April 2002 page 2 of 2
Tuesday 16 April

He's is constantly asking me to tell him stories these days. My brain is getting tired.

He's also constantly asking questions. Today's best: "Why are clouds in the sky?" That was an honest-to-goodness kid stumper type question.

Outside at school (in the grass yard) and then later at the park, Damian had some close encounters with other kids and was perfectly comfortable among them, even seeking them out. In fact, he once basically shoved another kid aside when he wanted to play with something. (Yes, I corrected the behavior.) Is this my kid? Can it be the same avoidant child? Too wild.

But he still has trouble with words around kids. He'll ask me something instead of asking them, and when they ask him a question, he won't respond till I repeat it and he can respond to me.

Heidi had him wash his hands. He was completely fine with it. What the hell was all that fussing with me?

He also walked on the balance beam and held onto the cowboy swing (a padded log) with arms and legs from underneath, hanging upside down like a lemur. Only for the count of four, but this is something he's never been able to do before. Upper body strength is a very big deal for him. Long time coming.

In the elevator on the way down from Heidi's, six year old Jordan stood nose-to-nose with Damian (Jordan's very short) and said, "I like you" and "you're neat." Damian was mute until I prompted a response, then he responded in kind, repeating Jordan's words.

Wednesday 17 April

Kahuna and I were talking after Damian's at-school session with him. Damian got into a ride-in (ride-in?) cop car and started tootling about. He came over to us and said sternly, "Don't talk!" So I said, "Ooh, are you going to give me a ticket?" So Damian wrote out a "talking ticket." Then I laughed and he said "No laughing!" and "I'm going to give you a laughing ticket!" He even scribbled on his hand and handed me an invisible ticket.

We went grocery shopping at Whole Foods. Damian was pissy when we got there. I can't remember what he was doing, but he was ordering me around. He was just hungry -- he calmed down once he got some snacks there. When we left, I realized his pants were wet. Just a little. But by the time we'd walked to the car, they were soaked all the way down to his shoes. He'd peed again. He hadn't told me they were wet or his diaper was full or anything. I got pretty upset. How can we potty train this kid when he doesn't seem to care when he's soaking wet and never tells me to change him no matter how many times I encourage him to do just that? He rode home in a new diaper and socks -- no pants or shoes. Which freaked him out: he can't stand being naked or semi-naked except pre-bath. I told him if he'd told me that his diaper was full before it leaked so badly, I wouldn't have had to strip his clothes off. Stalemate.

Thursday 18 April

Nora told me today that she heard Damian with Kahuna yesterday: they were in one of the floor time rooms and Damian was exclaiming and laughing -- loud. She found it comment-worthy, but in fact he's like that a lot -- just not in class.

In the grass yard after school: Damian wanted me to chase him around the tire swing. Remembering what he did earlier in the week with some other kids, wanting to repeat the enjoyment. Then he wanted me to swing him around on the tire swing. He climbed on himself, no easy feat. Means he's got more strength and coordination than he used to. And then he was shouting to me and talking and having fun. One of the floor time therapists came over and said she hadn't seen him since September except in passing and she was amazed at how much he's changed. Yup.

As he was swinging, a little girl climbed aboard. Damian didn't like this one bit. He said (very forcefully), "Get off! It's my swing!" It felt so very strange to give the parental "share and take turns" speech.

We drove to My Gym but Damian didn't want to go in. He said he did when we were at school but by the time we got there, he'd changed his mind. This was to be a makeup class. We went yesterday for the regular class. Maybe it just felt like too much too soon. So we didn't go. I figure it's great for him but only if he wants to be there.

Friday 19 April

Callie said they were playing doctor. Damian tried to fit the blood pressure cuff on her arm, but it's meant for a child's arm. He told her, "Your arm is too fat." She was tickled. I told Dan about this later, and he said Damian was borrowing a thought from a game they'd been playing together: Damian had his mouse on a Brio train, and the train wouldn't fit through the tunnel, so Dan said the mouse was too fat. I think Damian does this a lot -- he uses an idea from one situation in another. I'm not sure it's age appropriate, but I do think it's developmentally appropriate: it's a stage in developing his own brand new opinions.

