Nanny Needs Advice for (Possibly) Autistic Child

opinion 1 Hello, i have just stumbled across this forum and i feel like its a blessing!! Let me explain my situation, I am 24 and have currently been nannying for my currently family for 6months. The family is based in spain but are english-as i am. I started working for the family 6months ago, mum was 8 months pregnant and also has a 2year old daughter, for the first month i cared for the little girl in the house in england - with mum and grandma around. At first i noticed a few unusaul things that i hadn't encountered before, the little girl walks around on her tip toes all the time and when she has to walk flat footed she stumbles, i brought it up with mum who replied "Thats just how she walks". On my 3rd day i was told that the only way the child napped is if she was walked around in circles in her buggy- i tried this and sometimes it would work, but often took up to an hour of me walking in circles. When it didn't work i was told to put her in front of the tv in her buggy. This child spent and still does most of the day in front of the television watching mickey mouse or special agent oso.

So after the baby was born we went over to spain. I work 7days a week 12 hours a day. I do this so that whenever we are back in england I can have the time off. Since we have returned the childs behavior has got worse. She is now 27 months old and does not speak a word. She screams and shout's at everything, if the wrong tv channel is on she screams (i dont mean a scream i mean blood curdling - makes me jump scream!) if you say no she screams if u cannot guess what she wants she screams. She makes no attempt to speak at all. She is still in a cot, and mum constantly picks her up, she also cannot walk upstairs unaided. She goes to nursey mon-friday 10-3 and i have witnessed the same behavior there. She refuses breakfast - (as at nursey she is given biscuits) she refuses dinner, mum or myself constantly make different things, with mum sometimes offering her 10 different things, most of which she just throws on the floor then screams. She still sits in a high chair and does not look away from the tv at all. She never really plays alone - and if she does it's very rare. Mum does EVERYTHING she wants, if the child pulls her clothes no matter watch she's doing she goes with her, she is ruled by a 2 year old. We only ever leave the house with her at the weekend and go somewhere for "an hour" as mum is obviously embarrased at her behavior, and after an hour mum is bored and so is the child.

For the first month after we arrived in spain i still walked the child for an hour in attempt to get her to nap. In the end i started to refuse. I told mum i felt that by me walking her and when she didnt sleep her being put in front of the tv - that that was rewarding her behavior. Mum just said ok. A prime example of bad behavior from today. This morning i was getting her ready for nursey - whilst attempting to put her shoes on, she kicked me so hard it snapped my nail clean off - i told mum to which she replied, that must of hurt?! She refused to eat her dinner and continued to scream and shout, she kicked and bit mum and was just told - no. Not in a firm voice, just no. Which she ignored! The baby - who is now 5 months is not trouble at all - he is good - he naps well, he still doesn't sleep through the night but is all round a good baby, but he is disturbed by his sister - i often worry he is going to have heart failiure as he jumps out his skin everytime she shouts. The girl has nothing to do with the baby - to her he isn't there, if mum is holding him she grabs at him untill he is handed back to me. All in all i am in a right mess - i think the 2 year old may have a problem, the shouting/screaming/lack of interaction suggests to me she maybe slightly autistic, but i could never suggest this to mum!! Mum believes that she is just a bit difficult - thats all. She even told me she's not going to bother saying NO untill she can understand it?! So i'm here for advice, before i sink. It's getting to the point where i am upset every day and i simply do not know what to do - i am so un happy, and i am mainly only staying for the money and the baby. And i promised myself i would attempt a year. Oh and if you were wondering where dad is -he's on a golf course somewhere and has nothing to do with the children - he interacts sometimes for 10 mins max! All advice would be wonderfully received. Thank You.
I am trying to be as sensitive as possible with the OP's Submission. I felt it was important to add in the Title that this child might possibly be Autistic as that is what the OP believes. I know there are some Readers here that have experience with Autistic children so I wanted to make sure they saw this post. Thank you, MPP.


Nanny who loves what she does said...

I had the exact same situation. As a nanny, it is not right to "give" advice. You do not want to upset the parents. But it is also really hard to ignore the "behavior" of the child. Autism is really not diagnosis until the age of three. I would start with the little things- write everything down- keep a journal- The child could be autistic- she is showing some signs- but she could have a speech delay, adjusting to new baby- it is really hard to tell this early. Are you able to go to the doctors appts with the child? Talk to the doctor.

Go Luck!

Bostonnanny said...

