March 2002 page 1 of 2
Friday 1 March

Finally had a play date with James from Damian's class. We went to a play gym since we live too far away from each other to do it at one house or the other. This was a mistake. I hadn't seen how James may be on the spectrum -- he didn't seem like it. Now I do. He has a terrible time with transitions and is completely obsessed by Thomas the Tank Engine. Unfortunately, the gym had a Thomas table. James could not be dragged away from it. And he didn't want to play cooperatively with Damian, just wanted to grab all the train cars away from him. So Damian did what Damian does: he wandered off. I followed, and we had a good time in the gym together.

James's mom finally got him away from the trains, and we tried to engage the boys together, but James's mom was pushing very directively and it wasn't working at all - you can't really tell a kid to go do something specific with another kid and expect them to embrace the activity wholeheartedly. You're making joint play into a chore. James withstood it for a few minutes at a time and then ran back to his trains.

At least I got to see Damian handle heights and uncomfortable places pretty damned well: the gym had a maze you climb up into -- a year ago, Damian panicked at a similar setup. This time he was nervous but as long as I was right there with him, he was game for the whole thing, even the wobbly fabric bridge high above the room. And he loved shooting down the enclosed slide at the end.

I also got to see him interact with a few other kids. Damian was in a wagon. I'd been pulling him but stopped for a minute to talk to James's mom. A little guy, maybe two years old, tried to open the side door and climb in. Damian pulled the door closed. The kid tugged on the door. Damian tugged back. Finally Damian started to cry and then I helped him find the words to tell the kid to go away (but by the time I'd finished talking to Damian, the kid was gone). I told Damian he'd been strong with the kid. Which he had. Another kid came up to him while he was in the play house. Was interested in the toy grapes Damian had just "washed" in the toy sink. I coached Damian to offer the grapes to the boy, who took it, pretended to eat it (complete with sound effects) and then handed it back. Which I thought was a nice little lesson in how approachable kids can be. Sometimes.

Saturday 2 March

Morning: had breakfast by a hotel pool with friends. Damian not only didn't want to go in the pool but he didn't want to put his feet in it. Not only did he refuse to put his feet in, but he refused to put his hands in. Not only did he say no to his own hands, but he told me in no uncertain terms that "MOMMY DOES NOT WANT TO" trail my own hands in the water.

He also got possessive about his toys. I offered some toys he wasn't playing with to Guthrie, who is about two, and he got mad, insisting he DID want to play with them. I've seen so many kids do that, but never Damian. Not till now. I consider it a good thing, however much a pain in the butt it may be.

Midday: Haircut. Still somewhat traumatic, but more nervousness than fear. Whining, not crying. And it seems to be a sensory thing, too: he hated the bits of hair that fell on his bare neck. Hated that. I can sympathize. Hugh disappointed me by not being as gentle -- he was rushed and in pain but Damian still needs more easing into it. (And a high collared shirt! I buttoned the cloak tight around his neck for the second half of the cut and that helped some.)

Afternoon/evening: Met other friends for sweets. Damian devoured his cheese danish and a third of my chocolate raspberry cake. I watched for spaciness afterwards (the salicalytes) but didn't see any. He got a bad rash, though, and only wanted bland food the next day. So it clearly still affects him, but maybe not his brain functioning anymore, just his digestive system.

Monday 4 March

Damian came to our bed in the middle of the night -- as he's been doing just about every night recently (no, I'm not thrilled) -- but this time he wasn't able to just settle down and fall asleep. He pushed me, I thought to kick me out of bed, but when I got up, he started crying. I couldn't get him to say what he wanted for the longest time. Finally turned out to be that he wanted to sit on a lap and drink juice. So he did, then lay on Dan and gradually settled back down but took a long time to get back to sleep. I wonder what that was all about. Didn't think to ask about a bad dream, but it could have been.

This morning, he woke surprisingly easily when I nudged him and said "time to get up." He told me "School time."

When I went to get him from class, he spotted me, got up from circle time, and walked through the circle toward me, saying "It's my mommy!" very loud for everyone to hear.

As we walked down the street, Damian started rolling his head the way you do when you're trying to loosen the muscles in your neck. A stim, I think. He said, "I'm turning my head." I asked why, not expecting a real answer. He said "Because I love you, Mommy." Got him off the hook, I'll say that!

Tuesday 5 March

Damian and I stayed in Santa Monica all afternoon. Dan joined us for lunch. Is this significant? No. Just fun. One significant bit of it, though: we went into a toy store. Damian is now making it crystal clear what toy he wants. He picks something out and sticks with it. And he's usually on target that it's going to be a good one. This time he chose something called a "Space Phone", which adds reverb to your voice. Cool.