On my way to pick Damian up, I ran into Jules and his dad. Jules is one day older than Damian; I got to know him a bit last spring and also in September when we tried to have a joint floor time session. Back then, Jules had practically no language -- he'd shout "no!" and such, but that was about it. And he wasn't that responsive. I was impressed to see that he's got a lot more language now. He commented: "Go see Jean." I asked him if he liked Jean and he said yes. Then he held up his hot wheels car and said "Hot wheels." He seems like he's on a two year old's verbal ability level now, which is a little sad in a kid who's about to turn four, but is extremely cool in a kid who didn't have that kind of flexible language at all just a few months ago. I find his progress very exciting, actually. And his eye contact was right there -- he was really looking at me as he talked. Floor time works for other kids besides Damian. Jules is proof.

Damian wanted to stay in the yard at school. I didn't want to. I couldn't convince him to leave and was bracing for a battle, but then I explained how the meter was going to run out and I'd get a ticket and I really really didn't want to get a ticket. So he agreed to leave. Protesting the whole way, but not fighting about it. I guess I just have to have a good enough reason, huh?

At the park, a fifteen month old girl wanted to play with Damian's sand toys. Damian scrambled down from his perch atop the jungle gym, abandoned the idea of sliding down the slide, ran over, and grabbed the toys back, "Those are MY toys!" Damn. This is what I wanted, this assertiveness. Now I have to figure out how to teach him to be more open to negotiation.

After Dan got home, Damian wanted to kick me out of his room (I was talking to Daddy and distracting him). First he tried the direct approach: "I want Mommy to leave. I don't like Mommy." When that didn't work, he got more creative: he brought out his laser gun: "This is a magic laser gun. It makes Mommy go away." That didn't work, so he brought out his cymbals. "These are magic cymbals, they make Mommy go away." When they didn't, he had Mommy sing a song to the sound of the cymbals.

Saturday 20 April

We went to a nice restaurant with Damian. He was extremely good until about an hour and a half in. I'd given him a toy fire truck. The fire fighter has been missing for a while; we've been using a "fire frog" instead. But not tonight: Damian wanted the fireMAN. Insisted. When I said it was at home, he started saying "I want to go home! I want to go home NOW! I want to leave the restaurant and go home!" So we did. When we got home, he insisted I find the fire fighter. Fortunately, I did. He played with him happily for, oh, five minutes.

Sunday 21 April

Dan read Damian a bedtime story (library book) about a boy who needs a cloak for winter and shears a sheep to get the wool, which he dyes, etc. As I carried Damian off to his bedroom, he kept chattering about the story, talking about what happened, how the wool became cloth became clothes. Getting the entire sequence of events right. This is a rather big deal. We've often wondered how much of the larger picture of a story he gets. It's a matter of sequencing, of being able to make words and pictures fit together, of comprehension maybe too. But tonight he was taken enough with the process described and paid close attention and really got it.

Monday 22 April

Damian's been talking in nonsense words a lot lately, melodic sort of sing-song rhyming nonsense. I usually just repeat it back to him with variations. He'll then repeat it back to me. I'm hoping to get him to vary my variation, like an ongoing changing pattern, but he usually doesn't.

I don't understand why he's doing this, though, making up words like this. He's doing it a lot, too, so it must serve some cognitive purpose, just can't for the life of me figure out what. Silver suggested today we put a simple metronomic beat to it, make it more explicitly singing (kinda like scat). I'll give it a try. It's close to singing already.

Did I mention that we've stopped the so-called slideshow therapy? (Taking pictures of his day with a digital camera and then playing the pictures back at bedtime and talking about what we saw.) Cheri suggested we could phase it out, that it's served its purpose: he's got tons of language now (didn't have any real give-and-take language when we started a year ago) and fairly good sequencing ability. I wasn't sure how he'd take the lack, but he's been completely fine about it. I have to admit, it's a relief not to carry around the camera all the time and not to spend that time every evening getting the slideshow ready, but I'll miss having that ongoing in depth visual record.

Tuesday 23 April

Today was Dan's first day of hiatus. He's off work for at least three months. He took over the Damian driving duties. It felt odd. It felt like a vacation. I felt guilty, though, too. And I missed Damian (but not enough to let go of my precious new free time). He doesn't seem to have missed me much, though of course we did touch base a few times today, so I wasn't completely gone.

