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Bringing up the possibility of SN to parents in denial?

(37 Posts)
kmt180 Sat 12-Dec-15 13:55:13

I'm a pre-K teacher (students are 18 months - 3 years) looking to get some advice from parents of children with special needs, specifically ASD. How did you react when your child was diagnosed? Did anyone broach the topic with you before you were ready to face it? Were you ever in denial about your child's disability, and if so, how did you overcome that? How do you wish the topic had been brought to your attention?

I'm not a parent myself, but I'd like to think that if I were, I would be grateful for an early diagnosis so that I could give my child the best possible chances for future success. I don't see disabilities as something to be ashamed of, and I think that helping your children live happy, healthy lives is far more important than your own pride or protecting yourself from whatever ignorant people might say to you... But then, I had a middle class, suburban upbringing, and that is definitely not the case with my students or their parents. I don't have a reputation to protect; they do.

Many of my students are first or only children, and all of them come from very privileged backgrounds - it's an expensive international school in Asia. If they don't have grandparents helping out at home, then they have nannies. It gets worse: we have "VIPs", students whose family members are CEOs, government officials, or good friends with the boss. I've had two VIPs in my class in the two years I've worked here, and in both cases they were (I believe) SN children.

The VIP boy currently in my class shows clear signs of having some sort of developmental disorder. I'm not an expert and can't diagnose him, but he's 2 1/2 years old and has trouble understanding basic instructions (come here, sit down, etc.) with or without accompanying gestures. The language ability he has shown so far consists of babbling and repetition with no real understanding. There is very little eye contact. He treats his classmates as if they're toys - pushing and pulling them out of curiosity, pulling fistfuls of hair, palming at their faces even around the eyes. He cannot sit still for more than a few seconds; he squirms in place whenever seated. And because he runs around so much, sometimes while carrying toys, I'm afraid he will trip and hurt himself or others. In fact, he has come to school on multiple occasions with cuts and scrapes from this very same problem at home. Most recently, he came in with a welt on his forehead the size of a tennis ball!

I have written to the parents twice, in the communication books we have for sending home school notices, about their son's inability to sit down. Their response? "Oh, yes, he's like that at home, too." "We've found that he can sit still for up to 15 minutes when he's with his grandmother." "We think he will get better very soon!"

My co-teacher has spoken and written to the parents about their child's lack of social skills. Their response? "He plays like that with the neighborhood children too." "He just doesn't have enough experience with other kids his age." "Give him time."

How can we get through to them that their child's behavior is not perfectly normal for his age? That he's not just a late bloomer?

PolterGoose Sat 12-Dec-15 14:45:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

chocadd1ct Sat 12-Dec-15 15:51:23

agree with polter. you raised it already.

given your post I would assume that the family is not poor and as such that the boy is also under the care of a paediatrician (or some other health care professional) who also does developmentmental check ups. hopefully this will flag it up further if there the boys development is not in track.

zzzzz Sat 12-Dec-15 18:39:17

Your post is extremely annoying and shows yawning ignorance of the pressures and motivations of the parents of children with disabilities and of those disabilities themselves. Infuriating to read but I think it would be good to help, so here goes. I was brought up in the Far East and can imagine the set up you are working in.

I'm amazed that you feel so negative towards your students be they VIP or otherwise given that the children can't choose either way and are just....children.

I'm not sure what the nanny/grandparent carer at home has to do with anything? Is it that you feel the behaviour is so subtle that the parents might not have noticed as they have limited contact or is it that you feel multiple carers may be contributing to the problem?

Early diagnosis and intervention are only an advantage if those things don't impinge on your relationship with your family and the intervention is helpful. I haven't heard of much in the way of positive intervention in Asia (but would love to if anyone has experience of good practitioners). If early diagnosis means relatives withdraw, and educational opportunities are limited then I would suggest the parents are doing the best they can for their child, wouldn't you? Please don't think what is said to a nursery school teacher bears any resemblance to what is thought behind closed doors. What happens to adults with autism/neurological difference in the country you are in. Perhaps that is the key to why the parents are behaving as they are.

