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What do you think when someone says their child is "high needs"? - Page 2

Poll Results: What do you think when someone says their child is "high needs"?

This is a multiple choice poll
  • 21% (87)
    Yup, I feel for you, so is mine.
  • 3% (15)
    You haven't seen high needs 'til you spent a day with my kid!
  • 6% (25)
    All babies are high needs.
  • 0% (3)
    There's no such thing as high needs.
  • 16% (69)
    That must be so tough!
  • 1% (8)
    My kids are easy because I practice AP with them.
  • 3% (16)
    The parent(s) just need to ____ (set some boundaries and limits, try a routine or schedule, etc.)
  • 41% (169)
    Some kids are high needs but the term seems to be really over-used/incorrectly used.
  • 4% (17)
    Other (explain)
409 Total Votes  
post #21 of 208

As the parent of a now 3 year old who needed constant movement to until she learned to walk (and afterwords provided it for herself- even now she is in constant motion), cried constantly, was uber sensitive to others' emotions/moods, refuses to wear anything that is "not soft"...yada yada yada....Yep, I believe in the high needs/ spirited child. I don't feel it's a diagnosis, though, as if something is wrong with her. I just think she's a lot like her mom- very passionate, opinionated, energetic, sensitive, and persistent. I use the "label" as a way to find help in guiding her to use those qualities positively, to get help from others whose kids have similar qualities, and yes, occasionally to get sympathy when she has utterly worn me out. Her brother is a much easier kids to parent, so I know it's not just my incompetence.

 

And I had to laugh at the choice, "My kids are easy because I practice AP. " HA!!!! AP is NOT a recipe for an easy kid. In fact, my choice to practice Attachment Parenting with my kids probably made parenting my "high needs" girl just that much more difficult when she was small. I mean, if I'd let her cry it out about her myriad extra needs, she may have given up on them and my life might have been simpler. But I value her strength and determination, and I think all that extra effort to value her needs however inconvenient they were/are is totally worth it to let her maintain that extra "verve" that will serve her so well.

 

So, maybe I wanted to see a choice that said, "congratulations! your child has a MASSIVE amount of potential!"

post #22 of 208

I chose "I feel for you - so is mine" and, contradictorily, "There are HN kids but the term is over-used". 

 

I do think that there are very definitely HN kids, who are a lot more work than 'normal' kids.  I just so happen to have 2 of them.  And this is not just my subjective opinion - just about everyone we encounter comments on how much hard work my kids are.  Their grandparents love to see them, but need to recuperate afterwards, and that's just from helping me out! 

 

So, my first reaction is sympathy - I totally understand where another parent of a HN kid is coming from.  But I have also encountered the trend of over-using the term to describe kids who have pretty much any kind of needs that aren't totally convenient for the parent - which is a different kettle of fish IMO.

post #23 of 208
Thread Starter 
OP here -- wow that is a lot of responses in such a short time lol!!!

Well I guess what spawned this post is a reaction I had to someone talking about their 'high-needs' kid. She went on to describe him a bit and all I could think was, that sounds like a normal kid... But my perception of normal is probably very warped!! So I really don't know, but I guess I feel a bit like the term is being over-used. And that bugs me because I use the term to describe DS (only when I need to succinctly give context for whatever issue I'm talking about) but now I think because everyone uses it even to describe seemingly 'normal' kids that they probably think I'm being overly dramatic or something or not fully understand the very context I'm trying to provide.

I spent DS's first months (until I found MDC, basically) wondering what the heck was wrong with my kid because he was SOOOO different than any other kid I've seen or heard of. Then I stumbled across the term 'high needs' and I thought, FINALLY a term that accurately describes DS. I didn't (still don't) know what was/is wrong with him, but it did help a bit to have a term to describe what I experience and I have a lot of mixed feelings about its overuse and a lot of self-blame and lack of confidence surrounding the whole thing. Even our doctor won't take me seriously (well, we are going to switch docs since he doesn't seem to take ANYTHING seriously, but that's a whole 'nother story!!)

Then there is the issue of how much I've learned in 2 short years of parenting... How very different kids can be... how many stages they go through & how quickly things can change... how you can pat yourself on the back for how your kid loves vegetables because of the varied diet you provide, and the very next day they'll start snubbing anything green... How the kid you see out & about may be very different from the kid you'd see if you spent a day in his home... I don't know, I'm rambling and probably making little sense...