Dan reports that Heidi had Damian make himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. He then ate it. The first one he's eaten in at least nine months. We have to get some of that extremely spreadable peanut butter, and soon! Follow up on her lead.

We've finally introduced the nightly tooth brushing ritual these past few weeks (before that it was unfortunately extremely sporadic -- so hard to get him to tolerate it). I brush Damian's teeth, he doesn't brush his own. He prefers the electric toothbrush. He enjoys the interaction, I think, the intensity of our attention. He laughs and gags simultaneously. I've been gradually introducing toothpaste, which makes him gag a bit more, but he's not protesting, so I'm not going to stop.

Wednesday 24 April

This happened Saturday: Damian closed himself in the bathroom. He turned the lock and then freaked because he couldn't open it. Shades of a year ago, when he locked himself in his bedroom and it was an hour before the locksmith could get the door open. But this time it was just a matter of a turned lock. Dan talked to Damian through the door, got him to calm down and then turn the lock to open it. And he did, within a few minutes. Which is a pretty good feat for any four year old to-be, I think: gaining enough control over his emotion in a stressful situation to take action.

Damian's been very fidgety at My Gym lately. Seems like he's getting less out of being there.

He's been looking at himself in the mirror a lot. It's especially distracting at Heidi's and at My Gym where there are a lot of mirrors. He's making faces at himself and sort of tuning out what's going on around him, not paying attention to what he himself is supposed to be doing. It's become a stim, and a difficult one to deal with.

In the car tonight: I cracked a joke. Dan laughed. Damian said "Do it again!" We asked him what he wanted us to do again. It took a lot to get it out of him, but he finally said, "Laugh again!" We told him we'd laugh if he said something funny. So he said a made-up nonsense word and told us it was a funny word.

Thursday 25 April

Damian is engaging in so much imaginative, creative play these days, it's hard to pick out what to describe. I feel the way I did last summer when his language became close to normal: I could no longer describe the highlights, there were too many. So what do I talk about? Depends on the day, I guess.

Tonight he had Dan help him build a duplo fire truck. He's started taking apart these Bob the Builder duplo construction vehicles and reforming them as all sorts of interesting trucks and such. I find this extremely encouraging. It means he's not stuck on seeing them a certain way; he's more flexible than that. This wasn't always true.

Anyway, Damian built up a tall tower on a wide vehicle base, then asked Dan to build up a staircase going to the top. Damian put a little cab enclosure at the top and called it a fire truck. He put a toy mouse inside. The fire mouse and Damian came to dinner together. The fire mouse put out a fire in the macaroni and cheese, and even scooped some mac & cheese onto a fork for Damian. This is unusual still, I'm afraid. Damian still wants us to spear or scoop food onto utensils for him. But the fire mouse somehow empowered him.

Kahuna is starting to experience Damian's storytelling/narration/creative scenarios. He likes that Damian is voicing characters as he narrates the action. And he can see, I think, that these are multistep scenarios. He said when he tells people at school that he's working with Damian, they always say, "Oh, he's so quiet." His response is to laugh and say, "No, he's not." I said, "Yeah, he's a chatterbox." Kahuna agreed. Damian is starting to show his true talkativeness at school a little more these days, but I suspect that when the teacher says "Oh, he was very verbal today," she doesn't mean the same thing I do. I think her version of verbal is my version of subdued. That discrepancy is still a concern.

Friday 26 April

I've noticed his enunciations are starting to become more mature. Today he said "lasagna" instead of his usual "zazagna." He switches back and forth between "truck" and "kruck." He says "yellow" instead of "yeyo" most of the time, though I think blue is still "bwue." Interesting to watch. Also a relief, because I'd wondered if we were going to need to have his ST work on that at some point. But actually, I think he's right on schedule with enunciation.

