February 2002 page 1 of 2
Friday 1 February

As I was walking into the school, Alan was walking out. He stopped to tell me that Damian had a great day in his class. Said they made paper airplanes and got to use them (ie: throw them), and that Damian did so with the other kids. Not so much interacting with them, but enjoying the group play. I'm not surprised at all -- tossing an airplane? That's right up his alley.

Nora told me that she spent time with Damian in his class today. Said that maybe it was just that she knew after our conversation that there was more to him, but for whatever reason, she was much more able to engage him. They had a nice back-and-forth going, and he was definitely responsive. She's starting to get a tiny glimpse of what he's really like. Just starting.

Bird said he was a little emotional today, but after she put him on the ball, he regulated and they had a really good time. I saw the emotional part too, so I know what she's talking about -- he's tired and therefore a bit more liable to get upset.

She told me that she's gone into the inclusion class with him: yesterday she spent the whole 40 minute visit facilitating the other kids interact with him. I suspect she's using her therapy time as aide time. I think it's wonderful.

As I stood talking to Bird, Damian devised a cute game. There's a walkway and a wall near the back offices. He likes doing laps around the wall. Today he did one lap, then came up to me. Said, "Mommy, can I have the book?" I handed him the book I was carrying. He ran off with it. Did a lap, came back. Handed me the book, saying "Thanks for the book." Then he asked for a piece of paper I was carrying. Same exact deal. He repeated the exercise for every single item I was holding. Bird commented that it was the loudest volume she's heard him use at school, even when he talks to me.

Streak came over to work with Damian for the first time. Afterwards, she described her experience with him and it sounded much like the kid I know. She said with a lot of the kids she's worked with, the big trick is just getting them to respond, but that Damian is very responsive. That he's into pretend play, just a bit. They were playing with an ant and a snake. The ant (Streak) was afraid of the snake (Damian). Damian had them become friends (she gave him choices to help facilitate). He voiced the snake character, which apparently is a big thing. (I can see this -- he's just started doing it, and it's still very tentative.) That he can talk with a loud voice sometimes, and obviously still uses a very soft voice, but that he doesn't just have those two volumes; he uses all the gradations in between, to appropriate effect. I feel like she may be the first person who neither under or overestimates him, but sees his strengths and areas of need clearly. I knew it was worth fighting to get her on board. I'm so glad I succeeded!

Saturday 2 February

Damian watched what Dan's assembled so far of his video last night. He laughed and exclaimed several times. Really enjoyed it. Watched again this morning. Asked to see it a second time. Then went off to do some of the things he'd just seen his video self do.

Sunday 3 February

Every night after his bath, Damian lies on my lap to get his pjs on. Recently he's been bicycling his legs wildly. Needless to say, this was not such a great idea. I got kicked on the chin once and he knocked something off my nightstand another time. So I've been trying to dissuade him, but it's been hard. Last night Damian started to bicycle. I told him to stop. He made an upset noise. I said, "You sound upset. Why are you upset?" Damian responded, "Because Mommy was mad at me." I explained that I wasn't mad, just letting him know the rules. He perked up. I liked that he could articulate his feeling and the reason for it.

Damian has taken the "which" and now even a "what" directional question a bit further: he asked himself "What should we do now?" and then answered it. A few minutes later, he asked himself "Which way should we go?" and answered that too. I'm not sure what to make of this. Dan thinks it's progress because it's still asking (not to mention answering). I think it's a trifle odd but okay.

Monday 4 February

I drove Damian to school this morning. He was content enough in the car, but every time I asked him something (eg: "Do you want a gummy bear?"), there was a noticeable pause before he answered. His auditory processing wasn't fully awake.

When we got there, he looked a little lost. I think it's hard to come in midstream (we were a bit late). I felt bad leaving him there but it was almost circle time and I figured that would give him structure and he'd settle in. I think this lost feeling is responsible for a lot of his withdrawal at school, though.

I got there early to pick him up. He was still in Alan's class so I got to peek in. He was at the activity table cutting up paper with cool scalloped scissors. Bird was with him, working to engage a girl in their play. Damian was enjoying the activity but not engaged with either Bird or the girl. Maybe just a low key day, I don't know, but I also feel like he needs more support in there. Bird can't be there all the time.

Damian has a hard time with the fact that I'm still sick. He keeps trying to get me to play active games with him. I tell him I'm not all better and he says I need to take medicine and then I'll be all better. He's on the right track. He also says things like "I'm all better now and Mommy's all better now." Half right. If wishing made it so...

