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To think my sister is in denial about her DD (long)

(30 Posts)
Flugelpip Fri 26-Oct-12 22:07:23

This is a genuine question as I really don't know if I'm being fair to her. I fear she's letting her DD down, and I don't know what to do, if anything.

Background: I had Dd1 6 months before she had her DD. Mine is totally normal, by which I mean good at some things, awful at others, very charming. According to my sister, MY child is a genius and amazing. In fact, my DD is neither (though I love her, obviously). Her cousin, sister's DD, is way behind her in development, and way behind her peer group, which is what actually worries me. I know children are all different and it's not one thing that worries me; it's all of them together.

She didn't move much as a baby - sat at 10/11 months, I think, walked at 20 months but reluctantly, seemed lost in a fog all the time. She was hard to engage - never looked at where you pointed, never noticed much, never played with toys for long or creatively. She has never played a game with me - not even peepo. She's nearly three and has a vocabulary of maybe 50 words, a lot of which are numbers, colours and animal noises, which my sister has taught her practically since birth. She can sing nursery rhymes without pronouncing the words properly (so I think doesn't know what she's singing) and otherwise doesn't speak in sentences at all. She still doesn't walk brilliantly. She does do role play games (pretending to cook etc) but doesn't play with her dolls to act out situations or play imaginatively. To me, she seems more like an 18 month old than a three year old. She doesn't understand basic instructions and certainly not two-part commands. She's prone to bad temper and lashing out but most of the time she's sunny and sweet, although still not engaged with her world. The temper could be frustration at communication problems but she has always been like that, even as a very small child.

I've repeatedly hinted/said to my sister that I would talk to their GP if I was her to rule out hearing or sight issues, at least, as she was slow to walk and now talk. (I get on with her well and it wasn't taken badly but it was ignored.) The health visitor told her not to worry, which is now gospel, but I suspect my sister didn't give her the whole picture as she was more asking about tantrums than development and at the time her lack of speech wasn't all that unusual at that age, but she hasn't improved since. Now she is insisting her DD is normal and mine is just very talented, which is not my point, or true. Sister works full time and lives in an area where it's hard to meet other mums so I think she just doesn't have anyone to compare her DD to. She also has a real Pollyanna approach - if she thinks everything is fine, it will be. This is how she deals with life, not just motherhood. My niece has a nanny, who is too professional to discuss her with me, not that I would ask her to, but from things she's said (desperately hoping sister would take her to the GP to discuss development) I infer she is concerned too. My brother- in-law is equally busy, unfamiliar with children, glass half full. They both think she is lovely but thick (and say this in front of her sad).

I love my sister and niece; I'm very worried that my niece has some delay that could or should be picked up and treated. I'm not a doctor. I don't know much at all about it. If she was my child I would have dragged her around every health professional I could find to make sure I wasn't missing anything, and I'd have done it years ago. I'm frustrated with my sister but for my niece's sake. And I may be being paranoid. My DD is clouding the issue as I think my sister feels I'm unfair in comparing them, but I don't expect them to be the same. I do see children the same age as my niece all the time, and my niece is nowhere near them, or children much younger. Her own sister is 11 months old and sharp as a tack - walking already. Yet no alarm bells are ringing for my sister about her older child.

Thoughts? Suggestions? Reassuring anecdotes? Biscuits?

cerealqueen Fri 26-Oct-12 22:12:56

You sound like a lovely caring sister and aunt. Not an area I am familar with but is your niece at pre-school at all, as that is where her development might be noticed?

PrinceRogersNelson Fri 26-Oct-12 22:12:57

I think you are probably right to be concerned and you are also right to think that if there is something amiss then they are better to get started with help asap.

Unfortunately if they don't want to acknowledge it or can't see it then there is little you can do. Unless you lay it out to her in black and white and you risk alienating her if you do that.

I am sorry for your niece though. It is no good ignoring these issues.

imperialstateknickers Fri 26-Oct-12 22:13:51

You don't mention a mum of your own, but that is who I would talk it over with, in fact that is who I did talk it over with when it became clear that my Dnephew was not developing as one would expect, before talking to my sister. He's now been diagnosed with ASD btw. Apologies if you've lost your mum.

PrinceRogersNelson Fri 26-Oct-12 22:14:27

Actually, yes cerealqueen has a good point. If she goes to a pre school or nursery then they should pick it up.

