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Social skills of a 3yr old- is this 'normal'?

(32 Posts)
tigermeow Tue 01-Jul-08 22:04:08

DD (3y3m) has always been a quite shy. At home she is very very verbal (at 2y10m she was assessed as having the speech of a 6.5yr old) but when out in public she refuses to speak to anyone. If she is talking with DH and I when out and about she uses one word sentences or speaks so quietly we cant hear her. At home she is LOUD and seems to breath through her ears! She was refered to the Speech Therapist for some phonological delay...she came back within the normal range.

At nursery, she goes 3 mornings a week and has done for 6 months, she will not speak with her teachers except in 1 or 2 word sentences. We took the Speech Therapy report to school to show she can speak...they didn't think she could sad. If her friends say 'hi' to her she just looks at the ground. If other parents speak to her then she again looks at the ground. There are only 8 kids in her class (we chose the nursery because of small classes...too many kids overwhelm her). She chats the whole way to and from nursery about her friends and how much she loves school, yet as soon as we get there she goes in on herself and refuses to speak. If she is asked a question by anyone she just looks at the ground. She is quite bright so even if she asked for a word beginning with 't' she will not answer even though she knows many answers. The class has a 'special helper' and the other day it was her turn. She was so excited about this going to school, yet when she got there there was no emotion from her at all, she just stood there silent. At playdates she is beginning to open up, but very slowly.

We sent her to nursery to get a bit of social exposure and confidence. I am very gentle with her and don't rush her, but I now feel something isn't right. Any tips?

Is this normal 3yr old behaviour? Am I worrying over nothing or should I be concerned. Many many thanks.

liger Tue 01-Jul-08 22:29:35

Hi tigermeow

I'm not sure if this will help, but I didn't want to see your post unanswered. I have a ds the same age. and when he was younger he was quite shy, and still can be now at times but overall things have changed alot. Both dh and I were shy children, so we emphasised that is was perfectly ok to be shy and didn't make a big deal of it. Ds was then able to say 'I'm shy' when he wasn't comfortable, and we would just reassure him that that was fine and that everyone feels shy sometimes. a year or so on he is a much more confident little boy, and is able to express how he feels in situations, and we respect what he tells us.

Its not quite the same as your dd, and I can understand why you would be worried, but she is probably very socially savvy and that perhaps makes it overwhelming at her young age. Could you maybe ask the nursery not to make a big deal of her shyness? what sort of reactions does she get from people when she goes shy?

cory Tue 01-Jul-08 22:32:01

I was like this for quite a while. Got better when I started school. Am not at all shy or antisocial as an adult.

Acinonyx Wed 02-Jul-08 07:43:25

My dd (3) is like this and I agonise over it and I know I shouldn't as that doesn't help. I sometimes just don't know what to do for the best wrt playdates etc. Yet she seems enthusiastic to see friends even though she only really plays with one at a time and heaven forbid there should be anyone new. When she was at nursery should would only talk one-on-one and not answer questions. I think what pains me most is seeing her looking lost while a friend is able to play with other children and she can't join in. I've just taken her out of nursery to a CM which she likes much better.

I think perhpas we have children at one end of the normal range but not actually outside that range. I think it's too early to know how they will grow up and I'm hoping it will lessen as she gets older and goes to school. She is a completely different child at home with us though.

twentypence Wed 02-Jul-08 07:51:44

Does she join in songs?

AtheneNoctua Wed 02-Jul-08 08:04:32

Your DD sounds like an extremely gifted child. Do you think that part of this might be that she has no doubt noticed that other children don't speak like she does and so when she goes to nursery she comes down to their level (only she has gone down a bit too far).

I wonder if she would do better at a childminder who has a wider range of children in terms of ages and also has fewer children so possibly less overwhelming for her. Although, of course, I realise you might not want to pull her out of nursery as the change might not be well received by her -- since she says she likes it.

Maybe you could record your conversation with her after nursery and play it back to the nursery so they know what she is capable of?

SummatAnNowt Wed 02-Jul-08 09:17:20

selective mutism

I read someone's blog whose child has just been diagnosed with this, although she's 5 or 6.

Acinonyx Wed 02-Jul-08 10:23:27

Interesting link. Dd has definitley improved since changing to the CM. People used to constantly ask me if she could talk at all which was very frustrating. She really likes her CM and chats to her pretty much as she does at home which is such a relief. But she still shuts down in other situations.

tiger - it's hard to know if you should stick with nursery or not if your dd says she really likes school. If she's beginning to open up on playdates, then it can't be making her worse. I find dd really opens up when on a playdate with just one other child - but that can be hard to arrange when you are part of a group of mums.

devilsavacado Wed 02-Jul-08 11:04:50

tigermeow-my DS is 6 and has selective mutism.
He also has a phonological speech delay which was dx at age 3.
His speech has come on leaps and bounds since then although we did a lot of work at home as he was'nt speaking in the speech therapists sessions.

