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Extreme Separation Anxiety


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Hi everyone - some suggestions as to how to help this child would be appreciated..

 

We have a girl, she is 3 and a half, she has been with us a year. She was born 10 weeks prematurely - she has some weakness in the right hand side of her body which very much impedes the speed at which she moves about (although she was walking at 19 mos )and very recently has been diagnosed deaf in the left ear. She has quite a lot of time off with chest infections particularly during winter months.

 

Since J started at pre-school last September she has needed the constant support of an adult to cope with pre-school, at home she shows she is able to do lots of activities, but so very often refuses to do similar things at pre-school, or indeed, play with any other children at pre-school, even her best friends which she plays with very well outside of pre-school. If the adult looking after her leaves her side she cries, during the summer term when she was feeling quite well in herself and had had no chest infections she managed to allow the adult to leave her side if the adult explained "I'm just going to ................ then I'll be back" and she accepted this and the adults kept their promise, she even managed to walk across the playground to get a toy she wanted and return to the adult's side. But this term this is not working. She finds it very difficult to find the confidence to walk from one side of the room to the other on her own or from one adult to another, but when mum comes to pick her up she will walk to her from the end of the hall on her own.

 

Whilst J appears not to interact with other children she can relate stories about her morning to mum, she gets the giggles if one of the boys does anything silly or adults play teasing type games and when she has had periods of feeling well, has been able to sit in amongst other children during a storytime and interact with them.

 

I am calling in the area SENCo for more advice, particularly because I can't imagine J in a busy Reception Class of 30 with one teacher and a TA. We have tried so hard to build up her confidence, but it's one step forward and 2 steps back most of the time, especially if she has had time off.

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It must be very unsettling for her, what a shame.

Could you maybe start a photo album so she can have photos of everyone and the setting and photos of home or the hospital for her to show you? It might help to connect the 2/3 places and give her a sence of belonging to everywhere.

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can i just ask does she have an plan? it may be a thought to choose one thing and work on that first- what do you really want her to do? having a friend is rare at 3 and a half for most children (not developmentally norm until a bit later) and if she has a delay then working with one close adult may be where she is at.Has she learnt that crying when leaving mum is an expected routine? tranference of skills from home to another setting is something children with autism have a particular problem with it may be skill tranfer is an issue for her. You could try the 'first this -then this' type system using the adult as the motivating factor. Remember she doesn'ythave to go to school until the term after her 5th birthday so you have lots of time yet :o

always difficult to help when i don't know the child or your setting-hope your area senco may help - you're lucky we don't have one in this area any longer! xD

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J has shown that she enjoys the company of at least 3 children in our setting in her own home, back garden, the park etc. but she will not interact with them in our setting, if they come and ask her to play, she turns her back on them or looks away, typically today, when 2 of her friends were dance to Mamma Mia and came up to her and asked her to dance, she turned away from them, no amount of persuasion would make her leave my side and move 2 feet away and enjoy herself, maybe if I had gone with her and danced along she would have. So whilst I wouldn't expect her to have a best buddy close relationship, I would hope that she could carry on a relationship with children she knows well and plays with on a fairly regular basis outside of our setting.

 

The plans we have are such tiny steps to improve her confidence that just transferring from one adult to another in the setting upsets her. Normally she separates well from mum to an adult in the setting - apart from today when she was crying when she arrived, but stopped within a couple of mintues of mum leaving. I am willing to give the first this, then that approach, but so often J just refuses to do the smallest thing which is asked of her, and would not appear to have an over whelming desire for anything else to tempt her with. I must admit I find her rather puzzling - and strong willed.

 

We have lots of photographs in her learning journey of family and friends, thankfully, she doesn't spend time in hospital, mum is able to cope with the chest infections at home and J just has a few days off, returns to pre-school and we begin again. Mum did say to me today that she found school (not pre-school) difficult herself and was a rather clingy child.

 

All I really want at the present time for her is for her to relax and take part in pre-school actually get something out of coming to pre-school, which frankly after a year she is still not letting herself do - all the staff have remained the same, she knows us all she talks about us to mum, she is just so anxious poor thing.

