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Normal toddler behaviour or sensitive child?

(17 Posts)
FadBook Fri 21-Mar-14 04:30:31

Dd, 2.6 is a great character and what I thought, was a normal toddler. Her speech is really good for her age but a few scenarios are happening:

1) she defaults to crying at someone laughing with her / at her. So it could be something like her being silly (dropping to the floor) and adults responding to her actions (it's funny) or adults talking to her positively and laughing as a reaction. She gets really upset. It's not laughing at her but with her as she'll be happy and laughing; then it's like a switch to full on crying as her reaction to laughter. How would you handle? We can't tell people - don't laugh, my response is normally to cuddle and reassure but I feel I'm making excuses to other adults as they look utterly confused by it.

2) she gets upset if strangers say hello to her eg in the supermarket with a lovely checkout lady - dd's reaction is to shout no, and then go shy, and repeat mummy for 5 minutes. I do all the reassuring, change subject, get her to talk about where she's been. Sometimes she does, most of time she'll point blank refuse to interact.

A man in the queue last week looked at her and smiled, full on crying for 5 minutes. He was so apologetic but he didn't do anything!

3) crying in general, at anything. Inconsistent things and scenarios. Sometimes I can put it down to tiredness but she'll cry first thing in a morning if we suggest getting up to get dressed! Just appears sensitive to day to day activities that other toddlers get on with. Childminder has reported a couple of scenarios too, with no reason to get upset, but she has ie, playing happily and starts crying, no explanation. It isn't tiredness as she does tell you, or takes herself to a comfy spot and goes to sleep (she's good with sleep). It's odd.

So, normal toddler behaviour?
or a "Sensitive" child?
Ways to handle?

FadBook Fri 21-Mar-14 08:25:04

Bump

Lollypop1983 Fri 21-Mar-14 08:31:07

Have no advice but didn't want to read and run.

Has she always been like this. Or is there an incident where there was a turning point?

Watching with interest as My (almost) 12mo does this, esp crying at strangers. I just assumed it was something that he would grow out of.

Kleinzeit Fri 21-Mar-14 09:09:57

Well, I'm no expert but a few thoughts… Mostly it sounds as if she hasn’t quite sorted out yet how to recognise and express her feelings so when things get “a bit much” for her, she just cries. And socialising with people she doesn’t know probably makes her feel anxious. What you are doing now sounds fine! In a few months’ time she might well be ready to start being a little bit more sociable with strangers, in her own time.

3 might also be to do with transitions from one thing to another – have you tried warning her first, like saying “soon it will time to get dressed” and then “now it’s time to get dressed, let’s find your socks”. And do be very clear about what you want her to do next; little kids can easily get overwhelmed by uncertainty (though many like simple choices about which T shirt to wear, say), so when you do want her to get dressed try making it a clear instruction rather than a question.

Good luck - your DD sounds like a sweetie!

FadBook Fri 21-Mar-14 18:40:24

Thanks for your kind words lollypop nice of you to reply smile I think back, and yes she has been wary of strangers - comfortable in her own environment (home or dmil's house) and whilst has been dragged everywhere with me (I was always meeting friends, baby groups, walks etc during mat leave), her personality always came through more at home (subdued perhaps when out and about?) That's made me reflect, so a good question and you have helped.

Kleinzeit thank you for your words. Your first paragraph definitely rings true. She gets overwhelmed easily. This is despite me constantly telling what we are doing, who with and, like you say, describing what is happening next. She's so outgoing at home, just perhaps lacks confidence when out.

Our childminder is fabulous, she's been taking her to more and more toddler groups each week and she's drastically improved in those environments with her. With me, she can be clingy. On my one day off a week, we go to a toddler group and she knows the people, yet we'll still have a bit of drama before getting there.

She's so amazing in other ways, I need to concentrate on the positive aspects grin

Thanks again. Time will tell.

Mumstheword21 Fri 21-Mar-14 19:59:16

Hi Op,

My DD2 was EXACTLY the same at that age (is now 3.7) and we can remember it well...especially the frequency of screaming!!!

I would strongly recommend reading 'the highly sensitive child' book, it's good to know that it isn't you or anything that you can help, but also helps you see the positives too...these will become more apparent the older your DD gets, I can remember 18mo-2.5ish being almost unbearable, but now that we have adjusted out thinking and she is a little older, it has honestly got better!!!! IMO there is such a personality type and that book in particular gave me lots of answers smile.

Your Dd will be fine and a real treasure thanks

Mumstheword21 Fri 21-Mar-14 20:01:40

Forgot to add...according to research, 15-20% share this nature so while quite rare, still more normal than you might think!!!

