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Toddler scared of disabled child at nursery :(

(13 Posts)
Scaredtoddler Tue 23-Aug-16 12:26:57

My 2 yo DD just started going to nursery and all was well. We got lots of praise for how confident she was and she really seemed to enjoy it. Yesterday when I dropped her off we met a disabled girl who also goes to this nursery for the first time (had been off ill for a while). She was then asleep in an adapted pushchair and my DD just commented that the baby was asleep. When I picked DD up I was told that she had been near enough hysterical when the girl with the disability cried.

This morning I briefly spoke to the person who works 1 to 1 with the girl about my DDs reaction and she told me that it is fairly normal for young children to be scared when they meet someone who is a bit different, so I felt a bit better about it. However, when I came to pick DD up, her key worker took me aside and told me the same thing happened again, but this time the disabled girl hadn't even cried. They had to take my DD out of the room. The key worker pointed out that none of the other children were scared in a way that implied there was something abnormal about my DDs reaction.

I wouldn't say my DD is an overly sensitive child. She has gone through stages of being scared of the hoover, but nothing extreme. She can handle a loud soft play session without problems, but has sometimes looked a bit anxious when other children have fallen over and cried, but I thought this was normal.

The girl at nursery (please correct me if I use any inappropriate terms!) can't walk, has general muscle weakness, limited hearing and is non-verbal. She is also tube-fed, which I think she was when my DD first got scared as it was during lunch. I was told she tends to cry quite a lot. Just providing some context as to what might have scared my DD.

I really feel like I could do with some advice. How abnormal is my DDs behaviour? How should I talk to her about people with disabilities? Any book/telly recommendations? And what should the nursery be doing to help my DD get over her fear. I really hope that she gets through this learning that people can be different and that there is nothing dangerous about it.

Lj8893 Tue 23-Aug-16 12:33:38

I really have no advice but can imagine how awful you feel about this situation. Does she ever watch Mr Tumble? Might be worth a watch for her maybe?

wizzywig Tue 23-Aug-16 12:35:53

My son who has additional needs is a bit scared of a boy in his class who is/has downs syndrome. Im embarrassed by it but im not going to make it a big deal about it.

NeedACleverNN Tue 23-Aug-16 12:36:10

Does she understand you talking a lot?

Could you not say that the child is just like you but needs a little bit of help?

Lurkedforever1 Tue 23-Aug-16 12:44:31

Do you think it's possible it's more about being scared for her, rather than of her?

My dd was slightly older and therefore able to explain, but I remember her being disturbed by a photo of a friends baby in the scu, full of tubes but alert, and of a toddler with oxygen tubes at a museum, a child in leg braces etc. And on each occasion it was because she thought they were being hurt/ in pain. Once explained she was fine with it.

Given your dd gets upset by others falling over, it's possible she is upset by what she perceives to be a child who is hurt/ in pain.

idontevencare Tue 23-Aug-16 12:48:17

Has she had any experience in a hospital before? My daughter has spent a lot of time in hospitals and is very wary of hospitals as a whole. When her sister was born recently she wouldn't come near me when I was in a wheelchair, didn't like the cannula in my hand and wouldn't touch or go near her sister when she was in the incubator and had a feeding tube. Since she's been home and had no medical equipment she's been absolutely fine with her. Could it be anything like that?

Scaredtoddler Tue 23-Aug-16 12:49:55

Lj Thanks! Have been a bit paranoid about toddlers and screen time, but we managed to find an episode featuring a child in the same kind of adapted pushchair, so will watch and discuss.

wizzy a bit scared would be one thing, but obviously it will be a huge problem if they can't be in the same room sad

Need yes, she does understand everything I say and Google suggested the same as you so will say that.

Personally I don't think it's too weird that my DD is scared. From a toddler's point of view: here is someone who looks like me, but behaves completely differently. She cries, but no one can tell me why and how we can make her happy again. We are meant to eat together, but that's not how you eat!

So I wasn't too concerned until speaking to the key worker today.

Scaredtoddler Tue 23-Aug-16 13:06:22

Lurked yes, definitely a possibility. I think I was a bit like that as a child. Just a bit difficult to know exactly where DD is in her emotional development. She generally uses two word sentences, but hasn't entered the "question everything" phase yet. She is 24 months so still quite young.

idont No, last time we visited a hospital was when she was born. No serious illness in family members either. But recently DH got some nasty looking wounds from badly fitting work shoes and complained about it hurting and since then DD has been pointing at her own feet saying: "bad shoes! Ouch!". Perhaps she doesn't yet understand that feelings are not shared? So she thinks that if daddy's feet hurt, hers must as well and if this girl is sad, then she must be sad as well?

insancerre Tue 23-Aug-16 13:14:22

Is she perhaps scared of the wheelchair, rather than the child?
In my experiuence, children are generally very accepting of other children's differences
I do know children, however who are scared of people in costumes and Santa etc

I think the way forward is to normalise the other child as much as poissible and to encourage your DD to be near her and interact with her as much as possible. A bit like aversion therapy
I'm a but shocked that the staff took your child out of the room. Seems like validating her fears

DearMrDilkington Tue 23-Aug-16 13:14:57

I think she's worried the other little girl is hurt as well. Have the nursery tried talking to your Dd about the other girl?

SpecialAgentFreyPie Tue 23-Aug-16 13:25:30

She's worried the child is hurt and she's afraid it'll happen to her. these ae two issues, but are both resolved with you showing her examples of disabled people and explaining that the other little girl is just like her, but needs some help. Use examples that specifically relate to this girls disability, for example if she cannot move her arms, show her someone in an electric wheelchair. Steven Hawking is a good example.

I've had children fearful of DS1 for looking different, and it's very true that children accept. Without fail, it's been an issue of thinking 'DS1's face is ouch' or and thinking this 'pain' can be somehow transferred to them.

Don't make it complicated. Get some youtube vids and simply explain she needs help ad in absolutely no way will this happen t her. Emphasis the child is not in pain, even if she cries.

peaceloveandtwirlywoos Tue 23-Aug-16 13:25:46

My 20mo DS gets very upset when other children cry, even if they're not hurt and are just having a tantrum. He tends to cry himself, and I wonder if the shared feelings theory mentioned up thread might have some validity. Eg, you're sad so I'm sad. Shoes hurt daddy, so they hurt me too.

I also remember being 4ish and there being a black or Asian teacher at school (memory is hazy). I am white, and my whole family is white, and this was the first time I had encountered an adult with different coloured skin, and I remember feeling genuinely frightened, because it was different.
As a parent I would be horrified if my child had this reaction, and I think I'd feel very embarrassed (which I imagine you do as well; you don't want to hurt the feelings of the disabled child or her parents), but I suppose on a very base toddler level, things which are different are frightening, and actually it's quite understandable.

Scaredtoddler Tue 23-Aug-16 13:31:09

insancerre I don't think it was the wheelchair as it really just looks like a big pushchair with a car seat like insert and my DD wasn't scared at first. But she thinks pushchair= baby and was perhaps shocked when the "baby" woke up and sounded a bit different. The feeding tubes might have looked scary though and she also has hearing aids with nodes on her head. I wouldn't have taken DD out of the room either, but perhaps it was too upsetting for the other children?

Dear they didn't say. Just that they had distracted DD with something else and then she was happy, so perhaps not.

Trying to talk about her as much as possible, eg: "they said "Chloe" really likes dogs and so do you, don't you?".

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