to think my niece is more than just sensitive?(213 Posts)
My brother, his wife and their 5 year old DD have been staying nearby and visiting for the past week. DN is home educated by SIL and I haven't seen her since she was three until this week because they've been living abroad. Both DB and SIL describe DN as 'sensitive' and they seem to go to great lengths to avoid upsetting her. For example - she can never be asked to do anything immediately, under any circumstances, or she refuses, screams, shouts and cries. She always has to be given notice and told of at least two things that are going to happen first. I.e. I'm going to brush my hair and go to the toilet, then we need to put your shoes on.
If she can't find something, she'll say she can't find it, ask where it is but if someone tells her she absolutely dissolves into hysteria. SIL has to say 'perhaps it could be on the bed/in your bag/in your drawer' even if she can clearly see exactly where it is.
Today we were in a lift and she was running her finger up and down the line of the doors in the middle. A lady told her to mind her fingers when the doors open and DN was whimpering, on the brink of tears, looking absolutely furious and refused to speak to anyone for over half hour. Similarly, the other day she tripped but I caught her before she fell and she behaved as though I'd shoved her in front of a passing car. Earlier in the week when she did actually fall over and had a tiny graze, she was completely hysterical for over an hour and a half.
If people don't talk to her in the 'right' way she completely shuts down and DB and SIL spend a great deal of time and energy trying to coax her back to equilibrium. I have my own children and have worked with children my whole career and I appreciate some are more sensitive than others but this seems extreme to me. I worry that SIL is stuck homeschooling because she knows DN wouldn't cope at school and I want to support her but when I broached it I was told she's 'just sensitive' and will grow out of it.
What are your brother and SIL like? Their personalities I mean.
It sounds extreme to me too. My 6yo is quite a sensitive kid, takes things personally and worries a lot, but she's nowhere near what you describe here and never has been.
OTOH I'm not really sure what you can do about it. I suspect your brother and SiL won't much want to hear that you're concerned about their DD. I would tread softly so as not to put them on the defensive. Does their homeschooling practice include regular socialising with other kids, do you know? If they don't know many other kids her age, they may not realise how much more flexible and resilient the average child is.
To be perfectly honest it sounds like more like they haven't taught her how to behave and have allowed toddler temper tantrums to be pandered to and escalate.
Thy aren't doing her any favours by failing to parent her. She will get a very nasty shock as she gets older and realises that the whole world doesn't revolve around her every whim.
There isn't really anything you can do but it would piss me off having to walk on eggshells around a child of that age - unless there was a confirmed medical diagnosis.
Brother is very laid back and passive. SIL is driven, independent and competitive - they are complete opposites. In many ways DN is very mature, she prefers being among adults and doesn't like other children but it is very much a necessity to walk on eggshells at all times. SIL had never been able to leave her because of all her 'intricacies'
I went to Guides with a girl who behaved like this-she was really really hard work. Poor girl-if it is her parents inability to discipline her then she's going to struggle when she's older.
The telling things that are going to happen first is perfectly reasonable way of letting a 5yo know a space of time.
"Leaving in 5 minutes" means very little to a 5yo.
"I need to go to the toilet and put my shoes on" does have more meaning in terms of time to a 5yo. They also can order it in their mind "mummy's been to the toilet, so it isn't long before we go."
Having had 2dc that "we're needing to get in the car now" produced an immediate response, I had to rethink with ds who needs to know that something is going to happen. "I'm going upstairs to fetch my coat, then I'm filling your waterbottle" means he can assess at what point he needs to finish what he's doing. Telling him "we're going now" stresses him out. Yes it occasionally happens and he has to cope, but why should I stress him out unnecessarily? Try telling a room full of adults they have to go now (ie a fire alarm) and see how many stop to shut down computers, fetch personal belongings etc.
Some of the things you describe are present in children on the autistic spectrum:
Finding it easier to interact with adults than peers.
Withdrawing from social contact when she is overwhelmed.
Needing notice before being expected to do something.
This screams autism to me. I have a lot of experience with this as a primary teacher.
This isn't tantrum behaviour. When you went to catch her, she overreacted because some autistic children cannot bear to be touched, especially without warning.
Sounds like she relies on routine as well which is another flag for autism.