Parliamo Fri 21-Mar-14 20:19:09

I'm not sure how helpful labelling as 'normal' or 'highly sensitive' is. They are all individuals with different traits and so we as parents have to learn how to respond to them as best we can, if that makes sense. My eldest did quite a few of the things you describe, and has always been highly strung and prone to crying from being a tiny baby - she still is. I have been amazed by how well she has coped with school. But she still saves all her tears for me. Some days she cries all the way home even though she has had a good day, and I have to cradle her like a baby once we get home. It's like she lets go when she gets to her safe place. I used to try to talk her round, or I did use a technique I read about here where after all the tears you talk through- on a scale of 1-10 how big a drama was that, and then how big a fuss did you make about it and then talk about the disparity. But I've come to think she's still a bit little with so much to cope with, so I just stick to reassurance (apart from when I lose all patience and go and hide in the kitchen!)

The other thing that struck a chord with me was the stuff about how different she is when you're out and about. It was a bit of lightening bulb moment when I was in a rhyme time group that we went to every week but the leader of the group never learnt her name or seemed to recognise her. I suddenly realised that although at home we thought she was totally amazing and shined, to the rest of world she's just another kid. My dc tend to hang back and observe and process activities and once they have gained more confidence join in more. Everybody's different, adults too, and all the things that mean you talk to someone or not are there in children too. It's just as parents we're so wrapped up in it all it's harder to see.

That all turned out a bit waffley, but it's something Ive been thinking about!

Goldmandra Fri 21-Mar-14 21:06:45

You have just described some traits my DD1 had when she was this age. I'd forgotten about not being allowed to laugh at anything to do with her.

My DD1 continued to come across as highly sensitive and was diagnosed with AS at the age of 12. She is now doing brilliantly in sixth form and or target to fulfil her dream of studying medicine.

Keep an eye on your DD and how her sensitivities affect her ability to lead a 'normal' life, i.e. the life you'd like her to live. If at any point you feel that she's struggling too much you may want to look into a neurodevelopmental assessment so she can have support in pre-school/school. At that point being 'labelled' can be a very positive thing for a child.

Lots of children come across as quite sensitive as toddlers but end up coping with life just fine without a diagnosis or support.

tacal Sat 22-Mar-14 20:57:11

I still have problems with my ds at checkouts or in the street when the person says something unexpected and he is 5 now. It can lead to quite difficult situations trying to explain why my ds is upset when all the person has done is say hello. What about using social stories or even just pictures that will explain that sometimes strangers will smile and say hello.

Not sure if it would help your DC, but using a lot more visuals has really turned things around for my ds. Visual timetable of what he will be doing. A plan of what he will do if someone speaks to him when he doesn't want them to. we also do little role plays where we practice how he should react to things.

mumatwork999 Sat 22-Mar-14 22:49:13

Hi Fadbook - my DS is 3.5 and has been prone to crying in similar scenarios since about 2 maybe earlier. I've come to the conclusion this is just how he expresses himself when slightly overwhelmed in some way. He has improved quite a bit from 3 onwards - so take heart! smile. I definitely find talking through how things will/might be before they happen helps him to adjust better to potential 'trigger' situations, along with little reminders (if I remember - sometimes I don't) as we go through a situation to guide him along. If he had a big cry like this in public I just say quietly to the adult/other child not to worry and that it wasn't anything they did wrong and leave it at that. It never occurred to me to ask people to change their behaviour as they were just being totally normal. Good tips from tacal. Lots of cuddles and reassurance when it happens plus talking/role play/stories/pictures to help explain the world around her will help, I'm sure.

mumatwork999 Sat 22-Mar-14 23:00:45

Fadbook just re-read your OP and saw you try talking through the event with her after but that this is difficult. I don't do this with my DS as it seems to make him upset and somehow embarrassed(?) and he can't really explain his emotions. All my talking is either role play/story type stuff or pre-event preparation (not post-event dissection - which perhaps only adults enjoy!!). Post-event (after cuddles, of course) is just getting on with whatever with maybe some chocolate!

FadBook Sun 23-Mar-14 10:25:59

Thanks to all so far. Some really practical things I can do (some I'm doing already too)

Just for clarity, I'm not labelling dd, I'm just curious as to if her behaviour is normal or something to be concerned about. A couple of you have mentioned AS, and I don't believe she is, but then I don't know enough about AS to make a judgement. DP is a teacher and he has said categorically that she isn't. I trust his judgement because it know so little about it. goldmandra have you got a link that I can read to educate myself ?

mumatwork that's a good point about post event dissection, it doesn't work! it. She doesn't answer questions I ask, so it's pointless. I like the idea of doing role play, she's doing more and more role play so I can do this with her (play supermarkets etc).

