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Old 02-18-2021, 06:44 AM
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Default Please Help! I'm at a Complete Loss!

I have a DCG who just turned 18 months. She's been here just over a month.

She had an extremely hard time starting daycare and still has a hard time with transitions. She refuses to get ready to go outside (among other daily activities) and I've been as accommodating and patient as I can be but after a month, it's really starting to interfere with the program. That's not really my issue right now though...

I literally can not get this child interested in anything! She'll swipe a crayon across a paper and stick some stickers but only on a very good day. Other than that, she literally sits or stands in the same place all day and just stares at me. It's been *weeks* and I've tried passing her toys/books/puzzles/art and she won't even glance down at what I'm holding, she just keeps staring at my face. If I place something in her hands, she'll immediately put it down then cross her arms and keep staring at me.

I wear a mask during the day but I've even been taking it off any time I'm 6 feet away because I thought maybe that might be it? But no change in the staring.

I'm so lost. I don't know if she needs something, if something is wrong, if something is hurting, if she's scared or worried or anxious... There's no facial expression, just staring.

She'll turn her head or body to keep me in sight and if I go to the far side of the room or out of her view, she'll jump up and start a half cry-half scream and run after me but that is literally the only emotion she shows. That's the only time of day that I know what's going on (she obviously doesn't want me out of sight) so at least then I can comfort her and know to help build those skills - but the rest of the day... I don't even know where to start.

I feel guilty because I don't know what she wants and I'm starting to get frustrated. I'm obviously not saying or doing anything to let her know that but I'm literally on the floor, shaking toys in front of this child's face, smiling, singing, and talking for 9 hours a day and there is 0 response. I'm wearing down and to be quite honest, the staring makes me uncomfortable. Just hearing her come in in the morning literally makes my stomach drop now.

I feel terrible and I want to remain patient and understanding but I have never dealt with something this intense before. I know it's only been a month and she's adjusting, but for me that's still what, 180 hours of flat-out entertaining and trying to engage a child who is not reciprocating in any way.

I feel like a circus clown with no one in the audience. What do I do? I'm currently pulling back, trying to be too boring to watch and just using verbal prompts every little bit to encourage her to go do something - anything! - but even as I type this she's standing a couple feet away from me just staring, as she has been for the last 2 hours.

I've also tried mentioning it to the parents but they seemed pretty defensive. I'm not trying to complain or imply anything about the child, I just genuinely need an in - just something, ANY insight to get through to this child. It's making for an incredibly long and uncomfortable day for both of us!
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Old 02-18-2021, 07:13 AM
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Can she hear you? That might make her watch, but not understand you.
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:42 AM
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I guess I wouldn't keep trying to entertain her if she has no interest. I'd do my thing with the group and if she joins if she doesn't "oh well". I just don't have the time and energy to focus on one kid's entertainment all day. You'll probably feel better if you let that go at least. Does she play and interact with family and at home?
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Old 02-18-2021, 08:47 AM
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She's been here just over a month.

Just hearing her come in in the morning literally makes my stomach drop now.

I've also tried mentioning it to the parents but they seemed pretty defensive.

It's making for an incredibly long and uncomfortable day for both of us!
Those are big red flags for me. The biggest being parents not willing to even hear you out. I can't help a child if the parents aren't on the same page.

I'd terminate care and move on.
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Old 02-18-2021, 09:52 AM
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Can she hear you? That might make her watch, but not understand you.
That was one of my first thoughts too. But as soon as I give the 5 minute warning that were going to get ready for outside/circle/whatever activity she'll start to melt down. I do use a lot of hand motions (I usually work with large groups of children when it's not pandemic time) but even if my hands are full and I can't motion or sign when I tell her I can't pick her up right now she completely understands that, too.

