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MomTalk.com November 24, 2017:   The women's magazine for moms about children, family, health, home, fashion, careers, marriage & more


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Childcare Troubles: Good Enough Moms


Q: My two-year old attends childcare three mornings a week. Recently, the childcare provider told me she thinks my son has autism. He has always been shy, but I don't believe my son has autism. My pediatrician did not agree with the care provider, but she continues to make comments about my son's "problem." We really like the daycare center and we would like to have our son stay there, although we do not like the teacher making these comments. What can we do to address the concerns of the teacher and explain that our pediatrician does not see a problem with our son?


Grandma Betty: Is it just me or is every other kid in the country getting the label of autism lately? I'm not sure how that kind of diagnosis is made, but I didn't think childcare providers were able to make it. Marti, since you're a psychologist, you must know about this.


Marti: You're absolutely right, Mom, that a childcare provider is not qualified to diagnose autism. And you're also right that, compared to past decades, many more kids these days are being identified as being on the "autism spectrum" (which includes milder forms such as Asperger's Syndrome). In part, that probably reflects a real increase in the incidence of this complex and challenging disorder. But it also may reflect increased awareness and better diagnosis (although some experts would say the condition is over-diagnosed).


With regard to this little boy's situation, his childcare provider may in fact be noticing some problems that warrant a closer look and possibly even some early intervention. But the way to approach that is not to offer the parents a diagnosis. Rather, the provider and the center director should engage the parents in trying to figure out what's going on with the little boy and whether his social behavior seems to fall within normal range. Together, the parents and teachers could try some things to help him connect more effectively with children and adults in the center (keeping in mind that many two-year-olds don't play well with others). Then, if his behavior still seems problematic, a credentialed mental health professional who specializes in young children could be brought in to do a more thorough assessment. It's encouraging that the pediatrician thinks he doesn't have a disorder, so a mental health assessment probably won't be necessary. But I think it's always better to get a professional assessment sooner rather than later if a child's development doesn't seem to be progressing as it should.


Erin: I agree with my mom's advice, but I encourage you to take things into your own hands right away. If you're sure you like the childcare center then you should probably initiate a meeting with the director of the center and the teacher who thinks your son has a problem. You may also want to bring a letter from your pediatrician so they can see exactly what he or she said about your son. I would personally be very leery of keeping my child at a center when the teacher is set on the idea that he has a problem. Your son may not have the best chance at success if the teacher thinks something is wrong with him. So you might want to consider other childcare options or at least ask if you can switch your son to a different classroom.


All: Finding the right childcare for your kids is a major challenge. Many parents are faced with settling for inadequate care. Your kids deserve the best you can provide for them. Take time to evaluate the center or provider you are using, and continue to evaluate your child's needs on a regular basis. A place that worked great when your child was younger may not be as good when your child gets older. Don't be afraid to look for new options if you are no longer satisfied with the care your kids receive. Your kids will be happier if you're more comfortable with their care.

Marti Erickson, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist and director of the Harris Training Programs at the University of Minnesota. A well-known public speaker, writer, and media commentator, Marti also is the mother of two adult kids and three young grandchildren.


Erin Erickson Garner, Marti's daughter, is a writer and a specialist in maternal and child health. She currently is home with her two young children except for Sundays, when she and her mom co-host the Good Enough MomsTM radio show on WFMP-Radio, FM107.1 in the Minneapolis/St. Paul.


Betty Farrell, Marti's mom, lives in Houston, TX, and is known fondly as "Grandma Betty" to Erin and her kids.



Categories: Toddlers, Pre-Schoolers, Children,

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