Anyway... so I guess I was just really curious how others react when *I* use this term... And I think I will have to stop using it, seeing as it sounds like it really doesn't make my posts or real-life conversations any clearer and may not even be believed.
post #24 of 208

I would have thought "all babies are high needs" during the time between when I was pregnant with my first until a little after my second child was born.  I read the descriptions of "high needs" babies and thought that it just sounded like what all babies are like.

 

After having a second baby, and I can say with confidence that my older son was in fact "high needs".  I honestly don't like that phrasing and am more likely to refer to his infant self as "intense", but having been exposed to two such drastically different personalities now I totally get it.

 

My older son had no medical issues, he just wanted things very specifically and very strongly and wouldn't quit until he got them.  Something like....hey, I'm two months old and I want to be held at a 30 degree angle facing south by southwest so I can stare at that spec on the wall, and I'm going to scream my head off until you figure that out.   And at every developmental milestone he hit (holding his head up, moving around, etc. etc.) he became more and more easygoing because he could just turn his own #$%! head and look without needing our help.  And he's a very mellow and independent four year old now. 

post #25 of 208

DS was a high-needs baby that was soothable.  DD is a high-needs baby that isn't soothable.  My mom calls DD "colicky" but I prefer "high needs" because I think it's nicer somehow.  

 

I don't think it's a "label" that people use to gain sympathy, I think that some people have very overwhelming children.  I was a profoundly gifted child and I know I was unbelievably high needs and draining to my parents.  People tend to feel drained by my hyperactivity to this day.  

 

I also think it's ridiculous how many people like to say "if you just did such-and-such..." because there's no one-size-fits-all for kids.  Some might say I don't discipline well (okay, I'm not the very best at it...) but I know what will and won't work for my kid.  

 

I am also of the opinion that mothers know their children and their children's needs best.

post #26 of 208

I voted "Some kids are high needs but the term seems to be really over-used/incorrectly used." *and* "The parent(s) just need to ____ (set some boundaries and limits, try a routine or schedule, etc.)" in some cases, if I see the complaining parents under-parenting their kids or having unreasonable expectations. 

 

My SIL doesn't have kids but babysat recently and was like, "OMG, this baby was so demanding! He wanted to be held or worn in the carrier the whole time I was watching him!" She really thought this baby was unusually needy but that's pretty standard for babies.

post #27 of 208
I chose "That must be so tough"
I have a relatively easy baby (now toddler) /probably made easier because cosleeping works for me (so no sleep deprived mama)
I do feel sad when someone is overwhelmed with their kid and needs support. I usually do not feel like I have enough information to decide whether their kid is "truly high needs".
post #28 of 208

Wow.  I find this post (and the later one agreeing with it) extremely offensive.  I used the term "high needs" as well as "spirited" frequently for the first 4 years of my son's life, before we found out he has ASD.  Not once was I angling for sympathy or praise, or using his issues to feel better about myself.  DH and I were both at a loss to understand the way our child's mind worked, and why normal parenting wasn't "working."  We had to deal with raised eyebrows, dirty looks, unsolicited advice, and veiled and outright accusations of bad parenting on a regular basis.  In using these terms I was simply trying to give people some indication that I WAS trying and I WAS parenting, and that, for some reason, my child did not respond to his parents, peers, or environment with quite the ease that most children seemed to.  

 

It really makes me frustrated and sad to see so many people who think they have another parent's situation figured out just by half an hour of observation, or who can just dismiss another parent's estimation of their child's needs because they don't think it's valid.  For years, my SIL thought I was starving my child and gave me loads of unsolicited advice and judgement because at their house and when we went out to restaurants, he ate very little, and the little he did eat was pretty much devoid of nutrients.  What she didn't realize was that he has major sensory issues when it comes to food (am I being a spoiled attention whore by saying that?), not to mention sensory overload in unfamiliar or noisy environments that made it hard for him to sit still and eat.  We let him eat nothing but french fries or plain noodles when we went out, but that was always prefaced or followed by something like beans or tofu and broccoli at home.  And that's only one small example.