I've noticed at pick up and drop off that her parents will ask her to do something and she'll do the blank stare. They'll ask a few times then just do it themselves whereas I ask twice then I hand-over-hand or physically direct the children into completing the task. She freaks out when I do this so I try to keep my requests small and quick, but I'm not sure how much of her resistance is because she doesn't understand vs she just doesn't want to do it.
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Old 02-18-2021, 11:01 AM
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I guess I wouldn't keep trying to entertain her if she has no interest. I'd do my thing with the group and if she joins if she doesn't "oh well". I just don't have the time and energy to focus on one kid's entertainment all day. You'll probably feel better if you let that go at least. Does she play and interact with family and at home?
This is the direction I think I'm headed in. I just feel so guilty because for now, I only have one other child who is the exact same age as her but is pretty far ahead already. Then I have two potential children starting soon, both who are older and most likely further along, too. I'm worried that if I just run on ahead with everyone else it'll be way too far out of reach for her and she'll never be able to catch up or even follow along.

I've never "left a kid behind" before and it feels so awful to have this little one here staring at me all day, obviously wanting something from me but I just can't get her to show me what it is. All the while, I pretty much just cater to the needs and interests of the other child because that's all the information I have to go on while trying to make this work for everyone.

I'm not 100% sure about interactions at home but I know she is an only child and hasn't ever been away from her parents before now.
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Old 02-18-2021, 02:44 PM
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Will the parents let you observe her at home? I'd be really interested to see what she does there, and how they interact with her there.
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:55 AM
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Will the parents let you observe her at home? I'd be really interested to see what she does there, and how they interact with her there.
That's an interesting thought, if the parents would allow it. TBH, they don't sound like the type if they're already going into defense mode with attempted conversations about it. Has she been in group care before; maybe she's feeling extremely overwhelmed and just doesn't have a clue? Maybe she's in need of one-on-one care like a nanny. Maybe she needs to be evaluated? Any chance of Autistic tendencies?

It sounds like it's taking up so much of your energy and time that needs to be devoted to all the children. I'd try discussing it one more time and tell dcm you all either need to be on the same page towards seeing improvement or she'll need to find other care with a very small group. JMO

What's her previous 18 months been like?
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:34 PM
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I don't have any helpful advice but wanted to share that I had a little girl in my care who fit the description of your dcg almost to a "T" when she first started out with me. She was maybe a bit older than your dcg when she was enrolled and she made me feel just as uncomfortable as this child seems to be making making you feel. I dreaded the days she would come to my home because all she did was sit/stand and stare into space. (I guess the good thing was she didn't stare at me all day! That would make me feel uncomfortable, too!) She refused to join in any planned activities, refused all free-play with the other kids and would cry at times but would just stand stiffly whenever I tried to comfort her. I had to guess at what she needed or wanted because any attempts to ask her were met with a blank stare. She had been home until she was enrolled in my care and dcm thought she might have some social anxiety but after observing her for a couple of weeks, I wondered if there wasn't something more going on. I spoke with her mother about my concerns and showed her the pictures I had taken of dcg, showing her how she would just sit with her mouth open and a blank look on her face. I raised the possibility of autism but dcm felt sure that other than some social anxiety, there was nothing to be concerned about. She at least wasn't defensive about it but I was very sure there was something more going on.

Since dcg wasn't disruptive at all, I decided to tolerate the situation and see what, if anything, happened if I gave her more time and space to adjust. After efforts to get her to play didn't work, I stopped trying. I went on with my day, playing with the other kids in care and, while I would ask if dcg wanted to join us, I didn't push her and just let her observe. It went on for months! I'm not sure when it started to change but gradually, she began to play next to another child in my care, copying everything the other girl was doing. To be honest, it became very annoying for me to watch but since it didn't seem to bother the other girl, I tried to ignore it. Eventually, that behavior changed and they began to play together. Dcg stopped mimicking and started playing more naturally and creatively. I wish I could say it was something I did to help her but it wasn't. I just let her be. She gradually became more comfortable and her behavior changed dramatically over time. She became the kid who would get everyone dancing when I put the music on, got everyone else involved in games, etc. She was always well behaved, highly intelligent, quite mature for her age, taught herself to read at a very young age, had quite a sense of humor.... I was amazed at the transformation in her.

She's older now (8yo!) and in school but was still coming here pre-Covid whenever the school was closed for half days or snow days. Whenever she joined us, she would play with and entertain the other kids and she'd read to them while I made lunch. Outside of day care and school, she started taking dance lessons and has invited me to attend her recitals each year - she loves being on stage! She writes cards and letters to the elderly residents of a nursing home where her grandmother volunteers... basically, she's very outgoing and very much a different child from the one who used to just sit and stare blankly all day! She and the little girl she used to mimic go to the same school and are best friends still.