My DS is also loud at home and will speak when out but if he sees anyone from school he will go quite.

My DS chats away on the way to school but as soon as we enter the school grounds he goes silent and his expression goes blank.

It may just be she has a shy temprement as I have a DD who is 5 and she is still very shy at school but does display emotion and will sing but does'nt talk much.
Although she is totally different to DS and therefore feel she does not have selective mutism.

You are right in not pushing her and also the nursery helpers should not force her to speak and maybe use hand gestures to start with to communicate.

When my DS was in reception he had an educational psychologist sit in the classroom to assess him obviously without DS knowing as if he was there to help out.
It might be an idea to put your mind at rest and see what they think.

My DS is very bright and I don't know about your DD but my DS is a perfectionist and hates to get things wrong.
So we feel because of his speech problems and wanting to sound things correctly he would say nothing for fear of getting it wrong.

Does your DD talk to realtives ,friends when they visit the home?

If there is anything else you would like to ask me feel freesmile

It may be your DD is just finding the transistion to school difficult .

Hope you find some answers

tigermeow Wed 02-Jul-08 15:02:54

Thank you all.
Devilsavacado- my DD seems to resemble your DS in some areas- the blank expression, the silence and the perfectionism. We always model 'not being perfect' to her but it doesn't make a difference. She will talk to relatives that she likes blush and she will interact a bit on playdates i.e. she will say yes and no when prompted. I've met other shy children but DD does seem different with her shyness. The head of Infants has seen her and dismissed Selective Mutism as she does answer on the odd occasion. Reading more into SM, it does seem to fit her.

Twentypence- no she doesn't join in songs. She wont sing nursery ryhmes at all (perfection again, she wont do something unless it has meaning for her). She does make up her own songs all the time though.

Athena- I'm not sure she notices the difference with her speech or 'tones' her speech down. She used to whitter on to her one close friend about coral reefs and then suddenly stopped when the conversation became one way. I know she gets sad when the others don't understand her imaginary worlds. She is quite oblivious to other children's abilities, e.g. she has a reading age of 11yrs+ (bit mindbloggling really) but just assumes the other children can read like she can.

Today I picked her up from nursery and she was happily playing with some of the Reception class kids...playing, but not talking at all.

Thank you for the weblink too. This has been really helpful. We are not a loud, outgoing family and shyness runs in the family...maybe we all need to get a bit louder! I will talk to her teacher after the summer holidays- I plan on arranging playdates with the children she really likes over the summer.

Acinonyx Wed 02-Jul-08 15:44:41

All very interesting. I have been a bit concerned about dd's perfectionism but had never connected the two things. I am trying to encourage her to 'try' things and to explain that mummy had to learn to do things when she was a little girl etc. She does get distressed when she can't do something perfectly even though she is actually quite precocious in most areas. Glad you posted about this tiger - gives me some new ideas to help dd.

tigermeow Wed 02-Jul-08 17:06:49

OK, now I am getting very worried. We have been at her friend's house for the last 1.5hours- they have known each other a year. I made a point of not chatting to the other mum and paying attention to how DD interacted with her friend. I counted 10 words that DD spoke in 1.5hours. As we left their house I got 10 words a second about what a nice time she'd had and what she'd done.
I think a trip to the HV is in order. People have always commented that it wouldn't surprise them if she was high functioning ASD. Thank you all for your great replies, it is appreciated.

AtheneNoctua Wed 02-Jul-08 17:27:56

Did you say your 3 year old has the reading level of an 11 year old?!?!


And here I am thinking it's cool that my 3 year old knows the upper and lower case alphabet. hmm

tigermeow Wed 02-Jul-08 18:01:49

She can decode (read words) at that level, but doesn't comprehend the harder ones. Her comprehension is around the 7/8yr level. I'll add that I have never taught her, she started at 18months asking us to teach her and it went from there. We just buy her books and take her to the library whenever she asks.
Wow to your 3yr old knowing upper and lower case letters- that is excellent...and cool!
DD is very academic (self taught, highly motivated), loves to learn yet has very mismatched social skills. The more I read about SM, the more it fits her....that or ASD.

AtheneNoctua Wed 02-Jul-08 18:26:51

I think I'm going to call him "thickie" from now on. blush

tigermeow Wed 02-Jul-08 18:43:09

He is hardly 'thickie'...more like a clever little chappy! I don't know any 3yr olds that know upper and lower case...bright little boy!

Acinonyx Wed 02-Jul-08 19:35:59

tiger - she's probably 'just' gifted. If she's playing and interacting but just not talking much - both high functioning ASD and SM (can be confused with just being plain old gifted.

