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Something very wrong with 3 1/2 year old bilingual DS.

(225 Posts)
Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 09:49:20

Something is clearly very wrong with our 3 1/2 year old bilingual DS.

The biggest concern for us is the difference between the nursery setting and the outside nursery setting in both language and behaviour. He is the youngest in the class (August 12) and was used to one to one (Mum and Nannies) until September.

Outside nursery: DS is a bit shy (just like my husband), but happy and chatty. He mixes languages but speaks in full sentences (you can have a proper conversation)., is very playful with us and the Nanny, and is becoming more and more confident; eg. very confident outdoors and in swimming lessons, happy and playing with (not alongside) other children in playdates and also okay in the hustle and bustle of of his swimming class. He is intuitive and caring and always knows when people are sad, etc. He is also cuddly and loves dancing with his Nanny and is very keen on animals, play-doh, story time and all types of vehicles.

Inside the nursery: Nursery teacher tells me he can't speak at all. When he speaks (he has to report his news in front of all the other children and then doesn't want to say much), then the teacher says he talks gibberish and looks away when she talks to him. He seems to only want to play with cars and doesn't talk to other children. However, he is confident outdoors and we had several comments in his little book that he was "chatty" with his friends with doesn't quite tally. We were also told that he can't sit still for long (which he can do at home) and became "fidgety" after 40 minutes in their recent church assembly.

A relative who knows DS well is a primary school teacher and confirms that he is shy and a bit behind with his English "as to be expected for a bilingual child" but not concerned that he is any special needs issues such as autism. Relative works in a "deprived" area and has worked with autistic, special needs etc children and many bilinguals. She also says that the DS' nursery seems to be "hothousing", i.e. learning things they would only cover in reception in the state sector. However, can this really make such a difference to him? He is doing fine with his letters when at home and now even ok with the teacher.

The Nanny, whom our son adores, says he is tensing up after nursery and doesn't want her to leave in the morning when she takes him there. He also told her (and us) repeatedly that he is scared of the teacher and hides from her in the toilet. In the morning he now asks whether it is a Mummy and Daddy day and when he is told it is a school day, he only says "oh". He has also told me that he wants to go to the "purple school in the fields where the children are happy" and not to his nursery. We just don't know where that is (he may have dreamt this up). What worries me most was that when I said to him that something was "normal", he looked very worried and said that "DS is not normal, no!". I have no idea why he would say that. He also has started to have recurring nightmares (last few weeks screaming "no" and shaking when he wakes). This is new since January.

His Nanny says he is a normal playful little boy and only 3.5 years old and she, in essence, thinks that we should consider moving him to another school (somewhere where "can be a child") and he would be fine and happy again. I can't be that easy.

How can we help him? It worries me how is changing so much and is so different at school. I have contacted a medical centre that specialises in special needs children but wanted to hear from other mothers.

Seeline Thu 11-Feb-16 10:00:24

Sounds as though the nursery may not be right for your DS.
When talking 'gibberish' is he actually speaking in his other language, which is not being recognised by the teacher?
Any 3 1/2 yo would become fidgety after a 40 minute church service as would many adults
Is there anywhere else that you could look at?
I agree that at that age children should be learning through play, not being hothoused.

Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 10:06:04

Well, the Nursery teacher told me that there was "another teacher who understands [my language]" who took him aside from the group and asked him and he made no sense. I don't know how good their knowledge of my language is. Should I ask? Would it not come across as if I am one those mothers who blames the teacher when the child isn't doing well? (I am a bit scared of her too, to be honest...)

Seeline Thu 11-Feb-16 10:11:13

You could try speaking to the teacher in your language and see what response you get - that should show you what her level of understanding is smile
Have the school suggested that your son has a problem? You are not blaming the school, you are trying to ensure that you child is getting the best treatment for his requirements. To be honest, if you are scared of the staff, it doesn't say much for a caring and nurturing environment at the school. Also your DS could be picking up on your feelings.
What sort of nursery is it? Is it connected to a school/feed into a school? If so would you be considering that school for your DS in the future?

duckyneedsaclean Thu 11-Feb-16 10:14:35

I'd get fidgety 40 minutes into an assembly!