He did it again at Toy Store #2 (Lakeshore to buy big dinos, useful for Lincoln Log town tromping). He picked out something I thought was too expensive and was briefly insistent (and it too was a good toy for his collection), but then moved on to a one dollar pencil with something wheel-like where the eraser should be. Damian knew what it was before I did: "It's a stamp roller." And it was. Strange when your kid starts knowing stuff you didn't teach him.

From Lakeshore, on to Heidi's. When I started talking about Heidi, Damian immediately chimed in with, "Heidi has paper." Um, and your point? He clarified: he wanted paper for his stamp roller. So he got it. He told her what he wanted too, with absolutely no prompting from me -- he was determined to get his chance to use his new stamp roller.

Damian was on the log swing, a long, well, log-shaped swing you sit on. After a warmup, Heidi suggested Jordan join him up there. Jordan is an older kid, maybe six, with mild CP (one side weaker than the other). Motormouth, sassy. Has started noticing Damian more recently as Damian has become more outgoing there. So Jordan was up for it. Damian was not. He said so, but Heidi overrode him. His face crumpled when Jordan got on the swing, but he didn't cry -- just kept on using his words. "I want somebody off the swing!" "Who?" "I want Jordan off the swing!" So Jordan got off. Heidi felt it was significant that Damian didn't fall apart and stayed verbal in his distress.

At the end of the session, the two boys sat side by side to put shoes and socks on. I forget why, but Jordan tickled Damian. Who didn't seem to mind. Heidi suggested Damian tickle Jordan back. Damian got up and tickled Jordan! They did this back and forth a couple of times. I have a photo of Damian sitting post-being-tickled, thinking about tickling Jordan. He looks pleased, mischievous. Seems the ice is breaking: ever so slowly he's getting ready to have friends his age.

Wednesday 6 March

Kahuna has been working on pushing Damian's buttons, as he puts it. Challenging Damian's comfort zone, Damian's "I want you to do it for me" mode. And he's been pleased at the results. Same as yesterday at Heidi's and what we're seeing at home: Damian's able to keep it together a whole lot better now, his self regulation has definitely improved.

Still at school: Damian picked up a toy carry case. It held two toy walkie talkies and a couple of toy -- fire extinguishers? Not sure. We played with the walkie talkies and then Damian pretended to put a fire out on me. I was impressed that he knew the toy was fire-fighter related. And just this week, he's started pretending the fire is somewhere specific and rescuing me from it -- he says he's saving me and drags me by the hand away from the "fire". This is new, and not something we've enacted before. But it times back exactly to Monday, when he brought his Fireman Small book to share with Alan's class. See, Alan's class is doing Community Helpers as its theme this month. And Fireman Small saves lots of people in that book. I think it was the first time Damian saw the whole picture, what was going on in the book. I wouldn't be surprised if some of the kids incorporated it into their play and that made a bell go off in Damian's head.

Along the same lines, (at home now) he picked up a big piece of paper. Rolled it up. Said "I'm pretending the paper is something." What is the paper? "Mail." He grinned and handed me the so-called mail. "I'm a mailman, Mommy!" Completely new, never-before-played scenario. Must have picked it up in Alan's class. He's not getting everything he could out of the class, he's not making friends and learning to play interactively, but he sure is getting a lot of fuel for imaginative play. Which was part of the goal too. Modelling other kids. Learning more about kids his age. Learning more, period.

Thursday 7 March

Alan told me today that Damian's doing great in circle time but not so much during free play; apparently he makes a beeline for the scissors and spend the entire time cutting paper. I said I thought it was anxiety about playing with the other kids. Alan said Linda told him the same thing. He's going to start challenging Damian on it soon, trying to get him to do other things. Which is good, but god I want Damian to have an aide in there already!

Robin told me she got Damian interacting a bit in the yard with some other kids. She had to really work it, though. I guess Damian was in the cop car being a cop and they were on other ride-on vehicles and Robin made a big deal about how Damian was chasing them down and was in charge and he went from fear to assertion. A good approach, one I'll have to remember.

She told me that the ideal way to get interaction going on a playdate is to whisper suggestions into the typical kid's ear. It's a good idea but I think I'll need help from their parents on this one.

Friday 8 March

Talked to Bird about playdates. She concurred with what Robin said yesterday: go slow, let the kids get used to each other and Damian used to the environment. Comfort is the first step. If you prompt interaction, prompt the typical kid in a whisper so the overture is coming from him/her and Damian will be responding to him/her, not an adult. But most important, don't rush things. A bad early experience can be difficult to overcome.