My brother has aspergers and a few of my friends are special needs teachers. From what I read, I don't think the girl has autism, I think the mother just hasn't set good limits or a proper routine. The girl is prob delayed in speech because she sits infront of the tv all day and isn't encouraged to do anything for herself or taught how to communicate appropriately.

Her mother needs to take control. If she does have autism her doctor and preschool teacher would have noticed some early warning signs and mentioned it to her mother but at her age it is hard to know for that sure at such an early age.

I think at most she might need physical and speech therapy along with proper discipline.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Kudos to you OP for enduring all that you have endured. The stress is really starting to wear you out and I hope you take good care of yourself in spite of working such looong hours.

It's up to you to decide whether to mention to the mother if perhaps her child is Autistic. It is a delicate subject and I would approach it delicately. Mention it casually and see how she reacts. If she gets super defensive and/or acts offended, I would drop it. If she seems receptive to the idea, perhaps you can suggest it would be a good idea to get her child evaluated by a professional. Tell her it certainly would not hurt. In doing so, it can help both you and mum to know what you are both working with.

The mother sounds to me like she is living in la-la-la land. As a mother myself of a child with a disability, it is one of the hardest things in the world to admit to yourself that YOUR child is DIFFERENT than other children and needs special guidance. However, to deny such a fact does a huge disservice to everyone involved....most importantly the child since he or she does not get the help they so desperately need.

I hope the mum puts aside her own pride and gets her child evaluated at the minimum.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

By the way, I read one of the articles on the side of the web page just now. 13 Things Your Nanny Won't Tell You. It is excerpted from Reader's Digest.
It's a must read.
I love the 13th thing.
Re: The Nanny Profession...caring for children is the best part of the job yet dealing with the parents can be the worst part. LOL. Amen.

nanny2 said...

OP- is she still walking on her toes all the time? At one year old it's pretty common, but at two it's less so. Does she make eye contact? Does she have normal social interactions with peers and adults? Are there only a few things that she will actually eat? Does she have trouble with textures or other sensory things (e.g. hates the bath or won't touch sand, or always wants a tight hug)? Does she play with toys or use them in odd ways?
These are some issues that children with autism sometimes have. However, I would not mention to the mother that the child may have autism. I would mention that you knew a child in the past who was not talking at 2 and benefited greatly from speech therapy. In the U.S. it's really common for kids to get this through Early Intervention, but I'm not sure how it works there. I would try to get her the speech services, and most professionals working with this age group will be alert to possible development disorders

Just a Mom of Three said...

I would definitely make the parents aware of possible speech delays. I have a 28 month old daughter, who is average in her speech. My friend has a son a month older in speech therapy. She said last month his goal was to say two word phrases. He's also increased his vocabulary through sign language. Have you attempted to teach any sign language or baby signs?

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alex said...

wow, OP good on you for handling all this! I don't know if it is autism, as I would look at other things regarding eye contact, touch etc. I didn't speak until I was almost three and am perfectly fine and just graduated with my Masters degree. That being said, I do think there are some serious issues here and the mother is doing the child some extreme disservice by giving into her every whim. Does she say any words? Has she had any early intervention? How does she do at school? For the sake of her later in life she needs to learn boundaries and she needs to learn them now. I don't know how you could approach it but a sit down with the mom may have to happen.

It would probably test you to the limits to not let her have things unless she makes an attempt to use a word. I am sure you probably say what you are giving her when you give it to her and you should keep doing that.

And in regards to food. If they are hungry they will eat. So making 10 things definitely needs to stop.

I am so sorry you are going through all of this! The mom needs to focus that this is not going to be fixed without an intervention. Good luck!!

oh well said...

Don't tell the mom her child could be autistic, I don't think this will go down well. She is probably not happy about the new baby and if she is not able to express it, it must make matters worse. I know of a few perfectly normal children who walked on tip toes up to a late age. Staying in front of the TV every day would make any child grumpy and non-cooperative. So this kid needs some help, and so do you. You need to get support, to find someone to discuss these issues with: it could be the child's doctor or a teacher in her school. You will have to talk to the mom about it, but you need to think about the best way to handle the subject with her, because the mom might have issues of her own to deal with.

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Alex while I am glad you turned out well, it is not normal for a three year old not to talk.

I have a son who had a severe speech delay. I knew something was wrong early it motherly instinct, however I was told by many people, my mom included.."Oh stop worrying...he will talk when he's ready." I listened to them for awhile but finally got him tested. After they tested his hearing and determined he could hear normally, they diagnosed him with a severe speech delay.