Dan and I have been discussing how much Damian understands when we read him stories at night. Sometimes he just seems to space out and if you ask him the simplest question about what you're reading, he'll give you an answer that's way off. But tonight I was encouraged to find that he was much more engaged. I was reading a book called Ginger (by Charlotte Voake), about a cat who gets upset when a kitten comes to live with him and disrupts his comfortable life. I asked Damian how Ginger felt in one picture. He said Ginger was mad. "Why?" I asked. "Because the kitten is eating his food." Yup. (I would have said Ginger looked upset more than mad, but I like that Damian had his own take on it.) And then later: "Damian, the kitten is lonely. Why is the kitten lonely?" "Because Ginger isn't there." Yes again. It's quite possible that Dan had already told him the selfsame things and that's why he knew tonight, but even so remembering shows some degree of understanding. We're slowly building that kind of analytical thinking. I do think that's what we do when we read, we analyze what the words mean and what happened before and therefore what will happen next and how the characters feel about it, etc. Something we take for granted, but it's hard for him.

Tuesday 5 February

Linda told me a couple of kids were visiting class. One boy got interested in Damian's snack. Tried pulling it toward himself. Damian pulled it right back. Good for him.

She also commented that he's very good at emotions: identifying and miming. Asked if we work on that at home. Oh yes. And he *is* very good at it. Kid's a little actor, he's that good at mimicking emotion.

Silver and Gamma came together so we could all compare notes. Damian enjoyed playing with all three of us. At one point he said, "All three of you go into the living room with me." I think he got a kick out of ordering so many adults around. Good for his confidence, too.

Silver had her dog Partner in the car. Brought her in, just to the front porch: Damian didn't want the dog in the house (neither did Dante, but that goes without saying). But I was delighted to see Damian's interest in Partner. He had some cheese that Partner wanted; I coaxed him to hold his hand out with the cheese and let Partner snuffle it up. He was the picture of hesitant joy. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but that's what it was. Then we went to the back yard, where Damian threw the ball for Partner. He liked that too.

Wednesday 6 February

Kahuna's first time working with Damian at school instead of home. Said it went well, that Damian was up and responsive the way he is at home. I can believe it: as I was getting out of the car, I heard a telltale happy shriek coming from the grass yard. My kid. Kahuna said he wants to start pushing Damian's buttons more -- letting him get a little frustrated, basically. Help him gain more control of his emotions. Today wasn't a good day to try, though: Damian didn't get enough sleep last night.

My Gym: I thought it didn't go as well as usual, but two of the teachers said he did great. Corbett clarified that Damian was more engaged with him, more connected. And from looking at the pictures I can see that it's true. What I saw, though, was that Damian was very distractible. Kept looking away and not paying attention. The teacher could pull him back, but had to keep giving him reminders. Yup, he was tired. Also, it upset me a little to see him have so much trouble with one of the games: Color Tag. They had the kids find and touch anything that was a particular color (eg: blue) before the teacher could come up and tag them. Damian just didn't get the concept. Too much processing or deciding or something. He just stood looking baffled. They helped him, but I could see he still didn't understand, he just then ran around copying the other kids.

I drove home down a street I used to turn on to go to our previous house. Damian said "I used to..." and I didn't catch the rest, but I could tell it was about taking walks from the old house. I said, "Are you thinking about the old house?" and he said yes. You should have heard his sad voice saying "I miss the old house." We agreed that we miss the old house but like the new one too. I asked him which he liked better, the old house or the new one. He said the new one. I said, "Yes, it has a back yard and your room is bigger and I love the colors of your room." When we got home, Damian wanted to go right into the back yard. Enjoy the pleasures of the new house. It's been seven and a half months since we moved. I was surprised he still has such strong feelings about the old house but I'm glad he does prefer the new place.

Thursday 7 February

Damian started sniffling last night, came to bed early because he had trouble breathing. But cruel mommy (on antibiotics, recovering from a horrific sinus infection) insisted he go to school this morning. Well, it had something to do with the fact that he woke up on his own at approximately the right time.

Sounds like he had a good day at school, so maybe I wasn't so cruel after all. Linda said he did well in groups, Robin said he was very responsive too. He was eating a snack; she said she was hungry. He went to the pretend stove and fixed her some pretend food.

Yesterday he expressed interest in his easel for the first time in several months. I cleaned out the crud in the paint pots and Damian got to work. Painted three pictures. Held the brush better than he used to, though he still tended to paint all in one spot, one color over the other. But then today he wanted to paint again, and painted distinct strokes with each color separate.