I'm not sure what you can do about this without alarming your db and sil. Perhaps they are already aware hence home schooling.
There are lots of books and resources out there to support parents and family of autistic children.
Nice of you to care
OP it sounds like your DN is very much on the spectrum!
We have 5DC,2 of our DC are autistic and I used to work with children that were autistic.
Your nieces behaviour isn't about being sensitive imho it's because for her everything feels like an overload on her senses.
I hope they speak to they're Dr,because honestly getting a diagnosis and getting proper help for they're DD and for them on how to parent a child that is autistic could make so much difference to your DN's life and they're lifes as a family.
Yep, those are developmental issues - sounds like Autism. Hope she gets the help she needs.
I was going to say sounds as if she may be on the autistic spectrum. The having to be prepared for things eg told two things that are going to happen before the thing she is expected to be involved in, is classic.
Definitely sounds like some sen to me. The falling over/scrape reaction is exactly the kind of meltdown one of the kids with sen I look after would have. If something 'unexpected' happens he can't handle it at all and it takes him ages to calm down.
Reading about your niece made me think of this...
My first thought was ASD too. I know a few kids that are EXACTLY like this.
Another teacher here - as I was reading it I was thinking about autism. Obviously children on the spectrum are all different, but girls can present very differently to how you might expect a child with autism to appear.
Could it be PDA?
It's a rare form of autism, meltdowns as a result of minor requests is one of the symptoms.
On the other hand she could just be sensitive. Or Naughty or spoilt.
she prefers being among adults and doesn't like other children
kids won't pander to her - where the adults are.
It may well be autism, it may not - but as she's a visitor I think you need to accept their ways.
How did your DB and SIL react when you caught her?
My ds is now 10 and has confirmed diagnoses of autism and Adhd. Back when he was 5 I knew he was different but I was in denial about the scale of the challenge. When my parents told me how difficult they found him I just told myself they were making a fuss as they couldn't be bothered with the babysitting. At the time I just wasn't ready to accept the reality.
What you describe here reminds me of ds at that age, I think maybe her parents do know it's more than just 'sensitivity' but perhaps they're in denial (like I was) or aren't ready to put it into words and open a conversation about it. I know how long I struggled and blamed myself and dh for being dreadful parents (even tho our older Dd had no similar challenges) rather than accept that there was something else going on.
Try to avoid judging or thinking you have all the answers, I can assure you that those parents are doing the best that they can for their dd. In time things will either get easier or they will start to look for a diagnosis. They all need your loving support, I didn't and still don't get it from my own sister.
I agree completely re: autism. She is very selective with food, despises loud noises, won't use public toilets, has no tact whatsoever and is extremely self centred. Bro and SIL have little experience with other children but have admitted they won't have any more because they didn't realise how tough it would be.
My first thought was also autism, I have a son with high functioning autism and much of what you described is very familiar to me. I am sure your Brother and his wife have adjusted their behaviour to try and cope and manage with hers, but she obviously needs more help and I am sure they do too. My worry would be if she is home schooled it may not be picked up by any teachers or professionals. She could just slip under the radar. Do you think you could broach your concerns with them?
It would be easier if they had a diagnosis and support and intervention for her - sensory supports might greatly reduce her refusals and learning about PDA/ASD could help them learn strategies to guide her towards more compliance and independence.
She is young and early intervention is key. I really hope they are able to see that she is not just "sensitive" and get some help.
Yup me to, autism.
if she is sounds like they are doing an excellent job of helping her, but if you don't know, you don't know, I didn't and it was only reading a relatives report about her son, she gave me. the penny finally dropped for me about my son, I thought I was a shit parent.
On the one hand, it sounds like...and may well be, that this child is on the autism spectrum!
On the other hand, if she's always been home schooled, doesn't mix with other children and is more used to being with adults...it could be simply that she has been indulged, to the point where she has become the central pivot of the family unit, and just doesn't 'get it' when others don't treat her the same way as her parents do!
Sad really because, when she gets into the Big Bad World outside her parents protection....how the hell will she cope?
Surely that's classic ASD. Sounds so like my DS1 who was finally diagnosed with Asperger's at age 12. If someone had raised it with me earlier I'd have been so grateful: I wasted too much of his childhood not understanding him. It's tough when it's your first child as you haven't got anything to compare with.
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