My advice to all parents is to seek help if something doesn't feel right. If your child is not forming words at least by 18 months of age or so, I suggest they get tested. It won't hurt anyone and just might help.

another nanny said...

JMTCJN- I agree...although a child who is not talking at two years old might turn out just fine without any intervention, it never hurts to have them evaluated. If they qualify for services, why not take advantage of that?
OP- this is a lot for you to deal with and mom is in complete denial. I don't think you should say anything to her about autism, but maybe mention that services might be helpful.
You said you saw some of the same behaviors at school- how do the teachers feel she is doing at school? If she is mostly able to follow the classroom routines and play with other children, then the problem may be more related to the lack of boundaries at home. If her behavior is equally challenging at school, why hasn't the school said anything to mom?!

world's best nanny said...

My nephew, who is 8, is Autistic. The behavior you described doesn't sound like Autism. My nephew hit all his milestones a little later than most, but he hit them. He speaks, but never an original thought, he just repeats what he hears. He has to be told everything he eats is chicken or he won't eat it. He will not get dressed on his own or bathe on his own. He his the "hug me tight" kind of kid although he rarely flips out if no one can hug him. He has a hammock in his room that he retires to and swings when he feels out of control. Why don't you talk with a grand parent perhaps? Or a teacher? The facts may sound less harsh if coming from them. Kudos to you for putting up with all of that! I consider myself a patient woman but I don't know if I could deal with that!

parent of an autistic child said...

My advice to OP: tell the parents that you feel the child has a speech delay. It is up to a parent to get the child seen by a child neurologist. If a child has autism, they need to learn things differently than children who do not. Their behavior has to be handled differently, according to everything about the child. ABA Therapy, (Applied Behavior Ananlysis) is the type of therapy that my child gets, and they type I have learned to implement. What is "normal" for children without autism is not "normal" for those with it. They have sensory issues, social issues, even digestive issues sometimes. etc.

Often the lack of speech by age three is an indicating factor. It was with my child. That does not mean that a 3 year old who does not speak yet has autism, nor one that walks on her toes, nor even one who only seems calm when watching Playhouse Disney.

OP, I would leave this job. It sounds like you are frustrated and unhappy. As the parent of an autistic child, I can tell you this: it is difficult enough to care for a child with autism when they have all the resources in place and the parents on board with their diagnoses and therapy. It would be even harder for someone like you who did not have that support.

If in fact this child has autism at all. Either way, I would leave. You sound not suited for the position. Major personality conflict with the mother. Just my opinion.

parent of an autistic child said...


I think it is sad that people are so hesitant to say the word "autism" to a parent or person because of the stigma attached. It's like, people automatically assume the child is a freak because they may have autism. People with autism are not freaks. I understand OP's hesitance, but it is sad all the same that people see the word "autism" as a taboo word, and a taboo diagnosis. Like they need to be "fixed" or something.

Some of the most wonderful children I know have autism. My child is one of them.

bettybeans said...

get out sounds like a train wreck of a family and your only going to drive yourself insane dealing with them.

Chantel said...

It doesn't sound like autis1`m. It sounds more like a speech delay and she's frustrated because no one is understanding what she wants. It also sounds like she's jealous of her brother.

Autistic children typically play on their own because they like to direct play. They won't make eye contact or respond to their names being called. They typically enjoy constant movement and are upset by changes in routine.

If you notice these in her behavior, it would be wise to sit down and ask mom about it. If Autism is caught at a young age such as this, while there is no cure, there are many therapy options to help child and family. The only way though, is for it to be brought to mom's attention so testing can be done.

If it turns out to be just a speech delay, there are also lots of therapy options. One of the best options though, is sign language. When you offer her something, look her in the eyes and sign the word while saying it before you hand it to her. She'll soon associate the sign with what she wants and be able to communicate it to you.

world's best nanny said...

Parent of an autistic child:

I couldn't agree more! My nephew is one of the kindest, sweetest children I have ever met. He has no idea what sarcasm is, or spite, or rudeness and that makes him an extra special young man. He is certainly not "broken!" I love him to pieces!

Marypoppin'pills said...

When I saw Alex's comment I had to respond. My neighbor had a little girl that seemed delayed in many aspects. The mother only began to get concerned about it shortly before the child became 3yo. Then as crazy as it seems... the little girl just started talking one day and wouldn't stop! Her vocabulary was pretty significant for a child that had never spoken before and while there is no explanation for it she is perfectly fine now as a teenager, excelling in every way. Her mother insists that maybe she just didn't have anything important to say until then!