I was sitting on the porch swing. Damian was on the porch with me. He suddenly announced, "I'm going to have to go soon." So I asked the obvious question, "Where are you going?" He replied, "I'm going to my house." Sure enough, a minute later he climbed down the steps and into his play house.

I bought a new food for him today in Whole Foods' frozen food section: these little pellets of wheat surrounding a cheddar and broccoli mixture. He ate three for dinner along with his "crunchy cheese snacks" (chicken taquitos). Woo-hoo! Dan pointed out that it's now been weeks since the last time Damian had plain pasta with "snow" (parmesan). That used to be his every day staple. His palate is finally expanding. Another sign: yesterday he ate yogurt. Instead of insisting on wiping every smidge of the stuff off his face the instant he felt any sign of wetness, he actually let it stay on and even licked it off his lips and chin with his tongue. Did the same with pizza sauce the other night. Another sign of his increasing sensory integration.

Friday 8 February

The activity table was laid out with Play-Doh and tools this morning. When Damian got to class, he made a beeline for a gob of the stuff and started cutting. I was pleased to see him join in so readily. But I stayed around for a bit anyway. He told me, "I'm making something." So of course I said, "What are you making?" "I'm making pizza with a pizza cutter." Then James said, "I'm making cake." When Linda asked him to ask Damian what he was making, he said "Damian's making pizza." I was amused. And so very glad to see Damian verbal and, well, normal in class. More himself.

Had a session with Heidi today. I found it very interesting: she had him lie on his tummy in the frog swing and navigate around picking up puzzle pieces. She asked him to use his hands to move and keep his feet together, stretched behind him. He couldn't do it. The leg extension just isn't there. And as I watched, I found myself thinking, "But he's done it before, I know he has." And then I realized: no, he's always been in the sling swing, which supports his legs in the proper position. He doesn't have the leg strength/body awareness yet to keep his legs outstretched. I see so many ways he's gotten better in OT, it was educational to see one way he still needs to progress. We tend to focus on the good stuff, but it's just as important to know what still needs work.

I told her he has trouble on the balance beam and walking on the teeter totter at My Gym, so she put him on a balance beam. He did fine when she was holding his hand, even when she was just holding his pinky, but when she was just holding his shirt, he got fearful and lost his balance. So it's mostly a confidence issue. Probably a body awareness issue too, and the two are linked -- how can you have confidence if you're not sure where your body is in space?

Ellen, who referred me to Heidi, was there today. Now that he no longer goes twice a week, she only sees him every few months when we have a makeup session. She told me it's wonderful to see his progress in every way. He's so much more engaged and present, especially. And she was worried about bringing her client into the same room, that it might shut him down (it used to) but he didn't bat an eye and in fact was intrigued by their activities (and tossed a ball back at them when they lost it). We talked a bit about Damian's school. Ellen knows a number of kids from there and talks to Cheri regularly. She agreed (wholeheartedly!) with my assessment that he belongs in the Jumpstart class. She named a couple of kids in that class who would be excellent matches for him. And she also agrees that he's above the level of the other kids in his current class (all but James, I'd say) and that's not good for him. More important, she promised she'd tell Cheri just that. I know Cheri respects Ellen tremendously. I think it could help our cause.

Streak had her second session with Damian today. Again it went great. He engages her in pretend play, it's not just her engaging him. He responds with focused attention sometimes, glee other times, depending on the activity. She's impressed by him. And I'm impressed by her. Almost effortlessly, she brings him up to his normal-to-above-normal play level. And all evening, he was incredibly creative and motivated to play imaginatively. What's the opposite of shut down? Charged up? Awakened? She does that for him.

He threw a snake into the dollhouse and I had them get scared, so we had the characters fleeing. Then one of the figures fought back and kicked the snake out. Guess who? The baby. Hee. Then the snake came back and was scary again, but when I wanted to throw it out again, Damian said it was a nice snake so they all made friends. How cool.

He had his tiny bulldozer push a Robin Hood figure to the dollhouse. The dolls offered the guy pizza and he accepted, so we made a tiny Play-Doh pizza. Not unusual, that last step, but the bulldozer transport was pretty cool, I thought.

He stood by the armchair and turned a pretend crank at his side, said he was "turning on my sound" (and made clicking sound effects, to boot) and then ran off. This evolved into turning on a motor and then running off, but then he was doing a sort of dancing run and we commented on that, so the next time he turned on his dancing motor.