He sounds perfectly normal and maybe just still getting used to nursery/ speaking in front of groups.

duckyneedsaclean Thu 11-Feb-16 10:16:07

And yes, find somewhere else. That nursery sounds horrid.

Haffdonga Thu 11-Feb-16 10:21:50

Sounds to me like nothing is wrong with your ds but a lot wrong with the nursery.

They expect 3 year olds to be able to sit without fidgeting for 40 MINUTES in a church! shock (I'd find that hard).
He's scared of the teacher.
They are hot housing.
He is NOT happy in nursery and doesn't want to go.

If you have a lovely nanny why on earth are you sending him to a setting where he is clearly miserable, when he seems to be thriving elsewhere?

To add context - my ds2 (also shy and semi bilingual, although one language quickly became the dominant) spoke 'scribble' when put on the spot at that age. He would speak a totally unintelligible stream of nonsense when put on the phone to his grandma. it was as if he knew in that situation he had to say something but he had no idea at all what to say, so he just made speech-like noises. His grandma thought he had a learning disability. He's now applying to study medicine ! wink

simonettavespucci Thu 11-Feb-16 10:21:53

Chisle Is there a reason why you think this is because your DS has special needs, rather than because of a problem with the school?

I'm not an expert, but if this started after he started at the nursery, he says that he doesn't like it, and you yourself are frightened of the teacher, it seems overwhelmingly likely that that is the problem. Maybe he is having problems talking because the slight delay common in bilingual children becomes more pronounced under pressure.

I would definitely try a different school.

Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 10:23:43

Yes, Nursery teacher have suggested he has "issues" and needs an assessment but were rather cagey about it, i.e. made it sound like a private provider and didn't want to show us the form with the comments. Just said whether we are okay with it, which we were in principle. I was confused though and insisted to see the form and their comments sounded over the top. I took the form with me and googled it and it is the early intervention centre (local county). The lady from the intervention centre said that any referral should include the parents full comments but the nursery did not state that at all. Nothing really tallies.

It is weird, DS started Nursery in September and all was fine at the first parent evening in November. Now, we were called in to discuss progress and this was sprung upon us. here was nothing in his little book other than he should focus more on his letters. Our teacher relative (who is always interested in children's stuff) reviewed his nursery book at Christmas and said it was all fine. She was very surprised when we mentioned it and says that the book was very misleading.

Re language: he uses quite difficult words in my language and is getting to grips with the grammar too. I thought it was okay to catch up with languages until they are 4-5. DS is doing really well (understands everything) but starts getting nervous about my language all of a sudden. He even said "go away with [mummy's language]! throw it in the bin. I don't like it". Makes me sad. Maybe I should give up on the bilingualism since it seems to harm him.

I will have him assessed privately in any case. I called a helpline and they said that it sounds like he only has issues in "one particular setting", so maybe the school isn't right. Just feel very worried. He seems so tense all of sudden and looses his sparkle.

Gowgirl Thu 11-Feb-16 10:24:26

Take him out of there! If you want him to meet other children in a group setting try a playgroup, it seems far too harsh an environment for a small child.

Gowgirl Thu 11-Feb-16 10:26:57

It sounds like a teacher is being dismissive or rude about your language, there's a lot of insidious racism about, please get him out of there!

Seeline Thu 11-Feb-16 10:27:22

starts getting nervous about my language all of a sudden. He even said "go away with [mummy's language]! throw it in the bin. I don't like it".
It sounds as though the nursery is very definitely encouraging him to speak English only - that doesn't sound like a normal response for a 3 /12yo but a taught response.

WhirlwindHugs Thu 11-Feb-16 10:27:52

I think the school isn't right for him and that is making him unhappy and intense. 3 1/2 is very young to be expected to sit still for 40mins.

Micah Thu 11-Feb-16 10:28:37

I agree.

Is it private school? Many try to "teach" preschoolers, up until yr1 even it should be learning through play.