Thanks again. I love mn!

traininthedistance Sun 23-Mar-14 10:33:53

My DD is just over a year old and does the crying when people laugh thing - especially with men or people she doesn't know. Typically it will be if new people stop round or if there are lots of people she doesn't know out and about and people laugh suddenly - sort of social laughing, you know - she will suddenly get spooked and really really upset.

I think it's because she can't necessarily tell people are laughing and not shouting or threatening - from her perspective suddenly there are strange people making a loud noise and baring their teeth, and when people are social laughing their eyes aren't necessarily crinkled up enough for her to tell it's a laugh and not a threat IYSWIM. I think they can't always tell very fine gradations of facial expression/emotion until much older. Plus if a particular situation comes to feel like a trigger, even an older toddler may well feel upset even if there doesn't seem anything rationally to get upset about. (As a small child I remember being frightened of all sorts of completely irrational things, like the credits to the news on TV and particular songs and so on.)

With the crying when people laugh I would just keep reassuring her and showing her with your behaviour that the people she's meeting are friendly, until she gradually grows out if it - if you get distressed or anxious that she's crying it might reinforce her reaction. After all, it's a perfectly understandable evolutionary response for a small child to be distrustful of strangers who might present a threat!

tricot39 Mon 24-Mar-14 23:10:31

Goldmandra talks a lot of sense!

Normally a diagnosis of AS takes a team of professionals so beware individuals saying yay or nay.

Keep an open mind and see how you all get on.

If there is speech delay then a diagnosis can be made pre school (if appropriate) but for an Aspergers type presentation the average age is about 9 i think. (aspergers tends to have advanced language skills).

Not sure i would reccomend too much reading about asd unless you get worried about speech development. I did a lot of reading and worrying about ds and school has been really good for him. He is sensitive and socially quirky but its looking less likely that he has life limiting issues to deal with other than some sensory issues around food. Reading up could be unecessarily upsetting at this stage.

Try to limit anxiety by managing transitions and consider hypnotherapy/meditation if there are particular phobias developing. Good luck

SquarePolarBear Tue 25-Mar-14 08:21:15

I just had a 'thank feck it's not just me' moment. I have 4 yr old dd who was very similar at that age, but generally the older she gets the easier it is. However she is still pretty sensitive & highly strung which can be exhausting. She is still most happiest & content at home. I'm assuming as she has been quite a challenging little person I'm due an easy teenager.. That's how it works isn't it? grin

Goldmandra Tue 25-Mar-14 10:17:55

goldmandra have you got a link that I can read to educate myself ?

I'm sorry, I've only just seen this.

AS is very hard to identify in girls. I think the average age for diagnosis is about 13 or somewhere thereabouts because the symptoms can be very subtle and attributable to just being a bit shy or sensitive.

Lots of parents of children with AS have been reassured by teachers for years that their child absolutely does not have AS. This can be because the common perception of any child with Autism is of a child who is very different and behaves in ways that really set them apart from their peers. The Ed Psych who came to observe my DD2 a few weeks ago couldn't pick her out in the classroom but she has full time one to one TA support to manage her anxiety.

Assessment is usually a long complicated process, involving lots of professionals with different areas of expertise and they are very careful not to diagnose children unless they are sure it applies to them and would be useful to them in terms of understanding and support.

Girls with AS tend to blend in. My DD1's difficulties as a toddler were mostly sensory, in that she didn't like loud noises, etc and being included in play with her peers. She was much happier interacting with adults and older children and they usually found her delightful.

This link give some basic info about AS. It's such a wide spectrum that you can't cover it in one piece of writing but it should give you an idea.

Tony Attwood has published a lot about girls with AS and how they blend in so Googling him might help too.

The difficulties your DD is experiencing at the moment are managed well by you and her childminder so it sounds like nothing needs to happen to help her. If things can be managed well when she goes to pre-school or school by them just being a bit more gentle or thoughtful around her she'll probably be fine, just a sensitive child. She may blossom in confidence before then and be in her element there.

If, when she starts in a group setting, she really struggles and gets very anxious, you'll know why. This will help you to communicate what adjustments they need to make to help her and you'll also know to get your GP to get the ball rolling for an assessment.

Trust you instincts on this. You'll know if she gets to the point where she needs more than you can give her. I did too but I ignored my instincts and listened to the people who were telling me that my girls were fine.

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