Monday, October 24, 2011

There's something I need to talk to you about

These are scary words to hear when they concern your child. They are even more frightening to say to the parent of a child in your care.

When I first started my in-home daycare, the agency I was working with sent me a child we'll call Alfred. The paperwork, completed by his mother and sent to me from the agency, stated that Alfred 'played well with other children'. Within hours of Alfred's first day at my house, I suspected something was unusual with his behavior. After he had been in my care for a few weeks, I was certain something was very wrong.

The agency neglected to tell me that Alfred was referred to them from the Children's Aid Society. I discovered that Alfred had witnessed his father physically abusing his mother on a regular basis. He had a constant expression of hopelessness and eyes that didn't focus on anything or anyone in particular.

He didn't play well with other children. If a multi-piece toy was between Alfred and another child, Alfred would gather the pieces under him and perch himself over them. He pretended to be a cat, communicating exclusively in meows and hisses. He lashed out with his "paws" at the other kids, and once bit me on the foot. He would stare at nothing for hours, oblivious to children playing loudly only inches away.

I explained to his mother that this behavior was unusual and recommended she investigate it with her family doctor. A friend had recommended the name of a pediatric psychiatrist. I wrote the name down and passed it on to Alfred's mother.

"I often think I should see a psychiatrist," she said pensively, as she stuffed the paper into her purse.

That's a great idea. But when you go, take your son with you.

She never went. A few weeks later, she pulled Alfred out of daycare. This is a child who could have benefited from early professional intervention. Help he didn't get.

I am a daycare provider. I don't have a diploma in Early Childhood Education. I don't have a degree in Psychology. I am just the babysitter.

Finding good quality daycare is a challenge most working parents face. Finding a provider with a similar perspective on parenting and discipline, who shares your values, and provides enough consistency in her routine so that you know what to expect from your child when you pick them up from care is a unique blend of qualities. I am not the ideal provider for every child. Every child is not a good fit for my daycare. When you do find the ideal mix of child, parent and provider, you have found gold for both sides.

A child in full time daycare spends as much if not more time with the provider than they do with their parents. A good provider will tell you if they feel there is something about your child that should be addressed. Not only does she spend a lot of time with your child, but she also has the unique perspective of seeing your child interacting with her peers, both older and younger. Take your provider's concerns seriously. Ask her to provide you with details of what she has witnessed and show this to your health care professional.

What will cause your provider to be concerned about your child?


• does not pay attention or stay focused on an activity for as long a time as other children of the same age

• focuses on unusual objects for long periods of time and enjoys this more than interacting with others

• avoids or rarely makes eye contact with others

• gets unusually frustrated when trying to do simple tasks that most children of the same age can do

• shows aggressive behaviors and appears to be very stubborn compared to other children

• displays violent behavior on a daily basis

• stares into space, rocks body, or talks to self more than other children of the same age

• does not seek love and approval from a caregiver or parent

Gross Motor

• has stiff arms and/or legs

• has a floppy or limp body posture compared to other children of the same age

• uses one side of body more than the other

• has a very clumsy manner compared with other children of the same age


• has difficulty following objects or people with her eyes

• rubs eyes frequently

• turns, tilts or holds head in an unusual position when looking at an object

• has difficulty picking up small objects (after 12 months)

• has difficulty focusing or making eye contact

• closes one eye when looking at distant objects

• brings objects too close to eyes

• eyes appear crossed or turned or appear abnormal in size or colouring


• talks in a very loud or very soft voice

• has difficulty responding when called from across the room, even when it's for something interesting

• turns body so that the same ear is always toward the sound

• has difficulty understanding what has been said or following directions (after 3 years)

• doesn't startle to loud noises

• ears appear small or deformed

• fails to develop sounds or words that would be appropriate for her age


• has difficulty pronouncing the following words: sew, house, zoo, buzz, chop, much, jam, fudge, shoe, push, look, ball (by age 5)

If your provider brings any of these issues to your attention, make an appointment with your health care professional. The range of what is considered normal development in a young child is wide, however these red flags are often indicative of a possible developmental delay. Your daycare provider is not interested in being right or wrong. She cares about your child like one of her own. She only wants to support you in your efforts to be the best possible parent you can be.

The Nipissing District Developmental Screen (TM)
CARSC - How Kids Develop