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14396115 tn?1434317514

Need advice! 2 and 4 year olds severely behind in development

I am not a parent, nor have I ever lived with children. Due to a recent divorce, my cousin has moved into my house with her 2 year old, and her 4 year old. Both of them are extremely behind developmentally. I know that the 4 year old has a learning disability, but the 2 year old has displayed a definite ability and even an eagerness to learn. The problem lies in how they were treated in the past and how they are being treated even now.

A brief backstory:
My cousin married her high school sweetheart. The husband joined the military. He was deployed, he saw combat, he suffered from PTSD. When he came home, she decided to be the bread winner. She worked long hours, leaving the children in his care. He ignored the children, even when they would approach him for attention, they were pushed away. He didn't change their diapers, he forgot to feed them, he didn't watch what they were doing. They ran around the house like savages, tearing the house apart, throwing things, destroying things, and getting violent with each other. When my cousin came home, she was responsible for damage control. To make a long story short, they never got much in the way of human interaction. Also, I think it's noteworthy that they never eat any food with nutritional value. The *only* foods the 4 year old will even eat are corn dogs, eggs, and grapes. The 2 year old likes everything, but before I started cooking for them, all they ever had to eat were extremely processed foods.

As a result of all of the above, their growth became stunted. The 4 year old can't understand what is said to him and he has the communication skills of a 2 year old. He has a severe speech impediment and a very limited vocabulary. For example, he didn't know what a shovel was when I took him outside to water the plants. the 2 year old has potential! She seems traumatized, but unlike her brother, she is able to learn! But she is very very emotionally unstable. She is a very distraught child.

I am *not* pointing judgmental fingers here, but the way their mother treats them isn't helping. They are not allowed outside, and their playtime is very limited. They are never read to, and their mother refuses to hold them. A lot of the time, she doesn't want to spend time with them. Again, I do not judge, because being a single mother is hard work, and she is exhausted! But they have never even been exposed to normal playtime activities. We take them swimming sometimes, but most of the time they are stuck in front of the television. I should mention also, that the 2 year old has a tendency to remove her diaper, squat, and pee directly on the ground....this has happened in public as well. Most of the time they are constantly told to "sit down and stay where I can see you." I can tell these children are restless because they have so much energy, and nothing to do with it. They are constantly being yelled at and told "no, you can't do that." They have very irregular sleeping patterns because their mother has to pick up her boyfriend from work and drop him off late at night.

So, I am hoping that some of the parents out there on this forum can give me practical advice for teaching these kids how to communicate.  I am at a loss, because the 4 year old especially has almost zero comprehension skills. Since they are not my children, finding professional help for them is out of my jurisdiction. I can tell that the kids are frustrated because they can't convey what they are thinking. I want so badly for them to be able to learn, but all attempts feel futile!
3 Responses
973741 tn?1342342773
Oh my goodness.  What a terribly sad story.  My heart breaks for these kids.  And honestly, I kind of see you as a savior. That you would be willing to work with them, spend time with them, show them some affection when neither of their parents would, well.  That makes you a saint in my book.  

This is a rough one.  I don't know if the four year old truly has a disability or not.  Developmental delays happen and it is so helpful to know what they are.  I take it you have no diagnosis of anything?  He's not been evaluated?  The good news is that he is almost school age.  In fact, he technically would qualify for the preschool intervention program with the communication and learning deficits you describe.   The public school in your area or the child's doctor is who you contact.  Once in the school system, there will be extra eyes on this situation.  suggestions and help for learning will be offered.  Does the mom have any insurance?  Could you suggest a speech evaluation?  I would read to him often, take him places, talk to him, play with him, tell him things.  This will help him expand what he knows/  Same for the two year old.  

What state are you in?  
13167 tn?1327194124
I agree with SM.  

You sound  like a very caring aunt,  and they are lucky to have you.

I also agree that all is not lost in regards to the 4 year old,  IMHO.  He sounds like until just recently he had zero stimulation,  which means he hasn't learned what normal 4 year olds have learned.  It seems that with a lot of stimulation,  he could improve a great deal.  

It sounds like neither parent has good parenting skills,  and they don't make their children a priority - so it's great that you're there to give the kids some attention.

Best wishes.  I hope you post back with how they are doing.

An aside,  there was a kindergartner in my son's class,  a really cute little girl who was well-dressed,  clean,  and clearly well-cared for.  She knew almost nothing.  She didn't know what scissors were,  playdough,  any of the common nursery rhymes,  vegetables,  alphabet song,  nothing,  and she also had no idea how to interact positively with other kids.  I was so puzzled at how she could look so cared for,  but know nothing.  Turns out,  she was recently placed in a nice foster home and they took great care of her,  although they couldn't "catch her up" immediately.  By 3rd grade she was doing pretty well,  and then she somehow moved out of the school.

Prayers you are able to have a similar affect on these children.
189897 tn?1441126518
COMMUNITY LEADER
   Good points from all above.  I would stress getting the public schools involved.  It will be free and take a load off of the mother.
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