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Panicking about 3 year old having learning disability

(35 Posts)
EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 09:04:09

My DD will be 3 years old in a few weeks, but she hasn’t really developed past 2. She was always a very vacant baby and toddler, very withdrawn and extremely sensitive to random things. This has got a bit better but she still doesn’t act like other kids.

She was way way behind on all her milestones, only learning to talk after 2 years old. 12 months later and it’s still near impossible to decipher what she’s saying most of the time. She also repeats nearly everything she says eg ‘Mummy, what you doing Mummy, what you doing?’ She spends most of her days whimpering, whinging, or crying. When I ask her what’s wrong, she says ‘Don’t know’. She will also religiously cry when she thinks it’s beftime, when I’m washing/brushing her hair, or when I’m brushing her teeth. (When I say cry, I mean totally lose it). She decides each week that she’s all of a sudden terrified of certain toys - this week she freaked out when she saw the Elmo toy that’s been sitting above her bed for the past year!

My biggest concern, however, is that she has no coordination so always manages to hurt herself in silly ways and has zero problem solving/common sense skills. When I asked her to get her coat off a little hook, for example, she just pulled the coat downwards. When I explained how to lift the coat up and off the hook, she just tugged on the metal hook itself - she gave up in the end. Similarly, yesterday she got off the toilet and I told her to get back on it; she had no idea how to do it. I directed her to get her little step; she didn’t, and instead chose to hide behind the bathroom door. (Also be aware that after toilet training her for 4 months, she still just doesn’t get it). I have also been tying for about 4 months to get her to say please when asking for things- she hasn’t done it once and persists with ‘need X Mummy’.

My DD isn’t interested in toys either, despite having loads! Instead she wants to follow me around all day, and will choose to sit and watch me doing chores over playing with her toys. At the age of 3, this doesn’t seem normal..

Then when she is naughty, which she has really cranked up recently, she doesn’t respond to discipline. She will refuse to look at me, get upset, but then switch back to normal and act like she’s completely forgotten she’s just been told off.

Food is another source of frustration. She has always ate and slept amazingly, but she still can’t use a fork and just wolfs everything down super fast with her fingers - yep even peas, spaghetti etc.. she’s the only one out of her and her step-sister (just turned 4) who needs a bib as she makes a mess like a baby.

She was born premature and I was in an abusive relationship. He would yell at me when I was in my third trimester, so she would have heard that. Since she was a tiny baby she was terrified of men, and was really horrible to my current partner for ages. (Luckily she appears to have got over that and follows him around now)

It’s really worrying me, especially given the fact that I have a 6month old daughter with my current partner and she is super bright - rolling at 6weeks, crawling and trying to stand up at 6months, and has the mannerisms, awareness, and coordination of an adult. My stepdaughter (4) is also a really advanced child and I remember her being worlds ahead of my DD last year. My DD, however, still wants to be a baby and crawls around saying Mama. Given her father was abusive (and an absolutely moron), and my current partner is about to start his PhD, does she just not have intelligent genes..?

While I’m able to have fully intelligible conversations with my 4 year old step-daughter and she can take herself off and have imaginary play, my DD is still clinging to me and acting like a baby - grabbing at everything, from post in the mailbox, to remotes and phones, to bits of cardboard on the side. Why hasn’t she grown out of needing to grab every little thing?

I know a lot of parents like to pretend all children are born equal, but it’s fact that some babies become Nobel Prize winning physicists, and others don’t have the same capabilities.. As a parent, I already know in my heart they’re going to need very difficult schools and support to meet their different levels of potential.

I have been trying to be super patient with her, even when she’s being ridiculous for no reason, but it’s so hard. I just want her to act and talk like the rest of the kids her age, particularly before she starts primary school!