Edited by Panders
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hope your area senco may help - you're lucky we don't have one in this area any longer! :o

 

 

Im not really sure we still have one - there have been so many changes in our area, however, the previous Area Senco was really rather wonderful and dedicated and if I am really lucky she will pop in off the record.

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Reading your description makes me wonder if all the focus and attention might be what is freezing her up? She could perhaps feel your wish to get her involved, subconsciously and be reacting against it? Might it be an option just to leave her be for a week, focusing instead on those children who are joining in with each other, praising them in her ear shot and leaving her free to decide when to take that step?

 

I don't know if that makes any sense, just a thought.

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Yes it makes enormous sense Suzie, and as you can imagine during the year we have had her we have tried that but if I'm honest, I swing from encouraging and cajoling, to ignoring her whilst she is sitting next to me and engage with other children in the small hope that she will become jealous or finally realise she might just have a modicom of fun by joining in! Perhaps I am giving mixed messages to her.

 

I did wonder if being prem has any connection here - whilst chronologically she is 3 and a half - maybe she is only 2 and a half emotionally -

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Even a two and a half year old should have more emotional resilience than she is displaying and most premature babies from what I understand meet their developmental milestones 'normally' in so far as that word should be applied!

 

My immediate thought too was that perhaps you just need to leave her be. Try a few weeks where there is no encouragement/cajoling to join in. If she is anxious the mixed messages will be doing her no good at all and the extra attention could be causing her to freeze up. Obviously you still need to meet her needs and if she initiates an interaction with you then you would respond as usual but for the rest of the time I would just leave her be. She might follow you around like a little lamb for a while, but you might just find that taking away the pressure to join in is exactly what she needs to start initiating this herself.

 

Think about how uncomfortable it is as an adult when people are trying to pressure you into doing something you really don't want to do! I'm sure we could all agree that we would probably feel much the same as this little girl is acting and quite probably eventually snap under the pressure. I would get together with staff and make sure you are all on board with this then initiate a new strategy as soon as you can.

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I may be totally off beam here but a few things you say make me think that perhaps she is getting all she needs with lots of adult attention when away from mum . Not seeing her it is hard to really say, but the comment that she is strong willed and turns away from the children but may have gone if an adult had.. lots of attention coming her way...

 

perhaps a method of having her next or near and playing with the other children around, giving them the attention and then if she joins even the slightest way ensuring she gets the praise too..

 

Inge

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Yes I think you are on the right lines - I'm glad i posted because it has clarified some thinking. I believe what happens is, I begin to feel guilty when I try ignoring her, she puts up with this rather well - doesn't moan or actively try to gain my attention in any way, she doesn't even go to the loo while she is with us, just sits beside me or walks beside me, stands beside me if I am talking to a parent, my little shadow so to speak she would appear to have a high boredom threshold compared to most children. Perhaps ignoring her until she initiates engagement might work, we haven't tried that, not as a sole approach anyway.

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My instinct would be to just let her keep being with the adults. As Inge says perhaps that is just what she needs. Some children simply prefer adult company. If that is the case and she's constantly getting the, albeit gentle, message that the adults want her to move away from them then that won't help her confidence or self esteem.

 

Perhaps a little reverse psychology would work. Assume she'll be with you and ask her to do jobs with you without prompting her to move away. We live in a culture where we expect children to want to play with each other but is it a problem if they prefer the company of adults?

 

Not a criticism and I'm sure you're not pushing her away unfeelingly but she may be seeing more of your desire to move her on than you realise and reading the wrong message in it.

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ok just a few thoughts (don't have many at this time of day)the difference between what she is doing at home and pre-school is Mum. So if she is confident with one close adult looking on then leaving her to it is going to be very alien. Does any one else look after her in the home environment? gandparents etc? or is it always Mum. What do her parents think about the situation? how do they handle her with babysitters etc? This is a very precious child for these parents if she was that prem her birth will have been very traumatic and her delays will have an effect even if only small (both my niece and nephew were prem they have both had some difficulties and still have subtle problems to this day) Do you have a sensory consortium in your area ...they may be able to help with ideas on the hearing side.