My dd is less fantastically advanced. She knows upper and lower case and started reading 3-letter words a yr ago - but got very distressed because she couldn't read ALL the words. So I am very careful not to try teaching her as I know if she doesn't get it immediately she will have a hissy fit. We have this perfectionism with quite a few things. She was very precocious with drawing - then suddenly at 2 she started getting distressed because she couldn't draw things (not simplethings) perfectly. We are slowly getting her to draw again and accept that it will be more perfect 'when she's bigger'.

devilsavacado Wed 02-Jul-08 23:31:57

Tigermeow-That is very interesting.
My DS was assessed with various tests when he was 5 and came out as appropriate to age 8-9.

They thought initially that my DS had dyspraxia or aspergers but on reading up on them they just did'nt fit.

My DS does respond to certain adults who gage his interest in the things he is interested in.
I think he finds it more difficult with other children as they are more likely to ask questions as to why he does'nt talk and of course that makes him anxious.

My DS makes up his own songs and is very creative.
Like your DD he is very motivated and often plays schoolsand loves goingto the library where he also chooses information books.

In fact he says he wants to be a teacher when he grows up.

twentypence Thu 03-Jul-08 01:33:20

I've taught a child who would not speak and I sang any questions I had and she had great fun both finishing the musical phrase and thinking of a way to make the reply rhyme. Getting a normal - I ask a question and you reply type dialogue going was very important.

It also could be that she has the normal social skills of a three year old, but because her other skills are so very advanced it looks far worse to you.

When ds leaves school all the 10 year olds say goodbye to him by name. When I asked him how he knows so many older children (he is 5) he says that he plays with them at lunchtime because he likes learning their maths and reading. They do treat him a little as a pet, but he seems to enjoy it. He didn't go as well at Kindy especially toward the end when he was the oldest, one thing the teachers have done is always let him read the story to the others or lead the singing.

Maybe the nursery could put on a taped story and let her show a couple of others the words by pointing with her finger as they go by. No compulsion to speak but she gets to be a leader, and use her talents.

colditz Thu 03-Jul-08 03:04:37

Forgive me for being brutal, but I cannot see for a second why a conclusion of "extremely gifted" has been drawn from the OP about a very shy little girl. She may well be gifted, but she may also be entirely normal and nothing in the OP pointed to giftedness IMHO.

Keep gently coaxing her with one to one playdates - some children find crowds overwhelming.

I am not saying for a second she isn't gifted - just that you have given me no reason to suspect that she is and the last thing a 3 year old needs is yet another label on her back.

jabberwocky Thu 03-Jul-08 03:19:12

tiger, I see that selective mutism has been mentioned and I agree you should explore that further. I also noted the reading level and gifted discussion. If this is the case that may also be part of what is going on. gifted children can also be (and frequently are) "twice exceptional" meaning that highly or profoundly gifted children can be really quirky. My own ds1 is like this. He has sensory processing disorder which is at the extreme end of being a Highly Sensitive Child. I use caps because this is an actual term used for certain children and your dd my certainly fall into that category.

You are right to be concerned and I hope some of this may point you in a helpful direction

AtheneNoctua Thu 03-Jul-08 08:18:30

Colditz, the gifted comments come from a 3 year old who has the reading ability of an 11 year old.

devilsavacado Thu 03-Jul-08 09:53:24

Colditz makes a good point about her maybe finding crowds overwhealming.

DS also has sensory issues and has always had issues with fireworks or loud noises.
Also having his hair or nails cut.

Playdates at home are a good starting point as colditz says.
I found with DS choosing a friend from school who gets on well with may be the key.
DS would speak the odd word at home in a relaxed enviroment whilst his friend was visiting.
It's a relaxed enviroment that is important and working on that and building that up to maybe transfer into school.

Also as AtheneNoctua suggested taping her voice reading a story and geting her to listen to it to get used to the sound of her voice.

As my DS does not talk in school his reading is assessed by him writing down his interprutation of the story.

I do twice weekly sliding in sessions with DS which involves me going into school in a room away from his classroom and reading or playing games in a relaxed manner to get him used to talking in schol.

Could you help out in the nursery with your DD casually with no pressure on getting her to talk but just play games with her until she feels ready to talk?

devilsavacado Thu 03-Jul-08 09:59:30

Also meant to say as far as the "gifted child" comments go I would say that's quite a lot of pressure on a 3 year old and the my main concern would be in helping your DD to feel more confident about school and relaxed about talking in school.

The rest will follow.

We had the oppisite problem.

We found that sometimes people think because my DS does not talk in school that equals that he was not too bright.
Teachers would give him work below his age approriate level which was just too easy.
they also wanted him to repaet reception which I fought to get changed.

It was just about finding another way to communicate and assess him and he is know up to age approriate level in all his subjects.

Acinonyx Thu 03-Jul-08 10:09:08

Oh oh - the g-word police are about.

A comment is not pressure. A reading age 4 yrs or more above the mean is one of the criteria that can be used to assess gifted children. Personally I would be as concerned at the misuse of 'high functioning ASD or Aspergers'.

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