I took her to a child psychologist because everything I google about her returns with AUSTISM AUTISM AUTISM, but she said at first glance she didn’t seem to have extreme autism because her eye contact was good when communicating. (She doesn’t give me good eye contact so I’m not convinced)

I really don’t want to put my child in a category which will define them, but I can’t carry on acting like this is normal toddler behaviour. My older brother has been autistic all my life, but my mother was the only one who refused to see it - so nothing was ever done about it. After paying for him to go to LA to do a pointless internship, funding his Masters which he never used, and paying for him to travel Europe every birthday, my parents bought him a £500k London flat despite the fact he’d never had a job (at age 30). I refuse to be that kind of parent as they need to live in the real world and make their own success!

I’m tearing my head out and I just want my DD to stop acting like a baby in a 3 year olds body. I’m tired of spending my day saying ‘Stop,’ ‘Say please,’ and ‘Talk in a normal voice’. It’s been a year and she’s not learning anything I teach her! I need for her to stop whining and just be happy and have fun!

OP’s posts: |
EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 09:27:08

I forgot the part about her sticking I’m her fingers in her mouth while she’s eating snacks, and then crying when she inevitably bites her own fingers. That’s a regular one..

OP’s posts: |
cedoren Tue 07-Nov-17 10:13:10

Nothing you have said about her sounds unusual for a child who hasn't even turned 3 yet. Please don't compare her to your other children. There is a vast range of "normal" at this age, and she sounds developmentally fine to me..

It's normal to want to follow you around rather than play with toys. Her language sounds good, and speech sounds should continue to get clearer.

EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 11:52:30

Typical ‘everything is fine’ response I was expecting tbh. How can say her speech is fine when you’ve never heard her speak..

She stands out by a mile with every child in nursery and in ge playground so of course I’m comparing children. As a parent I know something is wrong, I’ve always known it with her as she’s always been miles behind her milestones

OP’s posts: |
cedoren Tue 07-Nov-17 14:34:15

I didn't say her speech was fine. Read what I said. Why ask for opinions if you want only one answer?

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Tue 07-Nov-17 15:21:03


What do nursery think? Because it might be that she is confused and unhappy and acting like a baby around you because of that.

It doesn’t sound as if you like her very much - although I am sure you love her and are doing everything you can to help - but not getting toilet trainjng and being clingy is normal at not quite 3.

And speaking as someone with a PhD - it doesn’t have all that much to do with being clever.

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Tue 07-Nov-17 15:41:13

While acting babyish is rather a clever reaction in a three year old who’s noticed attention going to a new baby.

EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 21:10:28

You only responded to one of the various issues I raised

OP’s posts: |
EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 21:12:09

The problem is she did this long before I gave birth to my daughter. I thought the same but it doesn’t explain her behaviour since she was a baby

OP’s posts: |
EHR87 Tue 07-Nov-17 21:12:47

I really wish people would actually read my post before responding sad

OP’s posts: |
Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Wed 08-Nov-17 05:37:15

I read it. She sounds very unhappy as do you. I don’t know what the internet can do to help.

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Wed 08-Nov-17 05:55:26

But you’re asking so here goes.

It sounds like you have a ton of issues from your own childhood and your parents being unfairly generous to your brother, and from the abusive relationship.

It sounds like you’re unconsciously, unwillingly taking those issues out on a scared, unhappy little kid and you’re trying to prove there is something wrong with her to explain why you feel like this.

You don’t sound like a bad person - and good work on getting out of the abusive relationship - but please consider therapy.

Pansiesandredrosesandmarigolds Wed 08-Nov-17 05:58:09

The above applies all the more if she does have a learning disability.

toastytoaster Wed 08-Nov-17 07:03:28

I’m tearing my head out and I just want my DD to stop acting like a baby in a 3 year olds body. I’m tired of spending my day saying ‘Stop,’ ‘Say please,’ and ‘Talk in a normal voice’. It’s been a year and she’s not learning anything I teach her! I need for her to stop whining and just be happy and have fun!

You sound angry with her. I think pansies has it bang on. So much of what you say sounds on the scale of normal for toddlers, obviously all put together might mean there is a delay but we can’t confirm that here. You need to keep chasing a diagnosis if you’re sure there is one.

