Friday, August 10, 2007

My Abby-girl

With school starting soon, there's something that I've been worrying about. Well, more than one, but in this case, I'm worried about Abby. More specifically, I'm worried about how the other kids will treat and behave toward her.

Abby is a great little girl. She is so sweet, loving and kind. She loves kittens and everything arts-and-craftsy. She loves people. Although sometimes too much, and that’s where part of the problem is. She doesn’t seem to understand how to effectively relate to other people. Boundaries are a problem - she often is over-loving, where she’ll run up and throw her arms around someone like a teacher or a kid she knows from school or church, whether it's an appropriate time to do so or not. And to the point of almost knocking them over sometimes, and she doesn’t seem to know when to let go or stop. This was cute when she was younger, but now at almost 6 ½, I’ve noticed people reacting strangely. But it’s not just that.

She will keep talking about a topic even after the conversation has moved to something else. Her preschool teacher noticed too that she will keep asking a question over and over, even if told to wait a minute. This is something we’ve had a problem with at home – it’s especially difficult if you’re in the middle of something else (like a conversation with someone else) and Abby will just literally not leave you alone until you answer her.

A lot of these things weren’t problems for her around other kids before, mostly because they are fairly common things – for little kids to do. But I’ve noticed, now that she’s getting older and playing with other older kids, that some are starting to notice and treat her differently. Last summer the girls were home with me and not interacting with other kids very much. This summer is different – they’re at daycare every day. And the other kids are starting to be mean to Abby and pick on her. Even Hannah has started to do this, which is something I've not been putting up with from her.

I’ve seen Abby playing with Hannah and other, neighborhood kids in our backyard – everyone will start out playing a game all together but eventually the other kids get bored and move on to other things. Abby however, will not only keep playing the original game – she doesn’t even seem to notice that nobody else is playing it with her anymore.

I don’t want to ‘label’ her at such a young age. But I worry about her in first grade, being at school with the other kids all day. I know from first-hand experience how cruel kids can be to someone they perceive as ‘different’. And I worry that this will happen to my daughter. She’s starting to notice that the other kids don’t like her or that they’re mean to her and it makes her feel sad (of course). She wants so badly to be liked. And I think she often tries too hard and that’s part of the problem. But she just doesn’t always seem to know how to interact with other people (especially other kids) in a ‘normal’ way.

There’s another part to this also. She has always been hesitant about new things and definitely is not a risk-taker. She would never go into the play tubes at places like McDonalds or Chuck E. Cheese until Hannah got old enough to show her how to find her way around. She’ll learn the route to one particular slide and then just keep going down that same slide over and over, not willing to try any other routes. She never played with toys the way other babies and toddlers do – she liked things that she could build with or shape sorters, but it used to concern me that she never ‘played’ with her toys the way other kids did when they came over.

She’s never been good with change. A couple of years ago I started making a monthly calendar with the girls so that we could visually show them when things were scheduled to happen, like church days, and especially for keeping track of weekdays (daycare) versus weekends (home) and preschool versus non-preschool days. Abby really liked this. She has always done well in school academically and I’ve known that she thrives on the structure there.

When Abby played soccer last fall and spring, I noticed that she was horribly distracted any time the coach was talking to them. The other 8 little girls would watch and listen – Abby was the one always staring at the clouds, picking grass, playing with her shirt. The coach and we were constantly calling out to her and reminding her to pay attention. Even during the games, she’d sit down on the field and pluck grass or be watching the game on the field behind us instead of paying attention to the ball and her teammates. I asked her teacher if she noticed similar problems with paying attention at school. She hadn't. When I finally had time to volunteer in her classroom one day right before school ended, I noticed that Abby sat, paid attention to the teacher and went from activity to activity with practically no issues at all. But in a sport like soccer, where the ball and play are so unpredictable, there's no structure and so I think she just shuts down. I think maybe something more structured like softball would be something she'd do better with. She's signed up for soccer again this fall - she wanted to play - so we'll see how it goes.

I realized that she not only thrives on being challenged at school but that the structure and routine are important as well – she needs it. So many things now make sense to me – the way she constantly bugs me about what we’re having for dinner when we get home at night. She doesn’t necessarily care what we’re having – she just needs to know what it is. She does so much better in a situation where she knows what to expect every single minute of her day. And this summer, with practically no structure, she’s really struggling and honestly has become very annoying with her constant questions and not letting things go. But now I think that it’s because she just has this NEED to know how her day will go and what exactly will happen every single moment.

I’ve looked into both ADD and Asperger’s Syndrome. A lot of things fit, but neither seems like a perfect match for her. Is it maybe just something mild? Someone has recently suggested that Candida might be the problem. I’m looking into that too, but I don’t know a lot about it yet. I did talk to our pediatrician a couple of weeks ago and she thinks it's worthwhile to have Abby tested. So she's looking into the options for testing while I check into what our insurance will cover. I just hope we can find some answers and some ways to help her.

I do think she’ll do better when school starts again and she’s got the structure all day. I hope that will help with the social issues as well, but am worried it won’t. I need to try and get our home life more structured to help her, but frankly that’s really hard with Ron’s schedule being so unpredictable right now. Which may be another reason this has all become more noticeable lately – she was used to Daddy being home every evening and weekend and now we never know when he'll be home at night and he works many weekends. She'll stall at bedtime as long as possible, and has been staying up way too late, waiting for Ron to come home. So even when he is home, she now has a hard time falling asleep on time. And that just makes her more tired and whiny...

I don't know - am I crazy? Is this just all 'normal' kid stuff and I'm over-reacting? She's my oldest, so I can only compare her to Hannah, who is extremely social and gets along easily and well with everyone. I don't want to make a problem if there isn't one. Or hover into and try to control every aspect of her life. I just want her to be able to make friends and not be left out. And I want everyone to be able to see how wonderful and special she is.

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2 wonderful people said...:

Corey~living and loving said...

Hugs for you Mama! Being a parent is so darn worrisome. I don't have a child your daughters age, but I do think you are on to something with her. I don't neccesarily think it has to be something WRONG with her, but something that her personality type needs. Structure. I think you are a fabulous mom for trying to do all the things you feel will set her up for success.
As you know, from my blog post about the playground, I often struggle wtih worry over other children and how they treat my daughter. I think that is normal. I think that you may find yourself needing to practice some appropriate social skills with your daughter.
Maybe when you are walking into a situation, kneel down and say, "now we are walking up to your friend, so in so, How might we say hello?" Hear her answer, if it sounds good tell her so and proceed. If not, say, "Well, maybe so in so isn't feeling like a hug today. Maybe we could walk up and just say hello." "maybe we can ask her if she would like a hug?"
Maybe talking thru these things over and over and showing her how to appropriately do these things will help.

we are reilly said...

You are a GREAT mom for being so worried -- I think we all worry about our children - whether they will 'fit in' and have friends. My daughter too needs some structure and is on the 'slow to warm up' side of life -- she needs plenty of warning about transitions and changes in order to not have a mental breakdown when the time comes to transition.

It sounds like your daughter may benefit from a good Speech Therapist or a social worker/counselor (the school should test her/offer free services) (I am a speech therapist, so I have some experience). It sounds like she needs some social 'coaching' on how to handle social interactions and how to deal with life when it appears she has difficulty with flexibility and expressing herself effectively....GOOD LUCK!