Does anyone have any experience of asynchronous development?(15 Posts)
I've re-posted in this section as I'd previously popped it into the behaviour and development forum and someone kindly suggested I might get a better response here so please excuse my posting this twice...
My DS is 7.5 but has been formally assessed by his school as having asynchronous development with the mental age of an 11 year old. Whilst his emotional age has not been assessed I would estimate it as being a good 1.5 years behind his chronological age. Most of the time he handles this well and his school are amazingly supportive and are unfazed by his swinging between behaving in a very surprisingly adult manner one minute but then occasional getting very overexcited by a situation in an almost toddlerish manner or dissolving into tears (he doesn't have tantrums but he becomes very upset by things like death, others being upset or injured or picked on etc.. and will worry himself silly about it to the point of losing sleep).
His classmates are starting to notice that he can become very childish at times as they themselves become more emotionally mature (he still sucks his thumb for example) and there have been comments about him being a baby and "odd". As I say the school are being brilliant about it and I have full confidence in their ability to handle any issues but this is a very small rural school and my concern is now turning to what will happen when he moves on to senior school. He's got four years yet I know but has anyone else had a child go through this uneven development and if so at what point did you start to see things balance out?
I think asynchronous development is inevitable to some extent with very bright children. They may be capable of reasoning like much older children, but they are still physically and emotionally their calendar age.
There's also the question of how you define emotional immaturity - your son sounds quite mature in some respects (empathy) but a bit less mature when it comes to regulating his emotions. Is he amongst the younger children in his class?
You don't really know at this point how your son will develop in the next four years. DD was also quite immature at your son's age despite having the reasoning ability of a teenager in some areas. She was different from your son in the sense that she was socially quite mature (despite being the youngest in her class) but she had the impulse control and concentration of a younger child. Gradually it all evened out and she left primary school at least as "mature" as the other girls (and at secondary school she is noticeably more mature than most).
With my DS the uneven development was less noticeable as he has always seemed quite mature for his age (very serious and sensible child), except when it comes to controlling his emotions - even now (Y8) he does occasionally cry, discreetly, if something really upsets him. I think it's just a long learning process and some children are just more sensitive than others. Fortunately it doesn't seem to have affected him socially, so far.
Thank you for your reply Mistigri, that's really interesting to hear how your two DCs were. DS is an October baby so is one of the older ones in his class. Your point about different types of emotional maturity is interesting and I hadn't really thought about it like that.
Certainly in terms of empathy he quite forward and whilst he is viewed by adults as being a thoughtful and caring child it can also create big problems for him ironically because he over-thinks everything and will spend so much time going through different scenarios and outcomes of situations and decisions in his head that he ends up an emotional wreck because he doesn't yet have the ability to rationalise those thoughts. Just as an example, the class went on a walk to the church next to the school a few weeks ago. They had a lovely time and walked around the graveyard with the vicar which was okay until they looked at the grave of a four year old girl. Most of the class were of course saying that it was sad that someone so young had died and then they moved on to another part of the church and forgot all about it. My DS was utterly devastated. He got himself into a spiral of trying to find out how she had died, how that must have affected her family etc... His teacher managed to calm him by promising to go and put some flowers on the grave and DS went out into the playing field at lunch and the yr 6 girls helped him to pick some weeds and he wrote a little message but his classmates just ribbed him for being a baby because he was so upset and in tears about it and then spent most of the afternoon with his thumb in his mouth. As this is the hand he writes with that then prevented him doing any work.
He says he has no friends in his class but genuinely doesn't actually seem bothered by that. During break time he will go and spend his time with the yr 5 and 6 children where he is much happier and fortunately they are also very happy to have him there but I suppose that makes sense if mentally he is closer in age to them than he is his peers? We tried to see if he might make friends of his own age through his local Beavers group and whilst he loved being there, he again was only interested in interacting with the scout helpers and the adults so eventually stopped going because he preferred to help make the squash and set out the activities rather than take part in them himself.
I am really hoping that eventually things will balance out a bit and he'll want to make friends within his own peer group as once he reached senior school age and finds himself in a big school where the teachers won't have the time to engage with him in the way they do currently and the yr 10's certainly won't want a yr 7 boy trailing around with them he may find things very hard indeed.
It would only be a problem if his understanding of the world were unaccompanied by empathy. Those aspects don't seem asynchronous at all. During times when his senses are overloaded, he'll need safety. His sensitivity will prevent him from wrecking the place, but without hugs and similar havens, perhaps you can work out something with him other than the thumb? Even at the other end of a life, there will be many things that move those who see and feel clearer.
Be grateful that he finds company with the older children and adults now, it will not always be so. However, he'll learn quite quickly to behave as you may wish, mainly because the world will teach him that.
If you were him, would you like to be 'normal'? Would you like your family to cherish and encourage you as you are, or help you become 'normal'? We were fortunate to have several children, so perhaps they are comfortable being 'odd' together, and not having to explain their oddities. They have a few friends they'll probably keep all their lives, and many peers they could hang out with, but hardly ever do. Interestingly they developed a handy currency of being able to enter and resolve tribal issues within and across different 'friendship groups' as teenagers. Despite, or possibly, because they belong to none, but are welcome at all. I can only imagine it took a lot of standing their ground, but at no point have mine ever said they wished they were other than they are.