FurryGiraffe Wed 08-Nov-17 07:03:41

Well done you for leaving an abusive relationship and putting your life together flowers But what a lot your DD1 has experienced in her little life sad

It’s impossible to tell whether your DD has a learning disability. I see the ed psych doesn’t think so. What about the GP and HV? What do nursery think?

The ‘babyish’ behaviour you describe is very common when children feel insecure and it sounds as though your DD has quite a lot to feel insecure about. She’s experienced an awful lot in her short life: she was born prematurely, she’s witnessed abuse, her parents have split up (I’m guessing no contact with her father), a new stepfather, a new step sibling, a new sister- all before 2.5! That’s a huge amount for her to cope with and I wonder whether it’s overwhelming her and she’s reacting to that.

OP, I mean this in the kindest way possible, but you sound like you’re quite hard on her? You sound as though you’re frustrated/annoyed/angered by her as much as you are worried. It also sounds as though you’re catastrophising a bit, such as over the potty training (plenty of kids aren’t trained at 3- if she hasn’t got it after 4 months, chuck the potty away and leave it for a few months) and starting school (she’s 2 years away from reception!) At the same time I think you’re possibly over-inflating your DD2: I’m sure she’s wonderful, and it is of course absolutely right that you think she’s the 7th wonder of the world, but it sounds like you’re making a lot of negative comparisons between your DDs and between your DD1 and your stepdaughter, and I don’t think that’s likely to be helpful or good for your DD1. They’re all so very different and the range of normal is huge.

EHR87 Wed 08-Nov-17 08:34:22

I went through therapy and dealt with all of my issues thanks. It’s not a crime to be concerned or annoyed with my child because of her behaviour. My own childhood is totally irrelevant.

This behaviour has been going on since she was a baby, I always knew something wasn’t right, so this isn’t because of her step-sister/baby sister. The nursery are concerned because she doesn’t interact with children, she’s been pushing children, she eats sand, she’s the only child in her group not using the toilet, and she never says please. The psychologist asked me to take videos of her odd behaviour so that’s what I’m doing. Yesterday I got a huge box of new duplo out from when I was a child; she just wanted to put it away and sit on me instead. Why would a 3 year choose to sit with their mummy doing nothing than play with a big box of toys! There are far too many various examples of strange behaviour for me to think everything is fine

OP’s posts: |
toastytoaster Wed 08-Nov-17 11:33:13

So the nursery are concerned? What have they suggested?

DoItAgainBob Wed 08-Nov-17 14:00:09

I think you are being unrealistic about how three year olds. My almost six year old rarely plays with toys if he does it's either with a friend or for five minutes here and there. We have a house full of toys that don't really get played with, he wants to spend time with me or his friends. All his friends are the same.

I also spend a lot of my day say use a normal voice. Frustrating but normal. Once his sister arrived last year he decided he wanted to be a baby and started crawling around the floor, wanting to be fed etc. The adjustment is very hard for them, again all normal.

Do you have friends with similar age children you hang out with? I found this really helpful to discuss various stages and development and any frustrations I had. I discovered they are pretty much all doing what I was worried about.

If you are really do have concerns, ask your Health visitor to do a 3.5 year review. Did she have 2 year development review? What was the outcome?

EHR87 Thu 09-Nov-17 10:09:05

Yeah I agree that the health visitor is probably a good point of contact. Last time I saw her she told me to keep an eye out because of her development was falling really far behind. My concern isn’t that she has these quirky traits, it’s that they massively outweigh her ‘normal’ moments if you know what I mean

OP’s posts: |
EHR87 Thu 09-Nov-17 10:10:19

They just said they’ll keep an eye and work on her but I don’t see any change in her development or behaviour. The care staff are amazing, but the manager is useless - I’ve still not had a settling in report even though she’s been there 4 months

OP’s posts: |
DoItAgainBob Thu 09-Nov-17 10:59:26

Ok, if the HV said she's falling behind in her 2 year check, they need to tell you in what areas, what you can do to support her development, then review it to see if they are working.

