October 2002 page 2 of 2
Wednesday 16 October

Mary said Damian and Corey have started to talk to each other spontaneously, without prompting. Just phrases here and there still, but a start. Funny thing, I think Damian is starting to do it more with the typical kids in his afternoon school than he is with other special needs kids. I guess he knows they're less willing to do it with him and that inhibits him. Which argues for a mainstream placement next year, all else being equal.

Damian scored this afternoon. Heidi's been working on getting him to walk across a suspended rope bridge. Today he did it completely on his own. Then came to me and said, "I'm king of the bridge!" Heidi had coached him but the intonation and triumph were all his.

Over the weekend, Damian and Dan watched Snow White together. When she ate the poisoned apple and fell into a coma, Damian commented, "Everyone is sad. Even me." As if surprised to realize he had a reaction too.

Thursday 17 October

Robin said Damian was a bit out of it and coughed a lot. When he saw me, he got upset and wanted to leave right away. So we left soon thereafter. What concerns me is that I don't think he's sick anymore, doesn't act it in any other environment. Something threw him off at school today, is all I can think.

Afternoon school: Clingy Damian. Not responsive to Kahuna or the teachers. Most emphatically didn't want me to leave. Kept saying "You can leave in a short while." Finally he said "You can leave after snack time." After snack time, he said "Don't leave yet," but I had a neat and tidy "But you said" reminder and so I reassured, reminded, and hugged him. Left him crying there. Hate that. I peeked in the window, though, and it looked like he stopped crying and walked over to the circle for story time.

I came back an hour later. Damian was taking turns on the twister (a suspended bar, like a swing but you dangle from it) with the curly haired girl (who will get a pseudonym shortly). One would hang and spin, the other would tickle the suspended one. Damian was perfectly happy.

Kahuna told me that Damian actually sought out other kids, that he gravitated toward areas of the yard where other kids were playing, going to the teeter totter to be with them and when that game dissolved, he went to the side bike yard to seek out companionship -- and found the curly haired girl, so they rode together. Desire for other kids. Progress.

Kahuna had to leave at four. School's not out till five thirty. I wasn't sure if we'd stick around, but Damian was absolutely content there and not clingy at all, so we stayed. I find some of the best group interaction happens around five p.m. or so when the bulk of the kids have cleared out. Damian settles near me and other kids join in whatever fun activity we've devised. Today it was a dramatic, group reading of Big Green Monster. I had the kids (and I made sure it included Damian) tell me what body part was up next. (IE: I'd say "Go away, long bluish-greenish" and wait for "nose!" from the kids.) Damian sometimes needed prodding to speak, but when he did, it was full volume. And a few times he chimed in with the other main participant. (There were four of them altogether.)

In our back yard later, Damian handed me a large toy shovel. He kept the matching rake himself. He wanted me to dig and he'd rake. He said we were planting and that the plant would grow into a watermelon, and that the watermelon plant had a string and a stick, and that when it was all grown, the watermelon would have a watermelon pop inside. Then he mimed it all. Removed the pop from the watermelon and ate it. Then suggested we could go inside and eat a real watermelon pop. Heh.

He was extremely chatty over dinner. Among other things, he told us how he had red on his fingers because he drew with a red pen at the Other School today, that he'd drawn with red and then brown, that he was drawing paths and that some paths are lines and others are dots. But that his paths weren't very good because they didn't go anywhere. (So I talked about where they could go and Dan talked about how it's okay if some paths don't go anywhere, that's part of the fun of them.)

Saturday 19 October

Friends over for dinner. Damian handled it gracefully. At one point, he came out to the dining room pulling his wagon. He'd filled it with toys. He went around the table, giving each of us a toy from his collection.

I have this memory of my parents' dinner parties, of having to say goodnight to lingering grownups before heading off to bed. Not Damian. He refused to go to bed until after they left. How did my mom pull it off? I can't figure this one out.