Any way...like I said, I can't offer advice but I do empathize and understand how hard it can be to watch a child like you've described. In case you want to continue to try with her, I wanted to share that I had a similar problem and it had a positive outcome. Giving her some space and some extra time to adjust may work. (FWIW, I'm still not convinced my dcg isn't somewhere on the Autism spectrum but if she is, it doesn't seem to be holding her back at this point.) If you're feeling guilty, frustrated, uncomfortable and your stomach drops when you hear your dcg coming in in the morning, though, there's no shame in ending your agreement with her parents. You need to take care of yourself first.
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Old 02-19-2021, 03:53 PM
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Honestly,
She may not understand how or what to do. Some parents do literally everything for a child. Some never go outdoors, some are propped in front of a screen. Play is learned imho.
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Old 02-20-2021, 11:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Josiegirl View Post
Maybe she's in need of one-on-one care like a nanny. Maybe she needs to be evaluated? Any chance of Autistic tendencies?
I think there is a bit of a delay but I'm not sure if it's an actual problem with taking in or processing information. The constant eye contact and wanting to be up and held makes me think it's not autism, but probably more of a attachment issue. There have been some comments from her parents that make me think she might be pretty (sorry, I don't have a better word!) coddled at home.

That being said, the maybe 5 times she's actually engaged with the toys, she doesn't really seem to understand their purpose. She's held cars and just banged them on the ground a few times then just sat and tried to suck on them. The other DCB's favourite toy is a shape-sorter ball and while he picks up and names the shapes then twists the ball around to find the proper hole, she'll grab a shape, bang it around a bit (all while staring at me - she won't even look at the toy) then she just drops it and resumes just standing there. She did attempt to use the sorter one time while looking at it but just banged the shape against the solid handle once before dropping it then just standing back and looking back up at me again. I don't think she understands that the shapes go into the holes at all, let alone that they have specific holes.

It really is hard to watch because even if I jump in and try to help, she just stares at me and I can't get her to even look at the toy to help guide her. I don't know if she doesn't know HOW to play, if she's just being stubborn and doesn't want to play or if she has some other expectation of me that I just can't figure out. I've tried words, signs, songs, demonstrations... I even try to make a big deal out of DCB just pushing a truck across the floor to try to get her to see him playing. But nothing.

I'm actually getting pretty close to throwing in the towel. I vaguely mentioned it before but she is still having an extremely hard time during the day. She has screaming tantrums everytime we move from one thing to another and if I try to go to the washroom or run to grab something she gets hysterical. My husband works from home and the constant meltdown screaming any time I even go to the closet to get a piece of paper is becoming too much for him too.

I've been thinking about suggesting to the parents that a nanny or a daycare center with multiple teachers might be her best bet - even though I don't believe this at all. A nanny would have the same issue and wouldn't even have the other children to distract her and a big centre would have even less one-on-one time than I'm able to provide.

I'm starting to feel that this might be a mix of an already emotionally high-needs child mixed with a more catering style of parenting and it's just a big mess that needs to be sorted out - and I don't have the time or patience to do all that work. Another comment mentioned parents that do everything for their child and that some never even go outdoors. This really hit me hard. This child doesn't go outside at home - the mom said DCG doesn't like it so they just don't do it! That has me wondering what else the parents avoid or do for her because she just doesn't like it. Even little things like when I try to pass her her pacifier, she'll duck awkwardly and twist her body toward it so I can put it in her mouth. I'll tell her to take it in her hand and move it to her hand and she gets upset! She whines then ducks at it again, holding her mouth open. I've started putting it in her hand or even on the floor and she'll scream and flop down and cry, refusing to pick it up on her own.

At drop off and pickup her mom will ask her to do things like put her shoes away or get her blanket so they can leave. At drop off the child is always tantruming (screaming, crying) so mom just does it for her. At pick up (so weird, it's like a completely different child than the one I have all day) the girl just runs away from her mom who's trying to get her ready. She laughs and tries to pull things off the walls and off of the shelves. She runs after DCB and will ignore everything her mom is saying. That lasted all of two days and I've started physically picking her up and handing her to her mom when she ignores my words as well. Then mom tells her to pick up her blanket so they can go and she tries to run away again. I go to get her and mom just picks up the blanket herself, then tells DCG to pick up her pacifier. DCG runs away, I go get her and mom is there, holding the pacifier...