Sorry so many questions ...always good to think out loud! :o

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Yes I think you are on the right lines - I'm glad i posted because it has clarified some thinking. I believe what happens is, I begin to feel guilty when I try ignoring her, she puts up with this rather well - doesn't moan or actively try to gain my attention in any way, she doesn't even go to the loo while she is with us, just sits beside me or walks beside me, stands beside me if I am talking to a parent, my little shadow so to speak she would appear to have a high boredom threshold compared to most children. Perhaps ignoring her until she initiates engagement might work, we haven't tried that, not as a sole approach anyway.

 

 

I have done it with a couple of children, who were happy to be someones shadow.. even if they were not engaging they were watching the person with the other children and were learning trough this.. we knew from parents reporting back to us what they were doing at home.

 

while with us one of them never seemed to leave the adults side at all.. but when they went to school they didn't repeat the behaviour.. another told mum that when they were 4 they would go and play... and on their 4th birthday did just that! seems it was a milestone for them.

 

thinking about it must have had a few over the years... may not work for you but if she is content to be by an adult and watch is there any harm in letting her do so... in your example of the music and dancing she refused.. I would probably have asked if I could join the children and gone off joining in with my shadow!

 

I never saw it as ignoring, they were engaging with the adult or liked being with them, even if they were not interacting all the time..

 

Inge

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My instinct would be to just let her keep being with the adults. As Inge says perhaps that is just what she needs. Some children simply prefer adult company. If that is the case and she's constantly getting the, albeit gentle, message that the adults want her to move away from them then that won't help her confidence or self esteem.

 

Perhaps a little reverse psychology would work. Assume she'll be with you and ask her to do jobs with you without prompting her to move away. We live in a culture where we expect children to want to play with each other but is it a problem if they prefer the company of adults?

 

Not a criticism and I'm sure you're not pushing her away unfeelingly but she may be seeing more of your desire to move her on than you realise and reading the wrong message in it.

 

Thank you Upsy Daisy it may be as you say, she feels that we want her to move on - I don't mind her being at my side at all - it's just that after a year like this and no real progress I'm beginning to worry about her, especially as I know there are 3 friends in the group now that she does play with outside of pre-school and according to mum, enjoys playing with them. She can be helpful with jobs I give her and mum says the same at home.

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ok just a few thoughts (don't have many at this time of day)the difference between what she is doing at home and pre-school is Mum. So if she is confident with one close adult looking on then leaving her to it is going to be very alien. Does any one else look after her in the home environment? gandparents etc? or is it always Mum. What do her parents think about the situation? how do they handle her with babysitters etc? This is a very precious child for these parents if she was that prem her birth will have been very traumatic and her delays will have an effect even if only small (both my niece and nephew were prem they have both had some difficulties and still have subtle problems to this day) Do you have a sensory consortium in your area ...they may be able to help with ideas on the hearing side.

Sorry so many questions ...always good to think out loud! :o

 

Sorry don't know how to do the multiple quote thing in one post!

 

 

Mum is primary carer, followed by dad, maternal grandmother she is happy with and will stay over night with, that's about all. Mother of closest family friend she is beginning to hold hands with. Mum is quite sensitive about it all, worried that J's clingyness is a problem for us and I have said I haven't highlighted it because of us, but that I would like to and would have hoped to see more confidence at this point from J, especially as we now know that she plays quite well with other children outside of the pre-school and is quite confident at home and doesn't have to be clamped to mum's side all the time. Mum said yesterday that when deafness was diagnosed a few weeks ago (she only told me this week) that she had turned down any help, feeling that the would manage themselves and that there were children far worse off that needed help first. She has now agreed that I may seek some help from EYFS SEN specialist in our area. Don't know about sensory consortium will check that out with SIP who is visiting on Thursday, thank you.

Edited by Panders
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