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Worried about my toddler grandson

(66 Posts)
Grannyris Thu 18-Oct-18 12:43:51

Apologies in advance that this is likely to be a bit of a missive, but I need to explain the background! We were foster carers for many years and are still very close to a lad who entered the country as an unaccompanied minor - he calls us Mum and Dad and we see him daily as he has a business nearby. He came to us at 13 and is now 27 and married to a girl from his home country. They have a dear little boy who is now 20 months old, but not meeting his milestones at all.
DIL does speak English although still learning, and they have no friends with babies to compare, although she has just started to take him to playgroup one morning a week. My problem is this - we have noticed that DGS does not interact with others, wave bye bye or even look at us, he is always occupied with other things. He has no words at all yet, and does not respond at all to his name or any encouragement to play. He is a happy little chap, laughs rarely but will now laugh at peek a boo and catching bubbles. I haven't liked to mention my concerns to DS or DIL, but did suggest recently that perhaps a hearing test might be a good idea just to check there are no hearing problems. DIL took him to the clinic and they confirmed no hearing problems - however they took it no further apart from asking why the test? When told he doesn't yet have any words she was told many children are later to talk, which I know of course, and maybe the two languages he hears is slowing things up a bit. Hence they are not now concerned, so taking it no further.
I would really like some advice please. I am not imagining this, there is definitely a problem and I am worried he may be autistic (he loves to play with cars, always chooses the smallest ones, and lines them up tidily just as an example of the kind of things he does.) Should I say more, and suggest they see a doctor, or should I just leave it and assume someone will pick it up at some point? I am thinking perhaps there is some way we can help if this is noticed early enough, but maybe not. I don't want to worry DS and DIL and I just don't know how to approach this, it is hard to stand by and say nothing when I see such a clear problem.

PECS Thu 18-Oct-18 12:56:05

Do you see DGS regularly? below are the age related expectation for social interaction for children between 8-26 months. If you play with him and he is doing most of these things it may be a spoken language issue rather than a bigger worry.

• Seeks to gain attention in a variety of ways, drawing others into social interaction. • Builds relationships with special people. • Is wary of unfamiliar people. • Interacts with others and explores new situations when supported by familiar person. • Shows interest in the activities of others and responds differently to children and adults, e.g. may be more interested in watching children than adults or may pay more attention when children talk to them. • Plays alongside others. • Uses a familiar adult as a secure base from which to explore independently in new environments, e.g. ventures away to play and interact with others, but returns for a cuddle or reassurance if becomes anxious. • Plays cooperatively with a familiar adult, e.g. rolling a ball back and forth.

This link will take you to the document used by nurseries etc. to assess cbabies & children's development.

lemongrove Thu 18-Oct-18 13:24:09

Sounds exactly like our grandson Grannyris at the same age.He had a diagnosis of autism at aged 3.
Don’t think they will do this until aged about 3 as by then it could have proved otherwise.Keep monitoring his progress and get the family to read up on the subject, as no good closing eyes to this potential problem.Write down all the things you can ( including the lining up of cars.)

Greenfinch Thu 18-Oct-18 13:52:07

Exactly the same as lemongrove.My grandson was was not doing any of the things you mention which I think are far more significant than not speaking.Look out also for not pointing at things and tiptoe walking.Please express your fears.Early intervention is so important and helpful.My grandson has had support all the way through and still has a full time TA at secondary school though how long that will last with all the cuts is another story.

Grannyris Thu 18-Oct-18 14:40:00

Thank you for this PECS, it is very helpful but convinces me even more that there is a problem as he doesn't do most of these things. I will try following the recommended actions and hopefully might help a little.

