimes say to each other. Nice that he did.

Friday 8 November

Playdate with Corey after school. At Corey's house. Went fantastically. Damian and Corey talked to each other, played interactively, communicated really easily, sought each other out. At one point, they sat at the table eating yogurt and discussing it. At another point, Corey's two year old brother Luke roared like a lion and Damian and Corey ran from him in mock fear. This game was repeated numerous times to much mutual enjoyment. When we were getting ready to leave (after three hours -- and Damian didn't want to leave even then), we talked about how we were planning a play date for Monday at our house. I told Corey we have a cat. Damian -- so naturally -- asked Corey if he likes cats.

Saturday 9 November

Dan is stressed about something at work. Damian has been a volatile pill boy today. Emotional sponge, that one.

Sunday 10 November

Dan in a better frame of mind. Damian too.

Damian has now named his bathtub frogs (different from his other palm-sized frogs because they're plastic, not stretchy rubber and because they're hollow so you can squirt water from their mouths). His other frogs have been named with help from Dad (Burgundy, Emerald, Cobalt...) with one named by him (Pete). These tub frogs are all Damian's idea: the red one is Apple, the yellow Banana, the blue Plum.

Monday 11 November

Play date #2 with Corey. This time at our house. This time not good. Damian played with his frogs and trucks; Corey wasn't the least bit interested and Damian didn't invite him into the game. Corey made every toy into a mechanical device (Damian's Robin Hood forest set was all about dropping boulders down and watching them roll, the fire station was all about having the fire fighter drop down the pole). Much frustration from Corey when a mechanical device didn't work properly. Huge frustration from Damian when Corey's brother Luke got into his stuff, tearing apart a lego house designated as his favorite stretch frog's home. Damian was at the end of his rope, crying and having trouble calming down. Luke was too much for him.

We shifted to the back yard, thinking it would be easier. It was.. for Damian. Corey rode on Damian's tractor and got upset every time it got stuck on a bump or hillock. Little interaction out there, unfortunately.

It seemed this time didn't work because Damian was overwhelmed by Luke in his own house among his things and Corey was more easily frustrated/less self-regulated when not on his own turf. There was one good bit, where they played Going Fishing together. Corey caught fish with his rod, Damian caught fish with his, and then Damian had Lofty the crane catch fish with his scoop. Which was adorable, but Corey didn't respond to it at all. The frustration of a play date with another child on the spectrum, I suppose. Though of course typical kids have their own tastes/preferences, I suspect they're more able to pick up on each other's cues.

About an hour after the boys left, Damian's new sitter came for a two hour get-your-feet-wet tryout. I'm afraid that didn't go wonderfully either. Damian didn't respond well to her overtures (not badly, just not being open) and didn't invite her into his play. I don't know how much is her play style and how much just that he'd had an overwhelming day and was feeling shut down. I sat down with them for the last half hour and played, narrating to her what I was doing and why. She got it after a bit, at least I think she did. And Damian was much more responsive to me, but I could still see that he wasn't all there.

After she left, we curled up on the couch together and watched a video. He badly needed that down time. Poor kid. We try again with her on Friday. And next time we have a play date with Corey, we'll try the park.

Tuesday 12 November

Damian shooed me out the door at the afternoon school today. Voice quivery but no tears. He wants to get the goodbye over with soonest. That's good.

Kahuna told me the day went well. Damian found Rosie, asked her to play on the see-saw. She didn't want to but said she'd play later. Kahuna reminded Damian to ask her later. She agreed then. They played for a while together, both on the see-saw and chasing each other around the large play structure. Kahuna said the two kids played for about half an hour together -- interactively -- with virtually no input from him. This is fantastic.

Wednesday 13 November

Picked Damian up from Mary, who said they didn't play with Corey today (his floor timer had pinkeye). That they had good symbolic play: eating pretend pizza and having pirate figures clean a pirate ship. Which sounds like okay pretend play to me, as usual not up to his at-home standards, but as long as Damian-at-school keeps improving, I now feel comfortable with the fact that this continues to lag behind how he's doing at home. She also commented on how much more verbal he is when it's just the two of them. (See above.)

We ended up staying in the school yard for nearly two hours. At one point, Damian was walking along the cement edge of the yard, holding onto the latticework fence. A real balancing act. He wanted me to come take a look. I was duly impressed. Then I got astride a large rocking horse, the kind on springs. I asked Damian if he thought I could ride it. He said, "You're too big, you might break it or something and they would have to get mad at you." Ha. Then he wanted me to come balance on the edging with him, told me he was going to teach me how to do it. I tried, though it was difficult for my big feet. He did indeed give me instructions on how to do it right.

The kids from one class came streaming out into the grass yard. Then a second class came out. Damian commented that it was (therefore) a mixed up class. Then a third class came out. Three out of the four classes were all together in the same yard, enjoying the new sod and hills. Lots of kids. Damian waded into the melee, perfectly content.

He went trotting over to Laura. He told her, "I used to be in your class but now I'm not anymore." She agreed that this was so and asked him whose class he's in now. "Tania's class. She's over there." (pointing) "And I have new shoes because I'm growing up." (We bought him new shoes this weekend.) She wanted to know if he had new shoes because it was his birthday. "I'll have another birthday soon." (not till May) How old will he be? "I'll be five years old on my birthday."

