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!