She also said (about Damian) that she got him to drink from a cup in her office with no fuss. And that he enjoyed making pictures with a blow pen (blo-pen?). That the blowing helps him self-organize. Interesting, I thought. She's been working on back-and-forth conversations, too. And I can see the results at home. He's much more into longer, varied discussion.

Damian wanted to stick around the bike yard for a while. A few kids from Alan's class were there: two boys said to Damian, "I know you!" Damian didn't respond. But he got into a car (the kind you sit in and walk to go forward) and was happy tootling around the yard. Clearly interested in going where they (in cars and on trikes) were going. Staying with the pack. Henry (one of the boys) bumped Damian's car with his. I made a big, fun deal out of it ("crash!") and Damian got a little smile. As they made the circuit, Henry and Damian crashed cars another few times. Damian instigated it sometimes and clearly never minded.

The big step came later: he and I went over to see Dahlia and Max, the three year old semi-twins who live nearby. If it goes well, I plan to go over there once a week. I'm comfortable enough with their parents that it should be fairly straightforward. If it works with the kids!

This time it went better than I'd feared, though not quite swimmingly. Max became possessive of his stuff, but not so much that Damian recoiled or backed off. At one point, Damian was on a pedal-driven excavator (imagine trike body, excavator shell). Max got huffy but didn't say anything; he just picked up a padded baseball bat and started whacking the excavator shovel. Damian happily continued moving the shovel up and down. I think he thought Max was playing an aggressive game, since we do sometimes do stuff like that.

I can't remember any times they all played together, but they did play nearby each other and the two kids were certainly hyperaware of Damian. Damian was in a tent at one point. He invited me in. Dahlia kept opening the tent window and peeking inside at us. I thought that was a good sign. And when Damian pulled out the dollhouse, she got possessive and said it was hers and no boys could play with it, I started extravagantly praising it and she got completely distracted into bragging about it and let Damian continue playing (while sitting right beside him).

The only down side -- and I don't think it's a big deal -- is that Dahlia said she didn't like Damian. She said it at three different points. I discussed it with the nanny, who said they say that about each other and about their friends sometimes too, and that it's a natural thing for a first visit. She's essentially saying "I don't trust this new kid." Despite that, she wasn't hostile to him. Sounds contradictory but that's what three is like.

What I'm most pleased about is that Damian wasn't excessively nervous around them and did pay some attention to them, and they seemed intrigued enough by him that they might make advances next time -- or the time after that... It's a good start.

Saturday 9 March

Dan took Damian to the zoo without me. They had fun together. This is significant because they left around 10 am and returned around 4 pm and were absolutely fine. The longest they've been together without me, I think. Damian liked the elephant the best because it was big and strong (and gentle). He got a gorilla souvenir -- saw it being made in one of those plastic mold things -- and held onto it for the whole trip back.

Sunday 10 March

We went to Sophia's birthday party this afternoon. Damian handled the crowd okay. Very quiet but not checked out. Michelle (an adult friend) befriended him and he responded to her with cautious pleasure. Later, after things quieted a bit, he had a great time motoring a ride-on car along the narrow concrete balcony. He said it was a road.

Tuesday 12 March

Clinic meeting. We asked about how to extend and vary on the laser gun game. Once you get shot, what can you do after that? Cheri and Streak did have some ideas, and we'd been doing some of them already: have a special shield or potion or pill to make you invulnerable. Make the invulnerability temporary. Become a tough guy yourself, shoot back. And we do, and he falls down too and loves it. Streak suggested we vary what comes out of the gun: make elephants come out and start tramping around the room, for example, and react to the elephants. Which is cool but not organic to the game, I think. Cheri suggested we become tough guys with him, we go together to fight a teddy bear, for example, try to get some stash the teddy bear is safeguarding. Make an adventure out of it, in other words. Which is a great idea because it extends it into a real story, which has so far been lacking from his play.

I told them about one of his new games: he steals something from me and then tells me to be sad. Cheri suggested I go with that and play it up -- be very very sad and see where that goes.

We also talked a lot about play dates. Their take was that I have to be as up and engaging as I am with Damian and that the other kid(s) will be drawn to that, and therefore to interacting with/around Damian. That I've already got the bond with him, so he'll come along into the activity. Also that bringing toys and games is a good idea: they'll be into those. Games like bubbles and fun turn-taking games (as long as they don't have too many rules, which would throw the kids off). I'm feeling intimidated, I have to admit. It's one thing doing it with Damian, another with semi-strange kids. I have no roadmap. I'm going to have to feel my way into this. But Streak said she's seen me with Damian, knows how high affect and fun I can be; she's confident that I can do this too. And Cheri said I'm underestimating myself. From her? That made me feel warm inside.