You're clearly worried, so I would contact them again and ask for advise. They have a responsibility to monitor and support, so that would be my first step. If she's significantly behind, they need to put a plan in place - speech and language support etc.

Do you have a Chatter time group near you? Most areas have a drop in speech and language session. That would be a good starting point. If the SALT have concerns, they will do a referral for further assessment.

Kleinzeit Thu 09-Nov-17 13:22:38

That sounds really stressful! I'm not an expert and I honestly don't know if your DD has a problem or not but if the nursery are concerned then yes the HV could be a good support. In the meantime there are some things you could try which might make life easier for you and help your DD.

You really don't need to correct her for talking baby talk. It's OK to just respond as if she said it normally. If she asks for a drink in baby talk you can just repeat back in a normal voice "You'd like a drink? Would you like orange or Ribena? Ribena? Here it is!" and so on. I had to do this for my own DS (who has a diagnosed communication delay) - he didn't talk baby talk but he used to shriek and was rude and I had to respond to what he was trying to say and not the (horrible) way he was saying it. In time he did start to ask more nicely. Keep saying please and thank you when you ask her to do things and you don' t have to insist she says them yet - say "please" while you get things for her and when you give her something if you say "thank you!" warmly she may start to join in. If she wants to follow you around and be clingy then let her for the time being, because that may make her feel safer and more loved and will build her confidence for later. A big box of duplo might seem overwhelming to her, maybe she will play with the duplo if you just show her a couple of pieces while she is on your lap?

Caring for two "babies" at the same time is hard on you but (whatever the reason may be) it does sound as if she still needs to be babied for a while before she can move on.

Kleinzeit Thu 09-Nov-17 13:52:27

my current partner is about to start his PhD, does she just not have intelligent genes..?

And by the way my DS had a delay and is very intelligent. He's enjoying university now and might do a PhD later. smile So try not to panic!

Your DD is still very young. She has a lot of growing still to do and it really doesn't all have to be fixed up by the time she starts school. If she has a development delay or a learning disability then there is a lot of time to help her both pre-school and during school.

I refuse to be that kind of parent as they need to live in the real world and make their own success!

Success can't be forced though. It's not all or nothing - it's a pity your brother didn't get more help when he was younger but if he has autism then he might always have needed more support than most throughout his life.

It's not possible at this age to know what your DD's abilities will be in future, but whatever they are with your help she will have a bright happy future ahead.

Mamabear4180 Mon 13-Nov-17 23:27:04

I'm amazed at these responses! Sounds like autism to me! very much so. Find a new paediatrician and get a 2nd opinion. Eye contact is not a deciding factor so he/she sounds very dismissive.

Hallloumi Tue 14-Nov-17 15:26:35

It does sound a though you have concerns in a number of areas which added together may mean she does have ASD or a learning disability/developmental delay. Most of your concerns individually wouldn't be a concern though. ASD(Autism) is a possibility. Though against that is the desire for time with you (not just the eye contact) but it's a complex 'spectrum.' Whether or not she does end up fitting into it reading about parenting children with special needs may be helpful to you.

If you want to explore an ASD diagnosis further then you can probably ask your GP to refer. It works differently in different areas but in my area GPs, schools, and others can all refer into the autism assessment service. There is then a lengthy wait for assessment so if you are concerned it can be better to get that ball rolling. Ideally you'd have discussed with the nursery and health visitor before seeing your GP. Nurseries usually refer to SALT if they have concerns so worth speaking to them about that though again unclear speech at 3 is very common.

Aside from exploring diagnosis I would suggest focusing on some of the day to day things that are upsetting you both. So probably stop trying to toilet train for a while and attempt to find ways to reduce teethbrushing, bathing and mealtime stress so you can all be happier. I'm sure if you post about these aspects you'll get advice including from parents for children with ASD who often have difficulties in these areas.
Your library may have some good books- mine has one called parenting the anxious child which I think is fairly sensible.

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