Grannyris Thu 18-Oct-18 14:45:07

Thank you for your advice Lemongrove and Greenfinch, a good idea to write things down as I notice them. He doesn't point at things ever, or draw attention to anything in any way, but never seen him walk on tiptoe. I know I should share it with his parents but it's a difficult subject to broach isn't it, especially since they don't seem to register there's a problem. But good to know we're not alone, thank you.

felice Thu 18-Oct-18 15:11:10

No advice I would just like to send you and DH flowers for being such great foster parents for this young man.

oldbatty Thu 18-Oct-18 15:21:45

I'm not an expert, but sometimes if children are being exposed to more than one language at a time they are processing a lot.
I would be wary of attaching too much attention to the lining up cars and not reaching milestones. 20 months is very young.Isn't a rule of thumb at age 2......2 words?

Maybe next time there is a routine check up, you could go along and help the Mum?

Nannarose Thu 18-Oct-18 17:00:32

I used to be a specialist nurse practitioner & health visitor. I think you are right to have some concerns, but a lot of your description fits within normal development.

The approximate rule about bi-lingual children is that their expressive language may be a bit late up to about 4-5; but their receptive language (understanding) and non-verbal interaction should be normal.

I am astounded that no-one picked up on concerns when parents requested a hearing test, and it shows now much has changed since I retired 8 years ago.

If you think that parents are meeting his needs, then I would simply observe. If you have the confidence (and as an ex-foster carer I'm sure you do!) I would track down the Health Visitor and say 'I know you can't discuss the family with me, but these are my concerns, are you able to do a follow up visit, bring a routine contact forward, or something similar to assess the family properly?'

This family are lucky to have you.

oldbatty Thu 18-Oct-18 17:11:25

Correct, they are very lucky.

Newmom101 Thu 18-Oct-18 17:54:43

Just wanted to say that the research does point to children being taught two languages being much slower to talk so wouldn't be too worried about that. Does he understand you and instructions (go get a ball, clap your hands, for example) It's generally expected 2 words from 14months, but many are much slower. DDs 14 months and only makes animal noises.

The other things could be signs, but at this age there's so much variation it's could also be nothing. The lining up cars is always suggested as a sign, but it's quite common in lots of non-autistic children.

How was his early gross motor development? How long did he take to roll? sit up? Crawl? Stand? Walk? The recent research suggests that earlier indicators of autism are delayed development of gross motor skills.

If those are all in normal ranges I would not worry too much, but keep an eye, and focus on trying to develop his language and social skills. Lots of book reading, playing games that involve another person (chasing, throwing a ball to each other). They won't diagnose until 3, and the early intervention they would provide at this age is mostly focussed on language and social skills development, which is something you can do anyway.

(I work with autistic children).

Willow500 Thu 18-Oct-18 21:36:00

My grandson (5) has just been diagnosed with high functioning Aspergers but his parents had been aware something wasn't right from a very young age. 20 months is very young so I would think it best just to observe for the next few months and perhaps keep a diary of anything which seems a bit out of the ordinary. It's a difficult subject to raise with his parents if they are not aware but if he goes to pre-school it could become more apparent when they see other children of his age to compare him to. I wouldn't worry too much about the speech - some children speak very early and some much later especially with two languages to learn.

PECS Thu 18-Oct-18 21:39:21

oldbatty that's why I was focussing on the social and emotional development stages rather than the language development. You are most likely to notice any significant delays in development when looking at personal /social / emotional development of young babies/toddlers. Children from some multilingual families may be slower to utter but they often do understand and respond appropriately as long as no other issues going on.

Grannyris Fri 19-Oct-18 10:56:56

I am really moved by the difference it makes to how I feel about this just by reading the responses and other peoples experiences and advice. I am very grateful grannies, thank you!
I'm still concerned - I've had a gut feeling since baby was very young but it's the total lack of response to any kind of talking to him that bothers me most. As well as lack of eye contact - or even face contact! Right from tiny he has never looked into his Mum's face when feeding and you don't realise what he's not doing till you see other babies doing it! I don't know if he understands or not, he just appears to ignore speech altogether, and doesn't even seem to know his name, but I know that wouldn't be a deliberate action at his age, as it can be later. Anyway I will observe and note, and hope and wish for him to have happy life whatever!