Damian wanted me to play the piano: "Mommy will play the piano fast and I'm gonna be something squeaky and running." "What will you be, Damian?" "I'm gonna be a mouse."

When Dan got home, he was a cat that chased the mouse into the mouse house. Then he set out cheese (yellow balls) and the mouse ventured out of his house to take one piece of cheese at a time back inside. I saw Damian in his playhut actually play-nibbling the "cheese" and squeaking.

Saturday 9 February

Last night and the night before, Damian did something incredibly touching. Thursday night as I lay down next to him to cuddle while he fell asleep, he was curled away from me, spooned into me. He pulled my arm across his side so my hand was on the sheet in front of him. He then clasped it between his two hands. He fell asleep that way, holding my hand in both of his.

I normally lay him down on the bed and pull the covers over him before lying down next to him. Last night, he kept his arms around my neck and wouldn't let go. I had to maneuver the blankets while lying down next to him. He didn't let go of his hug-hold the whole time. Fell asleep like that. Both nights made me feel truly loved.

Damian's definitely learning how to ask questions. They're still sort of odd, sort of rehearsed, but that's part of the process. Exciting.

He and I were in his room. He dropped a toy behind his lego table. Said, "Where did it go?" I moved the table out from the wall. Damian exclaimed, "There it is!" and retrieved it.

Later, he and I were in the bedroom. We had the following conversation:

Damian: "What was that?"
Me: "What *was* that?"
Damian: "A noise!" Beat. "What kind of noise?"
Me: "What kind of noise was it?"
Damian: "A scrunkoo noise!" (Yeah, he threw in a made up word.)

Later, he told Dan "I had a dream." I think he meant that he had a dream last night. Dan asked him about it. Damian said "Someone was on TV." That's the first time he's ever described a dream! Dan asked a lot of questions, gave choices of who, narrowed it down to someone at school, then to Vincent, one of his teachers. What was Vincent doing? "Vincent was playing with me." Who knows how much of this was really his dream and how much became just answering questions, but still. Very encouraging, because some of it surely was the former. Really describing a dream.

Sunday 10 February

He ate some of my pasta with meat sauce tonight. Doesn't sound like much, does it? But he was interested in something he doesn't normally eat and ate it willingly, enjoyed it and wanted more. Then he walked away. When we asked if he was all done, he said, "I'm all done. I ate too much." Ha. He probably had, too, he ate his whole dinner and part of mine.

Have I mentioned how he now asks, not for juice or food or for something to drink or eat, but for something thirsty or something hungry? I find it endearingly eccentric.

Monday 11 February

I peeked in the window at Damian in the inclusion class. He seemed comfortable there; he was tossing cardboard bricks through an opening in a cabinet. But I was frustrated that no adult was with him. If he had an aide helping him socialize, that aide could have brought another kid over to toss bricks with him, which I know Damian would have enjoyed and responded to. What a wasted opportunity. I hope to god they hire a TA soon!

Damian did amazingly well with Rivka today. I don't even know why or what's changed, but he was more like himself in the gym than I've ever seen him. Lots of spontaneous language, making choices, being responsive, having fun. I was delighted. I'd intended to talk to her about how to bring his affect up, but it seems I didn't have to. He brought himself up. My guess is it's an overall sort of thing, and may have to do with the changes at school and his sensory integration, that he's more able to be himself in different environments.

He did something very very cool: he wrapped himself in a curtain in his room. I thought he wanted to play peek-a-boo, but he was lukewarm to my overtures. Instead he announced, "Mommy's going to see a show!" and then added, "It's a show with singing," and sang me a song. It went something like "Mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy mommy MOMMY!" He's come up with more inventive lyrics before, but I was so thrilled that he put a show on for me. It's such a very typical kid thing to do, and to me says worlds about where he is developmentally. Really coming up the ladder. Thank GOD.

Tuesday 12 February

Coughing fit at 5:30 a.m. Second day in a row. Poor tired boy. Allergies, I think. It's been so dry here.

We had our monthly floor time clinic at school this morning. Showed the video. Robin and Streak smiled through much of it, enjoying Damian's energy. Cheri looked very serious, analytical. The tape is really for the teachers and TAs to see what he's really like, but it does serve as somewhat of a floor time tool too, because they can see the games we play with him at home. Cheri had some very useful comments, adjustments we can make in our play:

Damian uses Mr. Two Fingers a lot in his play -- two of his fingers walking and running and so on. Try to get him to substitute a toy figure instead -- move on to the next step, because there's more you can do with a toy than your fingers.