I'm just so frustrated
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Old 02-22-2021, 03:06 PM
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I don't have any helpful advice but wanted to share that I had a little girl in my care who fit the description of your dcg almost to a "T" when she first started out with me. She was maybe a bit older than your dcg when she was enrolled and she made me feel just as uncomfortable as this child seems to be making making you feel. I dreaded the days she would come to my home because all she did was sit/stand and stare into space. (I guess the good thing was she didn't stare at me all day! That would make me feel uncomfortable, too!) She refused to join in any planned activities, refused all free-play with the other kids and would cry at times but would just stand stiffly whenever I tried to comfort her. I had to guess at what she needed or wanted because any attempts to ask her were met with a blank stare. She had been home until she was enrolled in my care and dcm thought she might have some social anxiety but after observing her for a couple of weeks, I wondered if there wasn't something more going on. I spoke with her mother about my concerns and showed her the pictures I had taken of dcg, showing her how she would just sit with her mouth open and a blank look on her face. I raised the possibility of autism but dcm felt sure that other than some social anxiety, there was nothing to be concerned about. She at least wasn't defensive about it but I was very sure there was something more going on.

Since dcg wasn't disruptive at all, I decided to tolerate the situation and see what, if anything, happened if I gave her more time and space to adjust. After efforts to get her to play didn't work, I stopped trying. I went on with my day, playing with the other kids in care and, while I would ask if dcg wanted to join us, I didn't push her and just let her observe. It went on for months! I'm not sure when it started to change but gradually, she began to play next to another child in my care, copying everything the other girl was doing. To be honest, it became very annoying for me to watch but since it didn't seem to bother the other girl, I tried to ignore it. Eventually, that behavior changed and they began to play together. Dcg stopped mimicking and started playing more naturally and creatively. I wish I could say it was something I did to help her but it wasn't. I just let her be. She gradually became more comfortable and her behavior changed dramatically over time. She became the kid who would get everyone dancing when I put the music on, got everyone else involved in games, etc. She was always well behaved, highly intelligent, quite mature for her age, taught herself to read at a very young age, had quite a sense of humor.... I was amazed at the transformation in her.

She's older now (8yo!) and in school but was still coming here pre-Covid whenever the school was closed for half days or snow days. Whenever she joined us, she would play with and entertain the other kids and she'd read to them while I made lunch. Outside of day care and school, she started taking dance lessons and has invited me to attend her recitals each year - she loves being on stage! She writes cards and letters to the elderly residents of a nursing home where her grandmother volunteers... basically, she's very outgoing and very much a different child from the one who used to just sit and stare blankly all day! She and the little girl she used to mimic go to the same school and are best friends still.

Any way...like I said, I can't offer advice but I do empathize and understand how hard it can be to watch a child like you've described. In case you want to continue to try with her, I wanted to share that I had a similar problem and it had a positive outcome. Giving her some space and some extra time to adjust may work. (FWIW, I'm still not convinced my dcg isn't somewhere on the Autism spectrum but if she is, it doesn't seem to be holding her back at this point.) If you're feeling guilty, frustrated, uncomfortable and your stomach drops when you hear your dcg coming in in the morning, though, there's no shame in ending your agreement with her parents. You need to take care of yourself first.

What a truly delightful story. Thank you so much for sharing.
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Old 02-22-2021, 06:07 PM
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What a truly delightful story. Thank you so much for sharing.
Thank YOU! I've had a few kids over the years who have surprised me. Some of the toughest kids are the ones I ended up loving the most!
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Old 02-22-2021, 07:50 PM
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Thank YOU! I've had a few kids over the years who have surprised me. Some of the toughest kids are the ones I ended up loving the most!
I agree, that’s a great story. Empathy, patience and hope. Sometimes a parent or provider doesn’t have the time to focus on just one child. I use to get very frustrated with my son. One day I swear I hear my late father say to be in my mind “give him time. he’ll get there”. My son eventually did. Everything happens in its own time.
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