November 2002 page 2 of 2
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.

Wednesday 20 November

I've been realizing this format may not work so well for me these days. Damian does and says so much every day, is so adorable and full of life, I simply can't keep track. In a way, I don't want to. I want to let it wash over me, enjoy this age and stage and not remember every detail. This doesn't mean I want to stop the log, though. I think it's useful for the issues he still has and the unusual developments. Valuable to mark his progress. I'm not sure I want to make it a daily log anymore, though. Should I start a separate notify list for this page? Email me if you would like that.

Damian and Sophia played together at our house Saturday. They enjoyed each other, as usual. Sometimes Damian took the lead, sometimes Sophia did.

Sophia wanted Damian to come in the car with them when they left, so we decided on a play date for Sunday at their house.

Sunday, the play went fairly well, though not quite as well. On her turf, Sophia was a bit possessive of her toys. But they still had fun together, I think. Sophia has suddenly become very good at puzzles. Damian hasn't tried lately. So Dan bought him some yesterday. Damian had some trouble focusing -- avoidance of something that felt hard, maybe, or perhaps it was just tiredness -- but at a certain point, he *got* it and put the second half of a 24 piece puzzle together in a couple of minutes. We haven't concentrated on his intellectual development, neglected it in favor of his emotional development, but it's clear he's ready for more challenges and that he needs it, to boot.

To that end, we've started doing little subtraction puzzles in the car on the way to school. Six gummy bears, you ate three, how many are left? I know it's probably too advanced for a four year old, but it's an intellectual challenge and something to do in the car. But today, Dan didn't count down, just said at one point, "How many gummies do I have left?" and Damian guessed right. So something's clicking. Unless it was a fluke?

He's doing something else interesting: he's drawing. He can barely draw a shaky circle, his faces are wildly cubist, but... a month ago, he drew something on my computer. I asked what. He said it was a moose. I looked again and damned but I could see it. A rounded body, a well shaped silhouette of a head, antlers. And Monday Dan was with Damian and an etch-a-sketch or a Magnadoodle. Damian drew something. Dan asked what. Damian said it was a dog. And it looked remarkably like a dog head, seen from the side. Elongated nose, floppy ear. Today we told Heidi and she asked him to draw something. He did, a sort of ovoid shape that he then colored in. What was it? Damian said "It's a canteen." And y'know? It had that bladder shape and even a mouth like a canteen. He made something silly up to be the liquid inside.

The big question is -- is he drawing that much above his age level (and so suddenly, too), or is he just scribbling and then figuring out what it most looks like? Either way, we're impressed, whether with his drawing or with his imagination.

Bird told me Friday about a guessing game she was playing with him with cards that had drawings of objects and animals. Dan and I decided it might be a fun car game. So now we play the guessing game. Damian: "What uses gas, has wheels, and goes beep?" and "What has wings and a long nose and wheels?" It was interesting to see his thought process when I asked him a (slightly) hard one: "What do you eat that's round and you slice into pieces?" "A cake." "Round like a cake, yes, but flatter." "A pie." "Good guess, but no. This is something a lot of people eat for dinner together and it has yellow and red on it." "A pizza." I loved that he wasn't afraid to guess. So often, it seems, he's afraid of being wrong and so he doesn't try. I like this game because he does try. Well, and that it stretches his abstract thinking ability.

Thursday 21 November

Thursday is Cooking Day. Today they made mashed potatoes. Tania asked if Damian wanted some. No, no no! But she got him to taste a little. "I like mashed potatoes!" She was apparently very amused by this enthusiastic switchabout.

Robin said she had a great session with Damian. We have yet to hear the details. (I have to call her -- we've decided we should stop talking about Damian in front of him.) I do know from Kahuna that it involves Damian pretending to be an astronaut taking off and flying and landing on the -- moon? -- and meeting an alien, etc. Kahuna apparently got involved in the pretend play.

Kahuna was late to meet us at the afternoon school; he was late on Tuesday too. On Tuesday this meant Damian stuck by my side like glue and refused to interact much at all with other kids. Today was a smidge better, he did wander off a few feet and very nearly interacted with a little girl.

I spoke with Kahuna on the phone tonight. Two incidents from today's session:

The first: Damian wanted to play around the teeter totter with two girls. They weren't interested. They threw wood chips at him. He thought it was a game, threw chips back at them. They ran off. He didn't react, but fifteen minutes later he told Kahuna he was angry that they'd thrown the wood chips and he was hurt, too.

I have all kinds of reactions to this incident. Sadness that he was rejected and that he didn't know how to respond in the moment. Pleasure that he was able to voice his feelings unprompted even though I'm sure it was a difficult emotion to admit to himself. A desire to protect and teach him all about how to negotiate the treacherous waters of childhood interaction. Anger at the girls for rejecting his overtures. Don't they know this is new for him? Shouldn't they rejoice? Why doesn't the world of children follow my desires?

Step by step. Yes, step by step he learns.

The second incident may be a little muddled in the telling; I'm remembering this secondhand. It happened at the art activity. Damian was drawing with a marker. So was Kahuna and so were two boys. Damian was making funny noises. One boy laughed, enjoying Damian's silliness. It sounds like Damian didn't respond overtly to the laughter, though I'm sure he felt encouraged. The other boy and Kahuna started being silly together -- animating the dinosaurs they'd drawn. They pretended the red dots Damian was drawing were cherries and started eating them. Damian's hand knocked their hand puppets over, I guess, and they made a big silly deal out of that. At a certain point, Damian started doing it on purpose to get that reaction. Entering the game, albeit just a little. Then (not sure of the transition) he took his own paper and rolled it around his hand like a puppet (as the other boy had done) and made a "rrrmmm" vacuum cleaner noise, saying his was a Sucker. Kahuna pretended he was being sucked up into Damian's machine, and the two boys followed suit. The laughing boy laughed more, so much so he nearly fell off his chair. He told his friend that Damian was really funny, and his friend agreed.

To me, this incident is important not because what Damian did showed any new ability level but because he was able to be silly with other kids (though it sounds like it took a loonnng time for him to warm up into it) and make them react with pleasure. It bodes well for how they'll perceive him in the future. And maybe, too, he'll seek to be silly with them again. Because he does seek that approbation after he's gotten it once. It's also good that Kahuna worked so hard to get Damian into the activity, was so high affect and silly himself. He wants to step back and let Damian do the work, but Damian can't. Not yet. He needs Kahuna to bridge this relationship building first, before he can know the kids are approachable. Not to mention exactly how to approach them.

No wonder it's so hard for him to play with other kids. He doesn't know how to bridge the social gap, poor kid. It's a brand new skill set.

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