We have a tendency when a toy or a boy falls down in play to move on to fixing the hurt, etc. Now we can stay in the bang! pow! mode. He's exploring aggression from the victim's side and it's good that he knows he's got the nurturing support (playing doctor, etc), but he also needs to stay with the aggression and learn to be comfortable there. So we'll work on bringing aggression themes into the play. I think he's interested in it but also scared of it.

She also talked more about the concept that he's operating out of a generalized anxiety. Dan and I don't see anxiety in an overall way. There are two other words that mean the same in this context and fit Damian better: flooded and overwhelmed. He can get sensory overstimulation and shut down. He gets flooded. It's true. She reiterated that it can look like a child who is low affect, who is simply withdrawn and tuning out but it's far from that, and it's important to know because you use different tools to help. For instance, a child who is at the low end of the scale needs vestibular input -- swinging and so on -- to get them going. Damian and kids like him need proprioceptive input -- jumping, hugging, immersion in beans or the ball pit and, believe it or not, running and crawling (your feet/hands slam down and give that input). It clarified a lot for me, that one thought. Proprioceptive input helps him organize the sensory input he's getting.

Robin had a session with him. She saw on the tape how he loves pretending to be animals, so she and he were mean dogs. They growled at each other, barked, dug up bones, cooked bones (why do I think this was his idea?), etc. Sounds wonderful. He was in a great mood afterwards.

Good session with Heidi too. He was more talkative and spontaneous with her, too, just like with Rivka yesterday. I mean, he often is, but he was more so. I went toy shopping with him (we're going on a trip this weekend, needed car toys) and he picked out a big claw grabber toy. Then of course wanted something to grab. I told him he could grab things at Heidi's so we brought it in. He sat in the frog swing and bounced like a frog on the balls of his feet and picked up bean bag frogs with his grabber. He fell out a few times because the frog swing isn't much support, but that was fine too. (How far he's come!) He was just so present and *awake*, it was lovely to see.

At one point, she was setting up the next game. Damian came over to me and started climbing me like a tree. He had his feet in my cupped hands and was standing semi-balanced as high as I could lift him. Randy, who runs the gym, looked over and said, "That's NOT the same kid you brought here nine months ago! You switched him for a different kid." Heh. She also said that's what she loves to see, when a child progresses that fast. I asked Heidi about this again. I said, I know he's developing faster than many of your kids, but how does he fall in the range? High average? What? She snorted. WAY above average, she said. Like, unheard of. She said, too, that she thought a lot of it was me (and Dan!). That most parents don't do a quarter of what we do. I don't see how you can have a child with needs and not want to help as much as humanly possible, but I guess some parents are scared of it not working. I always knew somehow that it would. And it is.

Wednesday 13 February

Linda reported that Damian was seen initiating play at least twice today -- once in the inclusion class and once in her class. In her class, one of the other kids rolled a big peanut-shaped ball and it bumped Damian by accident. Damian kicked it back toward him. Did it with clear intent, too -- it took him a couple of tries to get that thing rolling. I don't know what the interaction was in Alan's class, but I'm very encouraged.

Kahuna said that Damian was very withdrawn when he started with him today. The word he used was disengaged. Damian was kind of ignoring Kahuna, doing his own thing. Kahuna had to work hard, be very high affect, to get him going. I asked if anything had happened in class. Kahuna told me that when he picked Damian up, Damian and Linda were playing and were very animated. So it seems that Damian was upset at leaving Linda and that Kahuna hadn't dealt with that feeling, so Damian shut down with him. As we sat there talking about it, I asked Damian if he was sad when he had to say goodbye to Linda. He said yes, and added, "I was happy playing with Linda."

Pretty good session in My Gym. One of the teachers commented that Damian is getting stronger. He clearly is. And he was attempting things all over the gym during free play. He looked right at home there.

We picked up supplies for Valentine's Day cards (yeah, I'm slow). Seems there's a card exchange at school tomorrow, so I thought Damian could do a (big) art project. We -- but mostly he -- made TWELVE cards today! He cut hearts out of pink paper and glued them onto white paper, drew and painted and glued and sprinkled glitter and confetti hearts. He stayed with it for a long time -- and as I could see him getting tired of it, I sped things up -- but it was an ambitious project and I was incredibly proud of him for following it through.

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