Saturday 27 April

Damian seems to be getting more rigid about certain things. He has this car ritual: "I want something." And you say "What do you want, Damian?" (which started because we wanted him to be specific and stop using "something" for everything). And he replies, "I want something to drink" and you give him juice. Well, now if you give him juice after he says "I want something," thereby cutting the ritual short, Damian has a cow. I can't decide if he's had this level of ritual behavior all along or it's gotten better and then a little worse. I'm inclined to believe the latter. I think he's in a clear development spurt -- his imagination is skyrocketing -- and it makes him feel insecure, therefore he wants things to be just so. There's a comfort there, and a sense of control.

Sunday 28 April

Damian had a bit of a meltdown this evening. He wanted to splash with the hose outside. Dan thought it was getting out of hand, warned him to stop or he'd have to come inside. Damian didn't stop. Dan brought him inside. Damian yelled a lot. But you know? All of his yelling was articulate. Lots of arguing: "No! I want to be outside! No! It's not dark outside!" etc. He's not capable of a reasoned argument yet, but the fact that he uses words and doesn't lose them anymore, that's progress.

He wanted me to take his shoes off. I said, "let's go in the living room and I'll take your shoes off." So he willingly went with me, but the moment he sat in my lap, he said, "Don't take my shoes off!" So I said okay. Then, of course, he said "Take my shoes off!" So I said okay and took off the first shoe. He kept going like that, ordering me to do whatever was the opposite of what I'd just agreed to do. Being contrary. He's been doing this a lot lately. I prefer it to the alternative, which seems to be to yell "No!" a lot, no matter what you've just said.

Something interesting has been happening lately: Damian is imitating our parenting in his play scenarios. Example: two mice going around on a "roadway" turntable. Another figure tells them to be careful, they might fall down.

He's also getting more into playing out real life scenarios. We've had a Fisher Price Little People schoolroom playset for a long time, but recently Damian's really taken to it. His mice go to school. Froggie is the teacher. They sing the hello song, then they go potty, paint on the easel, have snacks at the table. Then it's time to go, and a red car pulls up outside to take them home. All Damian-initiated. This is him playing solo.

Frog went to the play garage. It has a keypad on one of the landings, which Damian calls a computer (I think he got this from a play session with Streak). Froggie wrote Mouse a note. The note said "Hi Mouse, I love you, can you come play with me now?" Also Damian playing solo. He loves playing with us, he's hardly shutting us out, but he's capable of these connected, ongoing scenarios on his own, and it's delightful to watch and tons of fun for him to play. He wants to play in his room all the time now, wants to do it rather than go out. This morning he slipped out of my bed and padded back to his room and started playing. This is new. He used to insist I get up too. He needed someone to entertain him, to jump-start his ideas. Not these days.

Monday 29 April

Last night after I brushed his teeth Damian asked "What happens if Mommy doesn't brush my teeth?" I think he wanted reassurance that this awful task was important.

I was wrong about Damian's over-ritualizing. I handed him a sippy cup after he asked for "something" in the car. He hesitated, thought about rejecting it, but then went for it with no ripple of discontent.

However, transitions are a bit of a problem these days. Kids on the spectrum are notorious for having transition problems. I don't think that's the case here, though. I think it's your garden variety phase that every kid goes through. I think it's a control thing.

This morning he didn't want to leave the house to go to school. I teased him out of being glum about it. When I picked him up, he wanted to stay at school, not go see Rivka. I talked him into it (basically getting him involved in what he would do at her gym, telling him he should tell her what he wanted, etc.) He knew what was up and protested a bit more on the walk to the car, but it was a token protest. Then he didn't want to get out of the car to go see her. (And yes, he had a good time there. He walked out to the waiting room with a picture he'd made of two flowers and said, "It's a story about two flowers, the flowers said 'We have stems!'")

So in the car on the way to Whole Foods, when Damian asked me to tell him a story, I told one about a boy named Damian who had transition problems and how one day he became eager to go from place to place, etc. No more transition problems today but I doubt the problem is permanently solved.

Tuesday 30 April

Dan told Heidi some of Damian's latest developments. Specifically, he told her how Damian saw Dan eating a sausage on Sunday, asked for a bite, ate three bites and then decided he didn't like it. Used to be you could never no way no how get him to taste anything new. So this is very cool. She said it's very typical, that most kids will want to try what you're eating and they'll give it about three bites to be sure how they feel. She said Damian's very nearly a typical (non-spectrum) kid now. In most respects he is.

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