In my experience the term "denial" is used to put down parents, minimise their experience and trump their stance with professional psychobabble. I sincerely doubt that "denial" is going on here or that you are qualified to recognise it. That said it is possible they don't know that their child is having difficulties to the degree you are seeing. Here the first step would be to use a tool like the MCHAT to try and get a more emotionless look at what is going on.
Why have you jumped to ASD as a diagnosis?
What strategies have you put in place to support him? Have they helped?
Can he speak?
Can he understand two part commands?
Does he have sensory difficulties?
Has his hearing been checked?
Can he take turns?
Follow sequential commands?

I'm sorry this sounds cross. I feel cross. Your lack of empathy for these parents makes me feel so sad. You can be their rock. You can help them parent the child they DO have. You can do so much to help. Don't start that process with judgement and supposition.

nb I taught a non verbal autistic 3 year old to read and write, I'm pretty sure if you put your mind to it you can help your charge sit on a cushion for 20 minutes.

Flanks Sat 12-Dec-15 19:30:24

kmt, you need to re-focus your approach in this situation I think.

You should ask the question of 'What outcome do I wish for this child?'. Remember that diagnosis of a SEN is not in itself an outcome, it is a description of current experience.

Therefore we arrive at the second question you need to ask, 'Will this diagnosis help the child?'.

More often than not it will do, for various reasons. However the primary one is that forces a recognition of need, prevents institutions from discriminatory behaviour and requires them to make adjustments. It can also enable better support for parents, support groups and (above all in my experience of parenting and parents) it relieves parent's from unfair feelings of guilt. It is near-on impossible to avoid comparisons between your own child and others, and quite often a diagnosis can alleviate an enormous amount of pain and is the beginning of a more positive outlook.

To be semi-brutal (I think this is valuable to you as a professional) you are not demonstrating any of this processing in your post.

You do not seem to have a reason for wanting this diagnosis, other than it's own sake. At best, you are trying to be right because you think you are right (not a great situation to ever be in as a professional, as it changes little) at worst you are trying to be right to score a point vs parents.

The way you describe the situation, I would suggest the answer to the questions is as follows:

1)We all want positive outcomes for children. Is this child currently likely to experience that? You appear to be offering support in school already, so will a diagnosis change that? Nope. He appears happy, will a diagnosis change that? Perhaps. He appears to have a reasonably stable family life, will a diagnosis change that? Perhaps.

So at the moment, there seems to be very few 'wins' at question 1.

To question 2: the answer appears to be no. He has parents able to provide for any additional support needs you are not providing in school, and no doubt they will do so as and when they deem it necessary. This is not your decision to make for them, it is theirs.

I think the board has been kind to you so far! I know your post is well meaning and you are seeking advice for a better outcome for a child. However you need to demonstrate a better process of thinking first, then your post could come out a lot better for a discussion with parents!

kmt180 Sun 13-Dec-15 12:14:45

Thank you all for your responses so far.

To clarify, the reason I think they would benefit from a diagnosis is because I don't think this school can offer him a safe environment the way things are now. I have a lot of misgivings about my place of employment, one of which is that we have zero support for special needs. There is no on-staff child psychologist, no special needs classes, no teachers at all who were trained to care for special needs children.

There are 16 children per class, with a max of 3 adults in the classroom - two teachers and one caretaker. Sometimes it's only one adult if the others are sick or on leave or have to leave the room to attend to other duties around the school. And like I said, the youngest at the level I teach are less than two years old. I can't possibly expect all 16 kids to be well-behaved all the time... The others need my attention too. This particular child needs much more one-on-one and small group attention than I can give him.

I guess it's not exactly a formal diagnosis that I'm seeking, but rather, just for now, acknowledgement of the safety issue as an issue. If it had been brought up by the parents or if they had responded in a way that could have led to more serious talks, we could do something more to help. But even so, neither I nor any of my coworkers has the necessary training or experience with special needs.

There was a similar though less severe case last year which might be clouding my judgment here. I think it's relevant, though. Last year, my previous co-teacher and I had very subtly raised concerns over another child. The parents said very similar things, like how he would be better soon, please just wait it out. He's a very sweet boy, the parents are lovely as well, and I regret not having more serious talks with the them. Toward the end of the year, they said thank you to us for not ever calling their son autistic. "If we had been in our home country, they would have labeled him right away." Basically, they had suspicions all along and were grateful that we played along in pretending nothing was wrong. This year, that boy is now throwing himself against walls to hurt himself.