Just My Two Cents Just Now said...

Mary Poppin Pills:
In ALL situations there is always an exception to the rule. ALWAYS.
I think your example is a prime example.
But again, as a parent of a child with severe speech delays, I would still get them tested. It can't hurt, right? If the Dr. rules out everything and says the child will talk when he or she is ready, that would be great!!!!!

Duffas Friend said...

I have looked after a few children with autism, not for long, but to me it doesn't sound to me that this little girl has autism. Althouh to be honest I don't actually know much about it. haha.
The thing I thought I would write about that I was most concerned with is that she is still walking on her tip toes. This can be VERY bad for children's feet with their development. You could tell MB that childcare brang it up and they thought it was a good idea to see dr.
You say you have seen her behave like this at care... does MB ever pick her up? Could you discuss it with the girls that look after her and suggest they talk to MB about it?
Please let us know what happens!

Seriously? said...

I have one twin who's been officially diagnosed as autistic, another twin who has Aspergers, and a younger son who has a speech delay and Sensory Processing Disorder. Your little girl's behavior sounds A LOT like how my youngest son behaved before he got into Speech and Occupational therapies, and he's been doing fabulously ever since.

OP, please tell the mom that you believe the girl needs to be seen by a specialist immediately. While behavior like this can manifest because of a new baby or bad habits, from your description, this has been going on for a lot longer than that, and it needs to be addressed NOW so that she can get the help she needs.

I don't know if programs like Early Intervention are available in Spain and England, but I can't imagine there aren't. But someone somewhere needs to get her evaluated, and that might not happen until you speak up and break mom's belief that this is normal behavior. Personally, it took me a while to accept that my twins weren't perfect, because it invites a cycle of fear and self-blame. But those aren't good reasons to delay.

Document everything so that it can be passed along to the evaluator, and you can prove that it's not just a matter of your overstating things. Print out some developmental charts to show mom where her little girl falls in comparison, maybe sit down with her and dad together to express your concerns. But PLEASE try to help this little girl before things get worse!

(My apologies if I'm coming off pushy, but advocacy for children who can't advocate for themselves is something about which I feel very strongly.)

Seriously? said...

parent of an autistic child:

I agree with you! There is such a horrible stigma attached to autism.

I once had the misfortune of being on the edge of a conversation where a man was talking about his less-than-intelligent co-worker, when he suddenly popped out with, "I think he's a little autistic. *guffaw*" I was so stunned I couldn't do more than just stare at him (which is probably just as well since there was a police officer standing there who would have arrested me if I had slugged him).

Autistics aren't broken, or stupid, or lesser than neuro-typical people. They're just different.

Mom-of-1 said...

Seriously?- And yet, you just referred to persons with autism as "autistics" thereby reducing them solely to their diagnosis and perpetuating stigma. (Sorry but I am really big on person-centered language, as language has a huge influence on how we think about things) That having been said, I agree wholeheartedly with your "pushy advocacy" approach. Mom is actually doing the child a huge disservice (IMO) by ignoring the problem (whether or not it's autism). As far as nanny goes, I don't see how she (or anyone) could tolerate the situation much longer, so she might as well at least try to improve the situation by advocacy, even if mom gets upset.

parent of an autistic child said...

I was not offended by the use of the word "autistics." lol I actually appreciated "Seriously's" post a lot. Poster obviously is an advocate for autism, no matter her word choice. My daughter and people with autism ARE "autistics." lol. Just one of many things that they are (athletes, artists, Hannah Montana fans.) lol

Thanks for your post "Seriously." :)

Marypoppin'pills said...

Just My Two Cents Just Now
I absolutely agree! A parent should always err on the side of caution.

La-la-Lisa said...

I am concerned for you as much as the little girl! Please take care of yourself as much as possible and try to go the little girl's next doctor's appointment. Is she still getting regular check ups? If she's around other children she's bound to pick up a cold or two. So tag along--say you want to learn from the doctor the best way to take care of her (it is the truth after all!). While at the appointment, notice how the doctor reacts to her behavior. Having both the nanny and the mother present is a good way to make sure all the information is out in the open. You can even help "remind" mom about last week when she threw a tantrum, or how you've noticed she always walks on her toes. I know very little about autism, but "autistic" and "normal" aren't the only two diagnoses. A good pediatrician should be attentive and concerned, and, if necessary, s/he can make notes about developmental issues which can later be sent back to the UK physician. And remember: you are not the mother so you are not responsible for the choices SHE makes about how to raise her child. Take care of yourself and I hope it all works out well!

christine said...