I think like Maryso says it's important to accept your DS for how he is, and celebrate his strong points. My DS was not a sociable child when he was little - he had one close friend (who moved to the other end of france - although they are still in touch) and even with this boy there were obvious "differences" - I recall when they were aged 6 or 7 hearing DS explaining to his utterly bemused friend why Venus is hotter than Mercury
DS's social skills have improved though and he now has a small but close friendship group at school. They have enough similar interests (scooters, skateboards and minecraft) for the differences not to matter. He tends to make friends with the calmer, more sensible kids which is great.
One piece of advice is to stick with out of school activities that challenge your DS a bit and give him the opportunity to develop his physical and social skills. It doesn't have to be scouts. My DS does BMX racing, which is perfect for him because it's not an actual team sport (he gets very frustrated by team members who don't pull their weight) but there is a strong team spirit. He also has a trainer who's great at teaching children to always do their best but to accept failure with a smile
Thanks Maryso, everything you say makes sense and currently he is very fortunate to have safe places at school (and of course always at home) and will often take himself off to the head's office for a chat or if really overwhelmed curl up in the book corner and read for a bit. He is very cuddly and until recently gained great comfort from sneaking the occasional hug from his favourite teachers but is now finding that harder because of the ribbing he gets from his peers when he does. I certainly don't consider him to be abnormal, on the contrary, I feel so privileged to have such a lovely, caring young man in my life but I wish I could somehow protect him from getting so upset when his classmates tell him he's not normal and I do wish that he found it easier to find comfort among his own age group for his sake not mine.
He is an only child and unfortunately that isn't going to change as I was diagnosed with a heart condition shortly after his birth so am unable to have any more. He has cousins who he gets on well with but the youngest of them is 12.
At home his thumb sucking has been almost entirely replaced with singing and he will sing or whistle almost constantly but of course that is not appropriate in the classroom environment. You make a very good point about helping him learn to stand his ground too as at the moment he's so worried about hurting someone elses feelings that he'll allow himself to be walked all over. I just wish I knew how to make him believe that saying no occasionally doesn't in his words "make him a bad person" as despite our best efforts he doesn't believe DH or myself when we tell him this.
Your DS sounds amazing! My DS is 15 and still quite labile emotionally. He is a very caring loving boy but has no control of tears or anxiety. He has a large friendship group of boys and girls who all apparently adore him and seem to accept him and even protect him. Perhaps he is just very lucky but it looks to me like his friends have matured in secondary school as I seem to remember him getting some ribbing in primary.
Thumb sucking technique to stop, tell him to try putting his thumb under his chin and index finger alongside his nose. Sounds strange but has most of the comforting effect, and his hand will be freer and he will find he needs it there less.
Some children find their peers pretty dull. Have you thought if involving him in activities where there is a mix if ages ? Helping round a stables, volunteering round animals, a little later bell ringing, St. John ambulance etc junior Red Cross, a choir or orchestra, where you don't have to talk or play with your peers but you still get companionship, all good things.
Also karate was great. Calm disciplined environment.
Thank you everyone for such lovely, helpful replies. I'm definitely going to suggest to my DS that he try the thumb under the chin technique Ancientbuchanan, that's a really good idea!
Waily, thank you that is really reassuring.
We're going to persevere with helping him to find an out of school group as several of you have suggested. In fact he has very recently joined an orchestra (he plays the cello). He's only been once so far but he had a wonderful time so fingers crossed it will be something where he can really find his feet. He does love his animals, we live on a small holding so he's surrounded by all sorts from chickens to a small pony and he likes to go and sing to them. Last night they got a medley of Tom Petty, Ed Sheeran and Abba whilst he was out helping me top up the water buckets !
What about one of those stress-reducing fiddle toys, or "worry putty", or something else he can do with his hands instead of putting his thumb in his mouth?
My dd was never a thumb sucker, she just chewed EVERYTHING. Pencils, pens, books, rulers. Her nails if nothing else available. She's finally outgrown it ...at 14!
Thanks Mistigri, the school have tried a few things to keep his hands busy in class as that is where the thumb sucking most often occurs but things like worry putty just caused the teacher problems with everyone else wanting to play with it. Hopefully, because he does suck the thumb on the hand he writes with the habit will naturally reduce as he has to use it more for school work. He does chew things a lot too, he's never chewed his nails though but as you say, pens, pencils the arm of his glasses, buttons and zips on his school uniform all get destroyed too.
My friend's son had a very similar problem and she found some kind of necklace on eBay that he could chew and chew, which did reduce the wear on everything else.
Thanks Samsonagonistes, I did look at something made of amber a couple of years ago. It was marketed as a teething necklace and recommended to me by a friend but the school won't allow any sort of jewellery for safety reasons so I didn't try it in the end in case he did get attached to it and then got upset without it.
Red, regret to say that the thumb sucking substitute was invented by me for me.. It got me less teasing as it just looks as though you have your head in your hands, as long as you don't tell . And I used to suck the cuffs of my jerseys and also the necks...
I think the thing to do is find activities where in effect there is parallel play, or duty, not where they have too much free time or yucky team choosing. So home animals are great, but joining in mucking out with others supervised outside home is ideal. Ditto orchestra, where musical merit is key.
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