Sunday 20 October

Dan was on the phone. Damian wanted his attention. Dan told him, "I'm talking to my friend Lori." Damian replied, "Mommy and Daddy have a lot of friends." Lori's translation: "you spend too much time with/on the phone with your friends." I'm sure she's right.

Tuesday 22 October

Tania reported that Damian grabbed a toy away from another child. She saw this -- as I do -- as perversely a good thing. He's able to act aggressively, not passively. (He gave the toy back when she asked him to do so.) As with most advances in school, he's showed this behavior at home first. Just once I wish he'd be the same kid both places, with the same ability level.

Afternoon school went okay. I left soon after Kahuna arrived, though he arrived half a hour late. (I coached Damian to say "You're late!" when he got there -- and Damian did.) I came back half an hour before the end. Damian was very happy to see me; other kids get picked up through the afternoon, with the bulk half an hour before class ends. So I wasn't the first parent on the scene, which means I kind of have to be there that early. Which sucks. My writing time leaches out of my life like water through a sponge.

Kahuna reported that Damian was comfortable around the other children, willingly heading to a busy sandbox, for instance, but that he didn't engage in much of any interactive play. He's still regaining lost ground from his sick time. At least he didn't show anxiety. That's step one.

When we got home, Damian played alone in his room for a while, then called me in to play together. He presented me with a choice of Bob the Builder duplo vehicles. Asked me my favorite color. I said blue, so I got Lofty the crane. Who is blue. See how that works? Damian operated Muck the red bulldozer. Red frog drove it. Pete, who is a blue frog, drove Lofty. See how that works? (Okay, yeah, I'm getting punchy.) Lofty and Muck brought duplo blocks over to a building site. Then Damian introduced Scoop the yellow excavator to the game. This presented a problem. I brought out a duplo caveman as driver. Not yellow but apparently acceptable nevertheless. I asked Damian to name the caveman. He decided on Rockslide. Catchy, no? So we turned it into a rockslide game. Each vehicle fell apart during a new avalanche. Good thing frogs all have mechanic training, huh?

I'm recording all this for no particular reason except that it was fun. And when I have this kind of fun with Damian, where he's directing the action and we're building easily on each other's ideas, I can't help but think back a year ago -- even six months ago -- and wonder how exactly we got from there to here. Because it still seems miraculous.

Wednesday 23 October

Mary reported more spontaneous language between Damian and Corey today. Like drops of water on rock, gradually forming a groove. Gradually becoming comfortable in this new configuration.

We have a chunk of time between school and Heidi. Today we went to the cell phone store (got a bum phone last week). I brought a bag of restaurant toys in case we had to wait (we did last week). As it happened, I got done quickly. But Damian had barely started playing. What to do? He told me. "I will go in ten minutes." So we did.

In the car on the way home, we had a chat about yelling and why people yell at each other and what Damian does when Mommy and Daddy yell at each other (he told me that he yells at us to stop yelling because he doesn't like it). I think it started when we saw someone yell at someone else on the sidewalk. It was fascinating, actually. Damian still doesn't understand the idea that you can love someone even while you're angry.

He's got a lingering cough from his cold last week. He sometimes makes himself cough. His explanation? "I coughed because I didn't like my funny voice." I think he means that throaty snuffly voice. It's a fairly good description.

I'm coming to realize that he starts talking about how much he loves me (which he does a lot these days) when he feels something more complex but can't articulate it. Like "I don't want you to leave" or "I'm not mad anymore" or "I'm feeling insecure" or even "get off the phone." So now I'm trying to help him identify the other issue.

Thursday 24 October

Robin said she had the best session ever with Damian. She said he had far better self-regulation (didn't get as frustrated, calmed quickly), better focus, was more spontaneously verbal, and they had a lot of fun. She put a variety of hats on his head and he not only allowed the sensory challenge of it but got into the goofiness of some of the hats.

Didn't go to the afternoon school: Kahuna was out sick and Damian wasn't up to going without him. So we got the car washed instead (long overdue). I held Damian up to watch the car go through the tunnel. He was very worried, kept asking if we'd get the car back. Took him a long time to trust that we would. Later, though, he talked a lot about the car and the process of washing it. So he was interested, just scared.