It might be best if I just let things go, but it's hard. I like the child, I like the parents, and I'm worried for them. I don't like having to think "how bad do things have to get before they seek help?" or "could I have prevented some suffering if I had just been more direct with my concerns?"

Sorry I wasn't clear on this, but the VIP thing comes into play because many of the school staff tip-toe around them, afraid to say anything potentially displeasing because that would mean the loss of our jobs. If a VIP doesn't like what you have to say about their child, you're out. The advice I was given from my co-workers is that it's a no-win situation. If I mention special needs, I'm fired. If I don't, there is a risk the parents will place the blame on me for depriving their child of early diagnosis, and I'm fired. I don't think it's really that bad so I'll take my chances, but you can see how this kind of atmosphere makes some teachers afraid to speak up.

Toffeelatteplease Sun 13-Dec-15 12:45:10

I do totally see where you are coming from and I think you are having a hard time. To a certain extent anyway.

In my case DS's full time nursery were struggling massively with him, weren't passing the message on then one day just sent referral to the sen team forms home.

I wasn't ready for that! But I did move nurseries and take time out of work out what was going on. Six months later I invited the help in myself with a far better idea of what was going on.

I think you need think what the point is if labelling the child and take it that route anyway without the use of labels. You need to by inviting the parents in to see for themselves a bit. If it us a case of applying for extra funding to help support 5he child that is the only time a label should really be pushed.

The fantastic nursery my son did eventually go to applied many of the interventions on a whole group basis. So whilst DS benefitted from sand timers and sensory interventions actually the neurotypical kids do too.

You need to look for the child's triggers and redirect before they become overwhelming. Many of these things good nurseries do anyway it is just having a broader idea of what triggers may be.

Soft flags to patents may be "have you considered whether x could benefit from speech and language therapy? Lots of children benefit from speech and language therapy at this age" this can be done without judgement or labelling at all. DS speech and language therapy for a long time before the tag asd was ever mentioned.

taught a non verbal autistic 3 year old to read and write, I'm pretty sure if you put your mind to it you can help your charge sit on a cushion for 20 minutes.

This is utter tosh. What one child with sen is able to do at that age is completely different from another. It took me 6 months solid hard work just give ds the basic language skills to stop him attacking other children when his language skills let him down. It was a similar time scale to get him to sit and join in at circle time. Reading and writing has taken another 5 years and a solid team to achieve. There is no way a nursery working alone can be garenteed to achieve what may not be possible for that individual child hmm

Toffeelatteplease Sun 13-Dec-15 13:20:18

Oh fuck that. You'd still have trouble getting DS to sit still on a cushion for 20 mins now...

Love to see how a nursery working alone with 15 other children and no parental help is meant to achieve that for every child with special needs who passes through there door; if they only "put their mind to it"...

zzzzz Sun 13-Dec-15 19:12:58

toffee I apologise, there are of course children for whom some targets will never be achievable and it was insensitive of me to suggest otherwise. This child however already sits for 15 mins outside of the home ""We've found that he can sit still for up to 15 minutes when he's with his grandmother." So I would say it was quite likely that it IS achievable for him, but obviously it would take work and a willingness to try and frankly an understanding that he should be in this nursery.
I believe very strongly in inclusion. I also have some understanding of what it is like to have a child who is disabled in the way OP describes and some understanding of the pressures his parents might be under in their present country. I'm guessing obviously because OP hasn't identified where either the child comes from, where they live now, or what the result of a the diagnosis she has come to would mean for this child. OP also says neither she or anyone at the school has any training in SN so how she is coming to dx I can't imagine.

There is no on-staff child psychologist, no special needs classes, no teachers at all who were trained to care for special needs children. This is pretty typical in the UK too, but here we believe in inclusion and so our schools don't exclude on the grounds of disability except in very extreme circumstances.

My feeling is that you will get some children who are ahead and a doddle to teach and some who require quite significant support. On a practical note where would he go to school if he wasn't with you? Would it be another ms nursery or are specialist nurseries available? If there is specialist provision what does it look like? Are you in a country where dx will mean he cannot access school at all?

Flanks Sun 13-Dec-15 19:23:50

Kmt. Your job is now done after one more task.

