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Grandson Behavior

Question:

My 4 year old grandson has been developing some strange behaviors. He clings to his mother when he arrives at places, doesn’t interact with other kids or adults, is a loner, but a smart little fellow who can recite some of the TV shows he watches, word for word, sometimes. He knows his numbers, colors and the usual things kids should know. He does speak clearly when he talks and his development seems normal. He was slow at potty training. He even seems to have a distant attachment to his dad (my son)and. all in all, he is just so clingy to his mother and seems to be very close to older brother. I will give you an example of what I mean. They will come to our house, and, they come from out of town, so we see them once a month. They will come to the door and he wants his mother to pick him up and when she does he will hide his face or hide behind her leg. So, we try to ignore him and he sort of warms up but this goes a long time. When he is in a public place at a family function he is the same. He is almost overwhelmed and his mother always has to hold him. I know they are really embarrassed because it is quite obvious this is not normal behavior at this age. He does go to a preschool and my daughter-in law-says he is ok but I have never seen what he is like in that environment. Please give me some guidance, he is really a sweet boy.

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Answer:

Dear Grandma,

I understand that you are a loving and caring Grandma and that is wonderful.

My guidance to you is to stop worrying about your sweet grandson. He is only four years old and is shy. There is nothing abnormal about his being shy at this age and I do not know why you seem to think otherwise. His parents are probably embarassed because they are aware of you sensitivity towards his shyness.

It is good to read that he is doing well in pre school. If there were a real problem, his parents would be made aware of this by the teachers.

He may outgrow his shyness or he just may be one of those shy people. Shy people learn to live with it and it is not a tragedy. Shyness is no one’s fault and is just a personality trait.

Enjoy your grandchild. Spoil him with lots of toys, candy and all the things his parents would never do. That is the role of a grandparent: to spoil the grand kids and to have fun. Do not make a big deal about his being shy when he visits, just smile, say Hi to him and enjoy his presence. He will warm up.

Best of Luck

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Comments
  • winnie matos

    Frankly you need to kick the tv out of all the rooms in the house, and better the gameboy etc goes too! You obviously need to address this sensitively with the boy's parents. There is so much fun and LIFE out there for you all if you just get him off the settee and enjoying his wonderful 4-year-old world. Good luck!

  • Dr.T

    I'm sorry but I have to respectfully disagree with what you were told Grandma.

    I appreciate that you are concerned about the mental well-being of your grandson, that shows that you are not only sensitive to what so many people are insensitive to, but also that you are watching diligently. While I do agree that you must be sure that you're not over-reacting and needlessly worrying, I would keep in the back of my mind all of the behaviors that you are witnessing.

    For the most part, teachers are not educated to seeking mental illness, nor are they educated about a child's mental health development. They may know a thing or two about child development and what to expect in general, but to understand the criteria of autism, depression, antisocial behavior, etc. is something they are likely to miss. There are many teachers who undermine a child's developmental problems by "the terrible twos," by poor parenting, or ADHD (Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), or even shyness. While all of these things are likely, there is still the possibility of a serious problem arising and no one is able to detect it. There are many cases such as these.

    Studies show that race and ethniciy also play a part in teachers detecting problems. Minority children are more likely to be labeled as a "bad child" than children who are not minorities who are often labeled as having ADHD. Other factors also play a role. Teachers fall prey to stigma, belief systems, and poor understanding of mental problems as most laypeople do.

    Another point is that many parents are not made aware of their child's developmental problems until it becomes problematic to other children in the school or creates tensions between the teachers and the student. Some children go all the way to elementary school before they are diagnosed with something that they had been struggling with sense they could speak.

    Essentially, I wouldn't worry. But I also, as we all should with our developing children, be open minded to the fact that anything is likely. It is nice to be positive, but it is also wise to be realistic. More than likely, your grandson is okay. He sounds like a healthy, shy little guy! Most children are shy. I was shy for years it wasn't until I went to college (during my first year) that I became less shy (and that took placing me in the front of many psychology/law classes doing presentations and speaking). It was a gradual process for me. Some of the most antisocial people, such as Einstein, were late bloomers, they needed time to develop,yet they were great contributors. Just because an individual is slow to develop, doesn't mean they are "abnormal." You may have a very different child on your hands that needs to be nurtured differently than other children. His characteristics may prove to be very admirable traits one day!

    I wish you well.

  • Serenity

    I think the mother should make an appointment with a developmental pediatrician. I do think the grandmother has a reason to be concerned.

    The child being overwhelmed by his environment, disconnected, early academic achievment, along with repition of TV programs (echolalia) are all indicators of an Autism Spectrum Disorder. I have to young boys diagnosed with ASD, and the behavior that is being described very closely resembles my older son at that age. Please, don't delay in making the appiontment. It can never hurt to have him evaluated! My oldest son is very high functioning, and my only regret is that I didn't listen to my instinct that something 'wasn't right'. Instead, I listened to everyone else, much like the comment above that blames T.V. My son missed out on some very much needed early intervention, and also some very much needed understanding about who he is.

  • Anonymous-1

    Serenity, Dr. T., Grandma,

    There is nothing wrong with having this chld evaluated and, so, I agree with the last two posts about that. However, from what Grandma wrote, I see no evidence for ecolalia. It does not mean that is is not there, it may be present, but that is not clear from the E. Mail message. Nevertheless, as the old saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is a pound of cure," and so I have no objection to an evaluation and I want to thank the last two people who posted about this.

    Dr. Schwartz

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