My son didn't talk at all beyond mama and dada at age three. He mostly pointed at stuff he wanted and his two older sisters and I would "fetch" what he wanted. When my second daughter went to school full time and I was the only one left to do his bidding, out popped complete sentences. He knew how to talk the whole time, I bet, but didn't see the use in talking when he could get what he wanted pretty easily. This little girl sounds more spoiled than disabled or speech delayed (which was my son's problem).

Elizabeth said...

Whenever a child has odd behavior or is delayed people seem to suggest autism without consideration of any other possibilities. What this child needs is a thorough work-up and evaluation by a developmental pediatrician or a neurogeneticist. She could have any number of problems, including genetic disorders, developmental disorders, or neurological problems. It's not fair to her if there are medications she could be taking. Where is this child's pediatrician?

NVMom-movedtoTX said...

As a mom to a dd with autism, I wholeheartedly agree with and appreciate, the comments recognizing the qualities of people with autism.

To the OP, it could be autism, or not. There is an expression, if you've met one person with autism, you've met one person with autism. In other words, the spectrum is wide and how it manifests itself varies greatly. However, it could be sensory processing disorder or any number of other developmental disorders. Either way, the child is clearly unhappy and needs a better way to communicate her needs. In the short term, I'd get picture cards and let her begin to use them to communicate her needs and wants. It could go a long way toward relieving her frustrations.

scrubgrub said...

My nephew had a speech disorder that caused him to not interact with people properly. The words that he heard were not interpreted by his brain properly. So not only did he not speak, he had difficulty interacting with people. He would get frustrated as he didn't know what was going on, or he would use the wrong words (which weren't words at all in the beginning). I also don't remember the reason, but when you reprimanded him or spoke with him, it was like he didn't even hear you and he would either walk away, stare the opposite way, or continue yelling. It was related to the speech issue. There was a lot of screaming, a lot of" bad behavior." With a bit of speech therapy he is the sweetest, most caring little boy now.... and a huge chatter box.

Anonymous said...

Hello, Iam a Nanny of a child with aspergers(8 years), and his younger brother who is also delayed (3 years). From what I know, and what you have wrote, that child most certainly has autistic traits. And Im not a doctor, but if she is 3 with less than 50 words, which you say she has none, a doctor will tell you that she also has a speech delay. The walking on her tippy toes is a common sign, and also the picky eating. Trust me, its not her being "difficult", children who have been diagnosed, or have autistic traits usually process sensory skills differently than a typical child. (I.g. The eight year old i take care of likes the taste of strawberries, but the texture makes him physically ill. Or he loves his cat, and loves to watch his cat eat, but touching the cat food makes him also physically ill.) Its harder when they havent started speaking yet, and unless you begin working with her immediately, she might eventually not want to because her screaming seems to get her what she wants. Again its not her behaving badly. Trust me. Shes not being malicious. Autistic children are children of habit. They are often quick learners, but it so hard to deter them from doing it differently. They will always want their raisins to the left, or want to drink water out of the blue cup, and juice from the red. She screamed and got what she wanted, so thats how she thinks it works. She doesnt understand that what she is doing is wrong. She most likely doesnt even understand that her screaming is an action associated with being upset. Most autistic children have to be taught emotions. As for her speech delay I would suggest picture communication, and sign language. Dont use sign language for every word, keep it simple. And keep your phrases simple. I had an autistic child who if you said "Danny come here." He wouldnt even turn around. But if you said "Danny come." He would run right over. That one extra word made a huge difference in his mind. As for being an nanny and not saying anything screw that. im sorry but a childs life is in need, and actually it is your duty that if her well-being is in danger you should alert the parents. If her parents dont get her tested to be diagnosed i would consider that neglect, and if i was in your country youd be damn sure id get my social services arse and get that child the help she needs. Autism is a different world.

To be diagnosed on the spectrum with autism you have to have two thirds or more of the traits characterized as autistic characteristics. Any less and they will not give you a diagnoses, but that still doesnt mean that shes not autistic, and/or has autistic traits. The reason for the technicality is because more children today are being diagnosed with autism then ever before. The rights, and benefits for autistic children are constantly changing with the flux we are having of so many children being diagnosed.