You put it in writing to your boss that you believe there is a safeguarding concern because one students requires too much attention from all currently available staff.

First thing this does is phrase your situation better.

Second thing this does is frame the discussion better for both school and parents. Now a very different dialogue can be had, which may eventually lead to the ideal outcome in a more organic way.

Far better to let the river flow with carefully placed diversions than cut an entirely new waterway!

blaeberry Sun 13-Dec-15 23:39:42

Op you yourself have identified the problem; you don't feel your school can offer adequate support. With a diagnosis there is a high chance the dc will be required to leave. If there was great alternative provision then parents may be quite happy to ask for a diagnosis but it is often the case that that just isn't there. The parents may well have considered the alternatives and have decided that your school offers the best available care whatever the short comings and are therefore desperate to avoid a formal diagnosis so they can remain there.

zzzzz Mon 14-Dec-15 01:33:07

For example this is how the situation is described in China

senmagazine.co.uk/articles/articles/senarticles/autism-in-china-a-silent-epidemic

bbkl Mon 14-Dec-15 09:04:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zzzzz Mon 14-Dec-15 09:53:56

I agree with bbkl s post, brilliantly put.

MeirAya Tue 15-Dec-15 09:46:10

If you really, really think the child needs extra support and that the school will seriously fail him and his family by wishy-washy tiptoing around the issues, then it's reasonable to 'do' something.

zzzzz Tue 15-Dec-15 14:09:01

It is only reasonable to "do something" if the outcome would be better for that child.

hello573 Sun 20-Dec-15 01:28:14

Having a special child myself, I realised relatively early on that he was special (3rd child).

I was very concerned about him going to Nursery at age 3 despite being 0.5 yrs older than my other two when going....

The nursery openly thought his delays were due to third child, baby of the family and Me! Thought a few months with them would change everything! Within a few months of attending nursery they were already preparing me for him not being able to attend school when he should (1.5 yrs later)....

While I knew my ds was different from my other two, their guidance made me realise he wasn't just delayed but special. It was still very hard for me to accept.... still is to this day! But! Without their guidance, I wouldn't have sought the additional help to get him another year at Nursery, and additional support during that year....

My family background is middle class and, without being arrogant, we are all very academic. I think anyone with a background like that would and will struggle with accepting they have a child that is special. However, if you can lead them to that understanding, they will be a force to be reckoned with to do anything within their power to help their child! imo, and circumstance!

zzzzz Sun 20-Dec-15 13:15:17

I'm not sure I agree that class and academic achievement have much to do with acceptance. hmm. I would say it is more to do with personality and environment. That said I think denial is not a terribly common reaction and that people's reaction is FAR more likely to be driven by need (ie what will get the best outcome) or ignorance.

Toffeelatteplease Sun 20-Dec-15 13:31:11

Ime I have found that class and background can have a massive impact on acceptance. Especially if the family is from the frame of mind that every child goes to this prep, that boarding and a good solid profession. Suddenly that whole future dissappears.

Also if parents view themselves as massively successful only to found they have no idea how to manage their own child.

I wouldn't say denial was that uncommon either. Knowing something isn't right doesn't necessarily mean that you don't go into denial while you work it out or recognise the severity of the SN. I was fortunate in that I was capable of taking 6 months out to thoroughly work it out.

If the mortgage needs two incomes and you can't take time out it can be that much harder

zzzzz Sun 20-Dec-15 15:04:21

I disagree, but then I am posh over educated and That hasn't been my experience nor that of those I've observed.

zzzzz Sun 20-Dec-15 15:22:37

Nb Prep schools are full of quirky children

PolterGoose Sun 20-Dec-15 15:32:15

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

zzzzz Sun 20-Dec-15 15:37:45

Children are FAR less likely to be diagnosed as support is not dependent on dx.

zzzzz Sun 20-Dec-15 15:43:15

Which puts me in the awkward position of describing someone as "quirky" rather than guessing at dx's.

I would say a few more spectrummy individuals per year than in state school.

Owllady Sun 20-Dec-15 15:47:54

God it really bloody annoys me when we are labelled as in denial and ashamed of our children
Ffs
It's confusing and upsetting for parents in the early days AND THAT'S COMPLETELY NORMAL AND EXPECTED

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