starbird Fri 19-Oct-18 11:21:35

Perhaps his going to the playgroup will show up his differences to his mother, she may not be aware of what is ‘normal’.
One thing to be aware of is the culture in their home country, and degree of education. It is possible that they have never heard of autism and their attitude to such a child may be different - anything from it’s being under the influence of witchcraft, to being very laid back and just loving him for what he is. This is not a racist comment, just what I have observed from living in a rural setting in an African country. Even so called primary education is about rote learning and did nothing to dispel superstitious ideas. Many adults died of aids because they preferred to consult the witchdoctor rather than take western medication.
If there are any appropriate programmes on tv about children with autism, I suggest you record them and when the time is right you could invite them to watch it with you, but meanwhile it sounds like you are doing a great job by giving him gentle, unthreatening stimulation. Is he interested in drawing/painting at all or is he too young? I must admit I am out of touch with young children as sadly, there aren’t any in my life.

Madsad Sat 20-Oct-18 09:28:52

I think just keep monitoring for now. Lining up the cars as you describe is called a Schema, it's a natural part of child development.

Harris27 Sat 20-Oct-18 09:35:10

I Am a nursery teacher and if he attends nursery it will be picked up rest assured. However In the meantime the health visitor is the person to approach but I would advise this should come from the parents not you. Be mindful that if you interfere you may lose contact. Keep an eye be careful.

Edithb Sat 20-Oct-18 09:37:49

I had the same worries about our 18 month grandson. A few months ago I was convinced he was autistic but recently he has responded more. He only has one word, look, and has only just begun to walk. He rocks on hands and knees. However his half brother didn’t speak until he was three and was fluent immediately. Every child is different and has their own normal.

lemongrove Sat 20-Oct-18 09:43:37

Madsad it’s also very typical with autistic children to do this.
Our own DS simply played with cars, mainly crashing them into each other and zooming them about.
Our autistic DGS merely spent ages putting them in lines.
Of course there must be other signs that worry, not just this, but taken overall, with other concerns, no face, eye contact etc or response to name, am afraid it is typical of autism.

lemongrove Sat 20-Oct-18 09:50:23

A problem aired always helps Grannyris doesn’t it? The hard thing is airing those concerns with the parents if they are oblivious to them.That’s why noting things down can help also.

sarahellenwhitney Sat 20-Oct-18 09:52:41

concerning those that you although not related to are close. Have you ever voiced your concerns to the child's father as he seems to have a very good relationship with you. Were it me I would talk to the father as although you may be concerned and please don't take this as criticism is up to the parents not yourself to look into any issues concerning their child's development.

ReadyMeals Sat 20-Oct-18 09:54:13

His mother may be depressed and/or homesick. Depressed mothers stimulate and interact with their children less - but if that's the reason then he will catch up as he increasingly has activities with other people such as playgroup.

elsieshufflebottom Sat 20-Oct-18 09:59:06

I feel for you. I was in a similar position when child minding a little boy who was an only child. I knew he was autistic from the day I met him, but his parents didn't seem to realise. He was eventually diagnosed at aged eleven. Later, when working with adults with learning disabilities, I heard about a wonderful woman called Phoebe Caldwell. She has done amazing work with severely autistic people, who mostly also have learning disabilities. One of the main things she says is that you have to enter an autistic child's world; he cannot easily enter yours. This involves getting down with him, and mirroring his play, sounds, etc.. This is something you can do with him even if he isn't autistic. If it turns out that he is autistic, you will have helped him very early, and if he isn't, you'll be the fun Granny who likes to play!

trendygran Sat 20-Oct-18 10:28:37

This definitely sounds as if Autism is the cause of this kind of behaviour and latent speech development. He seems to be showing typical Autistic traits such as lining up his cars and not inter acting with other children, It’s a difficult subject to suggest to his parents and diagnosis is still far from perfect. I don’t have Autistic offspring but did work with Autistic children for many years. I hope your DGS will be able to have a probable diagnosis soon so that he and his parents can get as much help as possible. Sadly still far from ideal in many areas.

Hm999 Sat 20-Oct-18 11:22:09

Children brought up to be bilingual are invariably slow to start talking (and other social skills?)