We brought Damian in. With the "laser gun" wrapping paper roll as a prop, he readily went into his tough guy routine. I'm very glad they got to see it. It's the most animated and engaged they've seen him at school. Truly imaginative and so much himself. He got tired, though, and ended up just wanting to perseverate with a toddler toy. Cheri was videotaping: Damian became intrigued by the LCD screen so she turned it toward him and asked him to make faces (sad, surprised, happy, etc.). He loves that stuff.

More tentative friendliness at OT with the six year old, Jordan. Jordan tickled Damian, who laughed in pleasure (a young kid's tickles don't exactly tickle so it was more at the idea). They shared the wide glider swing and Damian was comfortable with that, unlike last week. He looked Jordan in the eyes as they sat across from each other. And later, when Jordan was bent over his therapist's shoulder, Jordan's feet were dangling in front of Damian. We encouraged him and yes, he tickled Jordan's feet and was very pleased with himself. Baby steps toward having friends his age, but more and more of them all the time.

My friend Toni showed up for dinner; Damian's never met her but he warmed up to her quite fast. She got down on his level and was impressed with how well he put together some duplo construction vehicles. He relaxed and enjoyed her. At one point, I was out of the room. She played that she was a tickle bug coming to get him. When I came back in, Toni asked Damian where the tickle bug was. He got on all fours, made screeing noises, came over and started tickling me. He'd decided he was the tickle bug. Hee.

Wednesday 13 March

I'm seeing a little stimming recently. Spinning, sometimes shaking his head. Nothing drastic, but still surprising after several stim-free weeks. It doesn't seem to be stress-related. I suspect it's linked to his current imaginative development spurt.

Kahuna reports that Damian is much less prone to frustration and able to recover faster. Also that Damian pulled out a doll stroller, selected a doll, and they spent a long time with that doll, dressing it and rocking it (Kahuna had the baby cry and Damian soothed it by rocking) and taking it to various places around the yard. I like that idea. Role playing daddy.

I've gotten fed up with Damian's demands. He gets very bossy and insists on my coming RIGHT NOW. On my playing with him RIGHT NOW, ON THE FLOOR. Etc. So I tested it. I was exhausted, lay down for a semi-nap on his bed. He insisted I get up. I said "In ten minutes." He, of course, said "Now, Mommy!" Etc. We spent the entire time I would have been resting arguing about this. He tried everything he could think of: tears, pulling on my clothes, hitting me... nothing worked. I did a countdown and then finally said "no more minutes" and sat up. I expected him to be relieved and maybe still a bit pissy but insist I jump right into playing on the floor with him. Instead, he turned around and told me to lie down again! He was upset that I sat up! That started this incredibly odd interlude -- I can't call it a game, I'm not sure what to call it -- where he insisted I get up NOW! but then when I did he told me to lie down for ten more minutes. He sounded so very sincere, so upset when he was telling me to get up, but apparently it was simply something he wanted to act out, to pretend. To work out in his mind? I don't know. I ended up getting concerned that he was upset, and pulling him toward me to cuddle on the bed together and that was the end of that. I still don't know what to make of it.

New game tonight: Damian grabbed two magic markers from the table and hid them. I wanted to know where they were. He showed me: he'd hid them behind the couch pillow. He said "The pillow is pretending to be something." What was the pillow pretending to be? "The pillow is pretending to be a cave." And the markers? "The markers are pretending to be scorpions." Scorpions??? He's learning a whole array of things I never taught him. Scorpions? They then travelled across the couch and up my torso to sting my cheek. I got scared, of course, and we played that out. But then he told me the scorpions were nice and so instead of stinging me, they kissed me. And then he put their "heads" together so they kissed each other.

Thursday 14 March

Linda said Damian seemed to be getting sick; he'd started coughing a lot after snack time.

Cheri, Eliza and Nora (the school administration) held the gate for me so I got to talk to them a moment. I was amused: Cheri greeted Damian with "Hello, Tough Guy." He was too busy yelling at me, saying "I want something, Mommy!" And of course when I asked him what he wanted, he said, "I want Mommy to tell me!" They were amused. I'm glad he did that right then: it shows how forceful (and loud) he can be.

He dissolved a bit when we got to the car. I asked him how he felt and he told me he felt sick. So Linda was right. We spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch together watching TV.

Friday 15 March

Sick day. Feverish day. Watch-TV-and-doze day. Cry every time Mommy leaves the room, even when she's getting you another cup of juice day. Bah.

When his fever got too high, I got some Advil. I explained that the medicine would help him feel better soon. He accepted the heretofore horrific goo and then told me he'd feel better soon. He's starting to be able to project into the future just a bit.

When the Advil kicked in, he scooted off my lap and ran into his room to play, saying "I'm not sick, Mommy!"

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