This went on for another few exchanges, then he ran off to play. Laura said how adorable he is, quoting his "I used to be in your class" comment. Fact is, that was a completely typical four year old's conversation. He initiated it, responded to her comments appropriately, added his own observations. It's easier and easier for him.

Good session with Heidi too, though he was tired at first, hard to keep him focused on the task at hand. She had him lie on the scooterboard and hold tight to a rope. Then she pulled on the rope, giving him a fast, exciting ride. That woke him up and he was good to go. Have to remember this -- this is a child who sometimes needs his motor revved with major proprioceptive and vestibular input.

Heidi had Damian call me over at one point to watch him walk along the rope bridge. He was completely fearless even when she started shaking it. Less than two months from needing her to sit with him and calm him halfway through to this. Pretty damned good.

On our way home. Toni called. While I was on the phone with her, Damian asked to talk to her. He's been phone-phobic since early summer, so this was very cool. He was fairly forthcoming with her, too, answering her questions with more than just yes-no responses, filling in details.

Later, at home, I told him Toni was going to come by for a bit. He told me he'd wanted her to come and she was coming. I said maybe he made it happen. I didn't say "like magic" but thought it. Next thing, he's saying "Abracadabra, alacazam, make Toni come!" Too cute.

Thursday 14 November

Damian had to pee during the drive home. He asked me to pull over near a stop sign. I think because the first time I pulled over on a residential street, I pointed out a tree (good for peeing near) and he pointed out a stop sign. The second time, too, we were near a stop sign. This time, though, I parked halfway down the block. Damian had a COW. He wanted to be near that stop sign. Practically refused to pee but his bladder took over and he finally did the deed by a tree. After that, he took a while to calm.

He said something cute in the car (can't remember what now) and I reached over and squeezed his leg affectionately. He hit his leg where I'd squeezed it. Hit it repeatedly, angrily. This is not the first time: a couple of times recently, I've kissed him on the forehead or the cheek and he's started hitting himself where I kissed him. When I ask, he tells me he's angry at me so he's hitting himself. Gah. This time I pushed him further, wanting to know why he didn't want me to touch him. He said because he was afraid he'd get sick. I can't figure out where this is coming from; all I can think is that he misunderstood something we said about germs and washing hands and so on. I told him this but he didn't seem to want to believe me. I told him also that it greatly upset me. I hope that makes a difference...

Sounds like the afternoon school went fairly well. He does well in the yard the first hour or so, interacts well with other kids around the teeter-totter, the ride-on cars and the snack table, though not really anywhere else, and he starts to lose focus after a while. Kahuna did say Damian had a lot of spontaneous language during those good times, though, talking to the other children of his own accord.

Kahuna is concerned because the kids are gravitating to him and not to Damian -- asking him if they can have a turn at whatever toy Damian's got, for instance. And they want to play with Kahuna, pulling him away from Damian to whatever they're doing. So the attention shift from Kahuna to Damian that's supposed to happen isn't. Not sure how to solve that. He thinks it means he should step back more. I don't know, though -- he's there to support Damian. If he steps back, how will Damian learn to step forward?

Another possibility we discussed was adding a third afternoon -- with me instead of Kahuna. I'd come armed with a book and sit in the background, just as I did the first few times. That way Damian will have the security of my presence but any interactions will be his doing. And the kids will get to see him without his constant shadow and may get to know him/get interested in him. It might be a complete disaster, but I doubt that. It might just be neutral -- Damian staying on his own -- but just maybe he'll have a little bit of spontaneous fun with other kids, maybe he'll try to replicate some of the fun stuff he does while Kahuna's there, maybe he'll learn he doesn't need so much support. Worth a shot, right?

Friday 15 November

Floor Time clinic today. Came away with a few useful pointers.

For one thing, we can up the frustration ante in our play scenarios. So for instance, my frog can knock a few blocks of his frog's Lego house off. The goal is to get him to the point where my frog can destroy his frog's house and Damian can get appropriately upset or angry but not lose control. And getting him to the point where he has a stressful day and can still keep it together in a play session like that.

I don't know how much we can expect him to do, though. He's human, after all. Yes, it's crucial that he handle setbacks and obstacles better than he does now. Well, better than he does when he's feeling stressed. But to cry if something he treasures is destroyed? Hell, I still do that. So I have to touch base with Cheri and ask what exactly we're expecting from Damian here.

Another was a reminder to go slow in our Floor Time play and make sure he's closing more circles. We can leave gaps after an overture, not push him to respond right away. Let him close the circle himself instead of closing it for him, so to speak. (She said that's a general reminder she gives nearly everyone, though. We all slip up in this.)

I asked her about the play dates with Corey. She suggested we have more structured activities for the two boys, also a different activity set up for Corey's brother Luke. Also that we meet on neutral ground (we'd planned next time for the park, though there'll be a certain corralling-the-boys element there -- encouraging them to play together instead of run rampant).

Also, when we get snappish because of something external and then apologize and explain, remember to keep the explanation simple ("I'm sorry I was grouchy" instead of telling him the reason for the bad mood). Give him something he can understand easily. And then put a happy face on, so to speak, and be upbeat for him, dropping the bad mood or the argument until later. She's right. It goes against our nature to stuff down emotions but it's important to not let them overwhelm either.

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