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Possible ASD child?


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i am actually posting this on behalf of a good friend of mine ( no really!!!). She has been a rcm for years and has had a wide variety of children. However one toddler who she has been looking after has been showing some developmental difficulties for about 6 months, which have been becoming progressively more noticable. Together we sat down and noted down any observations that we thought to be significant. I then discussed these with my SENCO co-ordiator in school. She confimed my suspisions that the child was displaying 'classic' autistic tendancies. The thing is what does she do now? The parents are not the most approachable and she knows that if she was to mention anything they would take it personally and badly. Should she just ignore this and hope it is identified later or is there a support network in place. All she wants to do is help the child but does not want to cause hurt and bad feeling?

 

Any suggestions would be very useful as I feel for her and have no idea what to suggest.

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Hi Jay -

Just to let you know we've spotted the post and definitely have something to say on the subject! Helen will come back to you tomorrow with some suggestions - we have had two children who began in similar circumstances in the last three years, both of whom we needed to approach the parents about, and one of whom (one of our alltime favourite children!) we went through the whole statementing process with.

 

There are ways to manage the first approach to the parents, and there are a number of things to be aware of regarding involving the professionals - but the most important thing is to take things one step at a time, and most importantly (this is becoming a bit of a Foundation Stage Forum slogan) don't panic! :D

 

Steve.

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Thanks steve for your imput and I am eager to read any suggestions. What is worrying me is that other people are saying that she should not get involved as it is not her obligation and how would she like it if someone told her that her child was experiencing developmental difficulties.

 

Thanks for your support

 

Jay

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Hello Jay,

An awkward situation, I know, but it must be dealt with. xD

Your friend, along with any other early years practitioner no matter what the setting, has an obligation to care for and educate the children in her care. A heavy statement, but, true nonetheless! You've been very supportive helping with the observations and consulting your SENCO :)

The first thing to do is try to work out in what way the parents are unapproachable. Is she worried that they will be aggressive, or that they might apportion blame, or perhaps that they will deny any problem? Any other reasons? They may well be upset; in both our cases, when I arranged for the initial meeting with the mothers, we all ended up in tears! :o Not in any angry way at all, but both Mums were relieved that I had brought up the subject (they already knew there was something wrong with their children's development) and they were understandably frightened about the future. The sense of relief with both mothers at the end of our initial conversations was tangible, so I would urge your friend to make an appointment asap.

How to do the initial interview.......I'll just say how I have done it.

Firstly, I asked the parent if I could have a chat for fifteen minutes or so at picking up time. We went to a quiet, private room, made tea/coffee, etc. Tried to make it relaxed and friendly. My first statement was,

"I wanted to talk to you about x. We have been experiencing difficulties communicating with him/her at nursery, and I wondered if you had similar experiences at home".

I then briefly described 2 or 3 particular concerns (not hundreds, or the parent would have been completely overwhelmed). In our child's case, these were no eye-contact, absolutely no response to his name, and screaming for no apparent reason (ie nothing has been taken away by another child, not injured, etc). I then asked if she had noticed anything similar at home, and in our cases(s) both parents agreed, and we took it from there. Hopefully, this is what will happen to your friend. She will then be in the realms of making detailed observations over a period of time, and perhaps getting outside help in terms of the learning support service, EYDCP, or LEA special needs service, all of course with the parents' permission. I would strongly advise her not to mention special needs, or ASD at any time during this initial meeting. Emphasize that she wants to help the child develop to his best potential, be happy in her care, etc etc and that she would welcome any help/information that the parents could offer.

Now, if the parents don't respond in the way she would like, and they become angry or deny anything is wrong, I would cut the meeting short, suggest everyone has a cooling off period, ("I can see you are angry and upset by what I have said, and that wasn't my intention.....")and that I would like to talk again the following week, whereupon I will bring in more detail my concerns about their child. If they still refuse to acknowledge anything wrong, I would ask if they have had any appointments with their health visitor for the regular development checks, and was anything picked up then. I'd ask if it were OK to give the health visitor a call. (They may say no, of course). Ditto with their GP.

The important thing is to offer kindness and concern, without giving any reasons at this stage for why the child is behaving as he is. Saying that your only reason for drawing this to their attention is so that you can help the child develop and learn, and enjoy his toddlerhood.

I hope this helps.....do get back to us with regular instalments. We'd be very interested to hear how it goes.

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Great response Helen!

 

I agree that it is the practitioner's duty to talk to the parents as soon as she suspects a problem, especially one this significant.

 

In my experience, it is opening the conversation that is the most difficult part. It often helps to start the conversation based on a specific incident: eg: "I was a little concerned today when Sam got very upset because Gerry took the toy tractor from him. What concerned me was that we couldn't calm Sam down - he wouldn't look at me to talk." Keep it brief, then relate it to general behaviours - ie that it's something you've noticed on prior occasions (but not 'This happens all the time" - yikes, that would scare a parent half to death!) Then hand over to the parent, "Is this something you've noticed at home?"

 

Often then it helps to suggest a course of action, ie to get someone else's opinion. "This is something I don't know a great deal about, but how about we contact the special needs service to get their opinion?" Depending on how the parent is responding, sometimes I would add "This might be nothing at all, but they can set our minds at rest", but if you are convinced that there is a problem, it can be worded "If it's nothing at all, they can set our minds at rest".

 

So much of an interview depends on the individuals concerned and how they respond. If the parents are clear that you have their child's best interests at heart, they will most likely agree to have an assessment and work with you. It is very rare, in my experience, for a parent to make this sort of interview difficult. As Helen said , quite probably the parents are aware of the developmental delay, but are waiting for someone else to say something, and quite probably hoping that they dont and that they are mistaken. As a teacher, I could never quite understand this, but now that I have children of my own, I can fully appreciate the worries of parenthood and how you might ignore the obvious because it is too frightening to face.

 

Good luck to your friend in dealing with this, it is not the easiest part of working with children.

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Thank you so much for all your imput. I will pass on your responses to my friend and will update you with what happens.

 

Thanks once again

 

Jay

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  • 5 months later...

Jay

 

Is there a network in your area, it may be worth your friend getting in touch.... as a Network childminder you would have access to your own Area Senco, and the same kind of special needs support that is available to preschools and nursery. After all you are a day care setting too.

 

If there is not this in your area, then I would suggest that you contact your Childcare development Officor through your EYCDP, without giving details of the child and find out what there is available to you in you area.

 

Helen

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