Sense & Sensitivity

Therapist Recommends Speaking to Wild Child's Parents

DEAR HARRIETTE: I just read the letter from a person whose sleep is constantly disturbed by a rambunctious child in the apartment upstairs. You cautioned the writer not to suggest to the parents that the child be checked for developmental delays or other conditions. I am a speech-language pathologist who has worked with children of all ages with autism, ADHD and myriad other conditions that would produce the kind of behavior described in the letter. As a professional, I need to emphasize that the earlier a child gets attention for these kinds of issues, the more likely the child is to be able to learn to manage -- or even sometimes overcome -- their problems. It might not be comfortable for the parents, but it also might open them up to seeking appropriate help, which should be free from their school district if the child is of preschool age. Or the writer might get a brief but effective explanation of what is going on.

Also, if the child’s behavior is due only to parents ignoring the behavior, that is a form of neglect. If I were in that child’s state, I would be obligated as a professional to notify child protective services. Bottom line: Refraining from bringing up a problem like this can condemn a child to a lifetime of even bigger problems. Please, talk to the parents! More than a good night’s sleep is at stake! -- Speechie, Kenai, Alaska

DEAR SPEECHIE: Thank you for this note that reveals so much about what could be going on with that child. I appreciate you qualifying what medical or safety concerns there may be. I will add that bringing up such sensitive matters to parents who may be flustered by their child’s erratic behavior requires sensitivity and kindness in order to get them to listen.

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