Friday 25 October

I'm so happy: Nadia, his school OT, said she's going to recommend continuing his full two hours of OT through the next six months. We're up for a six month review in a couple of weeks and I was sure she'd recommend losing the clinic-based OT. But he still really needs it. His sensory integration is still shaky, albeit less so. I want him to get OT now while it can still have a profound, permanent effect.

Kahuna reiterated what Robin said yesterday -- Damian's self-regulation is significantly better. I've been working on it a lot at home. Let's hope it translates to more overall comfort.

Saturday 26 October

Red Frog's name is now Burgundy. Damian told Dan as a secret. His first appropriate secret, I think; usually, he just whispers that he wants to drink juice and watch a video.

I'm seeing more examples of abstract thinking in Damian's conversation, but I'll be damned if I can think of any examples right now. I'll watch for it.

Dan and I had a dumb spat in the car on our way to a music/electronics store. Damian seemed surprisingly unaffected by it. So once we were in the store, I sat Damian down on my lap and asked him how it had made him feel. He said "happy." I asked again, emphasizing the fighting part. He said it felt good and bad. I asked why good. His answer was fascinating. "I like it when Mommy and Daddy are talking in the car." He likes to listen to us talk. Just didn't like the anger. So yes. Good and bad. And, too, it wasn't a bad spat. It could be that Damian's getting more sensitive to degrees of anger.

Monday 28 October

Bird said she and Nadia pulled Damian with another boy from his class today to work together on speech and OT. The other boy was nervous about putting his hands in shaving cream, very tentative and anxious. Damian wasn't. He flat-out refused. Bird said it seemed more like a control issue or boundary testing than it did tactile defensiveness. Not fear, obstreperousness. She said, too, that they were playing a game and Damian kept missing his turn. Again, not spacing out, just not wanting to play by the rules. The odd thing about this is that I'm not seeing any similar behavior at home, and usually it coincides with overall boundary testing.

Tuesday 29 October

I was going to -- and probably will -- write a full-on entry about this, but I don't want to forget in the interim. Tania told me that Damian had a best-ever morning in class. Two kids from the typical preschool class came in. Damian showed them around, told them the rules. He played with Jules with airplanes and was verbal and interactive. He tried bumping cars with his in the bike yard. He told the other kids -- one by one, saying each one's name -- that it was time to go inside after yard time. An excellent, fantastic, breakthrough of a morning.

Afternoon school, same thing, at least at first. When I left, Damian was calling to the curly haired girl to come back to the turtle teeter totter. When the four kids (including him) were on it, he told them, "Hold on tight, everyone, or you might fall off!" Apparently this went downhill after I left. He lost steam. Kahuna thought he might be tired but we realized it was because his safety net was gone when I walked out the door. He feels comfortable enough in his morning class, but not yet at the afternoon school.

Wednesday 30 October

My car had a flat tire on the way to pick Damian up. Dan got him instead and met me at the mechanic's. Damian and I watched them fix the tire. Damian was fascinated, kept asking questions. I got him to ask the mechanics the same questions, which was pretty cool. He asked what one guy what he was doing to a car up on a lift, and then he asked what was wrong with the car. He was very solemn the whole time we were there. I think he was worried about the car. He tends to worry. On the way home, he turned into a chatterbox, discussing the whole sequence of events.

Damian told Dan that he tells other kids what to do in class. Dan said he was a teacher's helper, then. Damian agreed and asked Dan what *he* did in *his* class. Very interesting, appropriate question. Thinking beyond his own experience.

We had a party tonight to celebrate Dan's acting debut. I told Damian that Sophia and her parents would come early. He kept talking about how Sophia was his friend. He was more excited than I've seen him about another child. When she arrived, he greeted her with a "Hi Sophia, come on in and play!" And soon told us again that Sophia was his friend. The two of them chattered back and forth a bit more. And every time Sophia did something (go up to her mom, show her something, for instance), Damian copied her. I've seen this before; I think it's his way of making sure what he's doing is appropriate. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Damian also handled the crowd of people with aplomb, though he was odd with me. Got upset when I kissed him on the forehead and smacked himself several times, getting rid of the kiss mark. Wouldn't sit in my lap. When I came in his room during the show, he ordered me to go back to the party. But he reconsidered after a bit, warmed up and cuddled with me after all.