Maybe you could encourage her to enrol her and hope someone else picks it up? Then you could encourage her to seek help if she mentions it to you.

Guitargirl Fri 26-Oct-12 22:19:53

I came to reply to tell you to get a grip but on reading your OP, I think you may be right to raise some questions and to suggest outright that your sister asks for advice from a health visitor/GP. Could you suggest that your sister asks for an assessment on speech - they will usually look at other developmental factors. We took DD for an assessment for speech delay at 2.5 and we were told that was an ideal time for assessment.

OHforDUCKScake Fri 26-Oct-12 22:20:50

I would call the HV and ask her for advice.

You sound like a good sister.

ISeeThreadPeople Fri 26-Oct-12 22:21:05

We had a v similar situation. My dd (dc1) is 8 months older than her cousin (my db's dd/dc1) and I was quite concerned about her development v early on. Both my Dad and I tried to broach it but we were brushed off at first and aggressively challenged later. We couldn't really do anything.

DNiece went to preschool at 2 and they called db and sil in within a week and suggested the gp and an urgent referral.

She's nearly 5 now and I have since talked to my db candidly about the whole situation and he was simply terrified. It did take an outsider to get them to take action.

Flugelpip Fri 26-Oct-12 22:27:27

Thank you for responses; I do appreciate it. Niece is starting nursery after Christmas two mornings a week and I have pinned my hopes on it, to be honest. My mum is also concerned but has a very bad relationship with my sister and never sees her or my niece. (She also thinks my niece stupid - can't say how much this breaks my heart as the poor little thing is doing her best, I feel.)

I just hate that time is passing and she's not getting help. I don't blame the nanny for not wanting to upset her employers, but I hate being the only one who says anything. And assessments are fine but they expect the parents to tell the truth, and my sister doesn't!

PaintedInRed Fri 26-Oct-12 22:27:57

I also think you are right to be concerned. She could start talking within a few weeks, as i have read many times before about toddlers not talking and then reaching 3 years old and literally overnight it happens. But your niece not being able to understand or carry out basic instructions would worry me.

I was also going to ask about pre-school too, as they will pick up on it there.

Flugelpip Fri 26-Oct-12 22:36:01

Two things to add; my sister could not be more loving and self-sacrificial about her children, but she doesn't seem to have any instinct for what they need. And she and her husband have always babied my niece - they are very over protective so don't let her do much. They don't challenge her at all to do things for herself or work things out for herself. When she was 20 months she was very keen on climbing the stairs on hands and knees and it was not allowed unless she was at soft play! So I wonder if some of it is just not being stimulated and encouraged enough. I made them stop walking around holding her hands when she wasn't walking at nearly two, and about ten days later she was mobile.

Think I may be clutching at straws, though. sad

bialystockandbloom Fri 26-Oct-12 22:47:24

Her development definitely, from your description, sounds delayed or disordered.

Imo you need to swallow, take a deep breath, and say something to her directly.

The only thing I would warn is to try and make sure it isn't obvious you've been talking amongst the family about it. My ds (5 now) has ASD. I knew from early on but didn't want to face it, so tried to deny/escape it. Just before he was 3 I finally got the courage to do something about it. It turned out my dsis, mum and probably all and sundry in the family had been discussing it but none had said anything to me. I was actually really hurt and angry about that (rightly or wrongly), because a) it wasn't like I was clueless myself and since when were they experts, and b) felt like they were gossiping behind my back, and c) why didn't they talk to me about it? So please be careful about doing that - even knowing you've had 'concerned discussion' might upset her.

Fwiw my ds passed his two-year check, so some HVs know fuck all about ASD or related disorders. And many nurseries/preschools won't either.

Dozer Fri 26-Oct-12 22:51:08

Realise that you're understandably concerned about your Dn, and are in a difficult situation, but some of your points and especially your last post sound judgmental.

Dozer Fri 26-Oct-12 22:54:09

Maybe you could sensitively raise your concerns about her language and other things and maybe share some written information about milestones for children of that age. Suggest taking her to GP. Then leave it, people handle stuff differently.

Flugelpip Fri 26-Oct-12 22:55:19

I have been quite direct without saying ASD specifically. I've said, 'I'd be concerned...' but she doesn't want to see what I mean, I fear. I think she might be afraid of how her DH would react as he's quite emotional. It's just awkward as I think she thinks I'm mad.

