‘My son’s creche want him assessed but I’m not sure if he has a disorder’

Ask the Expert: The creche is understaffed and want an SNA employed

Question: I have a three-year-old who started creche two months ago. I requested the observation notes from the creche as there have been constant complaints regarding behaviour. The notes were all written from a negative perspective using words such as: displays no empathy for others, hurts other children and leaders, takes toys, constantly on the move and has no friends as no one wants to play with him.

I asked the owner about this. It was admitted the staff member wrote the notes out of frustration as she didn't know how to address the behaviour. I have been informed I will not have a creche place going forwards if an assessment isn't completed. The staff say they are devoting too much time to my child's needs. They are understaffed and want an SNA employed. They expressed that speech and language was poor and they had difficulty understanding him yet on his speech and language therapy assessment he was within normal range for his age group.

He is an only child and has no access to other children as we live in an isolated area. He enjoys outdoor pursuits. I have applied for an assessment for him but I am wondering is he reacting to the environment as opposed to having a specific disorder?

He comes home exhausted and confused not knowing what he wants and sleeps soundly.


Answer: Your son could be reacting to a stressful environment, or he could be developmentally immature and struggling to manage the social demands of a preschool setting, or indeed it could be a mixture of both factors.

The negative notes from the understaffed preschool staff are a sign they are struggling and also indicate their negative expectations about your son which can make matters worse.

Going forward, I would suggest you continue to work collaboratively with the preschool staff. Explore what the assessment options are and how they can access more resources. You don’t mention how many hours your son attends for, but it might also be a good plan to reduce his hours, so they can create a shorter but more positive experience for him and then build up his hours from there. You could also go back to the SLT you consulted and explore further assessment (either with them or with another child developmental specialist). Ideally, they would gain information from the preschool staff and work with them about managing your son.

Finally, do also consider seeking an alternative preschool placement for your son if you have these options in your locality. A fresh start with new staff could make a difference.

– John Sharry is founder of the Parents Plus Charity and an adjunct professor at the UCD School of Psychology. See solutiontalk.ie