During Dan's first scene on TV, Damian looked from him to the television, pointing to each and saying "There's my daddy and there's my daddy."

Thursday 31 October

Damian now loves to get into bed, stand or sit up with the covers over his head, and make woo-woo noises. You're supposed to be scared. It's a ghost. See what happens when a kid learns about Halloween in school? Awfully cute, I admit.

He got to bed around 10:45 last night. We'd planned to let him sleep in, get to school late, but he woke up at 7 am. So he got two hours less than he needs.

He wore his knightly costume to class. As it happens, Jules was a dragon and a little girl was Princess Fiona. So Sir Damian fought the dragon to save the princess. (Teacher instigated.) A bit old fashioned and sexist, since the princess didn't do any fighting, but the kids got into it.

I came back to school for the Halloween party. Damian had shed his costume and refused to put it on. He sat at the table for Halloween snacks (cookies, etc.) Tania handed out berry juice. I said Damian shouldn't have any, so I handed it back to her. I offered him his pear juice instead. Thus precipiating meltdown number one. I realized my (huge) mistake -- I was taking away a treat every other child had. Gave it back. An upset stomach is better than an upset kid, at least in this case. But that seemed to tip the balance. He became clingy and weepy. Exhaustion played into it, I'm sure, but Tania said -- and I think she's right -- that the major change in routine, kids visiting each other's classes, the Halloween party, etc. was discombobulating.

Predictably, when Robin came for her floor time session, Damian didn't want me to leave. So I stayed. Thought about cancelling the session and taking him home but I'm glad I didn't. I lurked in the background while they played Kerplunk. It worked out well. An hour or so into it, he was racing around, excited. Jules' floor timer had to go pee, so Robin "watched" Jules. Which was in fact perfect. Jules ran and Damian chased him. Robin ran around following the two of them, egging them on. I think this may become incorporated into Damian's Thursday sessions, a little play time with Jules. Especially if it's physical, gross motor play, it'll be ideal.

It was hard to drag him out of the house to go to the afternoon school. Then Rosie, the curly haired girl, wanted me to stay there. Damian said -- through tears -- that I should go. I think he wanted to get it over with.

Kahuna's report after class was excellent: Damian had good interaction with other kids on four seperate occasions: the teeter totter turtle ("Goldie is up and I'm down, now Willow is up and I'm down, now I'm up" etc.), the hang swing, a conversation that included a little imaginative play during snack time ("I have the same thing on my cupcake you have on yours. I have a skeleton", and making the witch figurine cackle and be scary, calling Goldie back when she ran away, mock-scared), and one more I can't remember. Highly significant. Just like last night with Sophia and just like Tuesday in his morning class, Damian is finally taking initiative interacting with other kids. This week is the first time ever and it's all at once, a dam breaking. Finally.

Trick or treating. First he said he wanted to go but without his costume. Then he agreed to wear his costume but said he wouldn't say "trick or treat." Then he said he'd say it all in an indistinct rush: trigortree. (I let it go at that point.) And that we could only go to three houses.

Need I say we went to far more than three, and that he not only said "trick or treat" while wearing his complete costume, helmet and all (the helmet was a sticking point too), but that he also said "thank you" and "Happy Halloween" and "I'm a knight"? He told me at one point that we should go to ten houses. I said what happened to three? "I changed my mind."

We ended at Melissa and Terri's house. Damian didn't interact much with Max and Dahlia, but he never does. This time he was far more interested and comfortable around them, though. Not shut down at all, just garden variety don't-know-these-kids shy. He talked to Terri, though, and to me in front of them. Complex sentences, the whole deal. I was pleased that the moms could catch that glimpse of how well he's coming along.

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