When i picked a nusery i picked one that didnt have any "lessons", purely directed activities (dressing up, crafts etc) over the much sought after academic pre school up the road. Dc were happy, and started school no further behind.

Switch nurseries. Your boy sounds fine.

simonettavespucci Thu 11-Feb-16 10:29:59

I take it this is not an environment in which many children are bilingual - i.e., not an international school or similar? It sounds like the nursery is, at best, completely out of their depth, or possibly actively hostile.

BertPuttocks Thu 11-Feb-16 10:30:05

I think your DS did well to make it through 40 minutes of an assembly before fidgeting. That's a long time for a 3yr-old!

To give you a comparison, at our primary school the Reception children don't even go into a school assembly until they've been at school for half a term or so. Even then the assemblies are a maximum of 20 minutes. These are 4 and 5yr-olds, so older than your DS.

The nursery doesn't sound like a happy place for him to be. If there is any chance of moving him elsewhere, I would do that.

Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 10:30:31

@Haffdonga - yes, DS just seems to make noises at nursery to make the situation go away. When he is happy and at home or with the Nanny and relaxes he can talk. He is even quite funny. DS made a cake with the Nanny yesterday (he loves doing that) and when DH asked whether he could have a second piece this morning he said "no, daddy, your tummy is full, you had enough". Made perfect sense.

@simonettavespucci I think he is fine but I am his mother and not objective. He is playful and can be cheeky, i.e. wants to jump into puddles and run to greet a dog, etc.

In Nursery he just withdraws completely and seems to sit on the toilet for ages. I asked him about it, since the Nursery teacher gave this as an example of him having "issues". He told me he was "hiding" from the teacher and said "Mrs XY is a nasty lady".

The teacher is an expert though and I am not.

Micah Thu 11-Feb-16 10:32:38

The bilingualism wont harm him! It may appear to slow him down at first, because he's learning twice as much.

We live in an area where id say 70% have english as a second language. Some even start school with no english. By the end of infants they are all totally fluent in both languages.

Honestly, a second language is such a gift. Please dont stop it!

lougle Thu 11-Feb-16 10:32:52

DD3 used to cry and ask me not to send her back to preschool. When I told one of the teachers, she said her DD used to vomit and I should just toughen up and make her come. She never set foot in the place again. We found a new preschool that was willing to work with her separation anxieties and build to independence slowly.

Gowgirl Thu 11-Feb-16 10:33:06

You ARE an expert in your little boy, personally I would trust your instinct and your nanny more than the nursery thanks

BertPuttocks Thu 11-Feb-16 10:35:38

Your DS sounds like a lovely little boy.

It's the nursery that has something very wrong with it.

Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 10:36:12

@simonettavespucci local private Catholic nursery - no international context.

cuntinghomicidalcardigan Thu 11-Feb-16 10:36:38

I would take him out of that nursery immediately. They are failing him. Bilingualism is a gift that will benefit him in later life, if he is not in an environment who are equipped to support him then you need to find somewhere that will. This makes me sad to read it. At 3 1/2 he may just be anxious in a school environment. If he is happy and communicates well at home then that is the real him.

It is not unusual for bilingual children to be slightly behind there peers in language at his age, it sounds like he is learning and developing at home with you and his nanny and will catch up eventually.

I would remove him from the nursery right now and look at different options.

CocktailQueen Thu 11-Feb-16 10:41:03

He told me he was "hiding" from the teacher and said "Mrs XY is a nasty lady".

This would be enough to have me thinking about taking him out, and the rest of your post caps it - I'd be removing him straight away. Sounds like the nursery is far too strict and has unrealistic expectations of the children. Sounds like your ds is scared of the nursery teacher - they should be friendly and cuddly at this level, not scary!

Chislemum Thu 11-Feb-16 10:41:30

PS we are not Catholic but the school has an outstanding rating and is very close to where we live.

I just don't want to be the mother that can't accept criticism of her child. It just seems that 3.5 years is a little early to throw him on the "scrap heap", if you know what I mean.

Maybe I will speak to the language knowing teacher to get more of a feel.

Thanks all!!

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