I have thought of sending her a link to a development checklist but I think she'll discount it. She really only sees the good things in her DD and doesn't analyse her behaviour as I have.

Hearing that people who know more about it would be concerned makes me feel braver about being direct.

Flugelpip Fri 26-Oct-12 22:59:59

dozer I know I sound judgemental and I'm not. It's hard to pick up on what my niece hasn't been allowed to do and what she can't, if you see what I mean. I think my sister is brilliant but she has a blind spot about her DD, partly from lack of experience. She doesn't spend time with other mothers. Neither of us had close friends or family with young children; we're both learning as we go, but I live in a very family-filled area and work from home so I spend my days immersed in children and mothers. She doesn't. At weekends, they often don't see anyone, so her family time is in a bubble.

FWIW I wish everyone had told me to get a grip and said I was wrong, interfering and nosy.

imperialstateknickers Fri 26-Oct-12 23:00:11

I'm shock and sad by your mum's attitude.

It's only a couple of months until Christmas, then a month or two for the nursery setting to get to know her, so fingers crossed your sister will listen to the professionals when she won't listen to family.

TheLightPassenger Fri 26-Oct-12 23:07:07

unfortunately I agree with the other posters, I think you are absolutely right to be concerned. problem is, as you have a child of a similar age who is doing v well, your sis is likely to find advice/info from you particularly difficult to deal with sad. I wouldn't be too quick to judge your sis, I found it v hard to get my language delayed child referred to speech therapy/paed before 36 months, the hv and gp were both as useful as chocolate teapots, and I got fobbed off by both telling me there was a huge range of normal within children's language development.

SolidGoldYESBROKEMYSPACEBAR Fri 26-Oct-12 23:08:42


bialystockandbloom Fri 26-Oct-12 23:19:13

Tbh it will be pretty hard, if not impossible, to be able to say something to her without causing some upset, and possibly anger (shooting the messenger and all). She's obviously clinging on to the reassuring comment from that HV, but I would find it hard to believe there isn't a niggle in her own mind, deep down.

The most tactful way to approach it, imo, is to make sure you do not come across like you're an expert whereas she's clueless.

Saying "I know you may feel upset by me saying this, but I can't help worrying that [your dd] seems to find xyz really hard - maybe it's worth getting her checked?"

Rather than "I have read a bit on the internet and consider myself bit of an expert think [your dd]'s development is abnormal or delayed"

Also try not to suggest for a second that her parenting is anything at all to do with it.

(I'm not suggesting that you would say somehting like that of course, you seem lovely, but ykwim!)

MrsCantSayAnything Fri 26-Oct-12 23:23:35

I have a similar situation hence my user name sad VERY similar story. I know how worrying this is and hate that I can't do anything for the person in my life with a child who isn't developing at the expected rate.

tyaca Fri 26-Oct-12 23:34:13

i think you have to take a deep breath and trust that once your dn is in pre-school/ school etc, flags will be raised if there is a problem. that's only a matter of weeks away so sit tight and prepare to be a lovely sister when your dsis needs you most. i know as an onlooker this must be frustrating, but if there is a developemental problem then your dsis, dn and whole family will warmly welcome a supportive, non-judgemental person to rely on. but you need to leave it in their court to decide how and when they talk to you about it. please don't bring it up again.

MrsCantSayAnything Fri 26-Oct-12 23:39:12

I was advised not to say anything directly OP because it is SUCH an emotional thing and can cause massive parent wants to hear their child has problems.

Bigwheel Fri 26-Oct-12 23:39:17

Do you have the same hv? If so I would mention it to her. I don't think yabu, there's obviously an issue. Other than encouraging her to go to hv (could you go with go with her?) I would also be pinning all my hopes on the nursery picking up on things after Christmas.

bialystockandbloom Sat 27-Oct-12 00:09:56

Mrscan't: no parent wants to hear their child has problems

You're right, no parent does. But it does depend on who says it, and how it's said. It would be more likely to offend and upset if the person who says it doesn't actually have expertise in the field.

So being told your child has xyz is more palettable coming from a professional (paed, s&lt etc) rather that just a member of your family who has no expertise in the area.

Coming from a member of the family, it would be better presented as they are worried too, rather than "your child has problems", iyswim.

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