 

I didn't have an official, "bona-fide" label to explain away what people considered to be unacceptable behavior in my child, but DH and I knew that this wasn't due to shoddy parenting, and it really hurt to be constantly accused of being bad parents who were creating a spoiled, anti-social monster.  It's easier now, because people hear "autism" and their expectations for DS's behavior go way down.  They are much more understanding (or at least less ready to pass hasty judgement).  But I know that there are PLENTY of kids who don't quite warrant an ASD or other diagnosis, but who are still more "high-needs" or "spirited" than typically-developing children.  You can't just dismiss them all as regular kids who need to be told to "knock it off" or who have needy, lazy, selfish parents who make up special needs for attention.  This assumption is unkind and ignorant and it makes my stomach turn.
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by La Limena View Post

Since you asked to spare the sugar-coating, I think parents these days are over-eager for labels. If their child doesn't have a bona fide medical or psychological issue, then they will opt for something generic as "high needs" or "special needs". I think there is a munchausen-by-proxy-like need for sympathy and praise.

 

I was thinking about this yesterday because I ran across a thread somewhere around here about a child with an oral fixation. I was curious because my almost 7 y/o chews on his legos, playmobils, and erasers. No biggie. I tell him to cut it out. Well, apparently there is a label bandwagon to jump on for that too. If I was one of those moms I would latch onto that and say woe is me, my son has sensory processing issues, feel sorry for me and then pat me on the back for doing such a great job coping with my special high needs child. I think it is getting kind of ridiculous, and feel sorry for all the kids whose parents use their issues to try to feel better about themselves.

 

Honestly, some kids can just be fussy, picky, bratty, or weird. Work through it.  



 

post #29 of 208

I say I'm sympathetic. My DS2 was "high needs" and I did use the term when it came to explaining things. I did all the "right" things. He was breastfed on demand, coslept, was worn, so on and so forth. I could NOT put him down. I couldn't put him in a carrier and sit down, I had to move constantly. He woke every 45 minutes all night long for his first 14 months of life(then we night-weaned). He needed constant attention and care. Yes, I know all babies need constant attention and care. But he wasn't "normal." No swing, bouncy seat, high chair, bouncer, jumparoo, activity mat, anything. And not even other people. He needed me to do a song and dance for him 24/7. He didn't nap. He didn't have breaks between nursing sessions. It was unending. 

 

I wasn't making it up. He's my second child. My first was not this way. I baby-sat and nannied a lot of babies/children. He wasn't like any of them. 

post #30 of 208

I voted 'That's so tough. I figure when someone tells me that, they're basically saying they are tired, stressed and overwhelmed.  Maybe their child is presenting strong needs compared to the average child, maybe they're not doesn't, but it's not for me to judge. I'm not their pediatrician or therapist so the facts of the situation don't really concern me. When I'm feeling stressed, all I want is sympathy and support, so that's what I try to give.

post #31 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by MJB View Post

I voted "Some kids are high needs but the term seems to be really over-used/incorrectly used." *and* "The parent(s) just need to ____ (set some boundaries and limits, try a routine or schedule, etc.)" in some cases, if I see the complaining parents under-parenting their kids or having unreasonable expectations. 

 


Sometimes, the "under-parenting" is a result of the behaviour, not a cause. Parents can burn out and be overwhelmed, just like anyone else.

 

 

OP: I think "high needs" is over used, but if I hear someone describe their child as high needs, I don't really think anything. I'm pretty sure they have a better picture of what life with that child is like than I do. DD1 was high needs (or "colicky", I guess) as a baby, but hasn't been so much since she was about two or two and a half. DS2 is the one that's causing me to fall into this charming category:

 

Quote:
 I think parents these days are over-eager for labels. If their child doesn't have a bona fide medical or psychological issue, then they will opt for something generic as "high needs" or "special needs". I think there is a munchausen-by-proxy-like need for sympathy and praise.

 

And, ds2 was such a laid back infant that my mantra in those days was "I'm cheating - this is too easy to be parenting!". I hear people say "no babies are easy" and while I know what they mean, I don't agree. DS2 was easy...he slept well, he nursed well, and he was just very content. Then, he went the other way from his sister, and now he's "high needs" and I'm looking for a label/diagnosis...not because I'm "over-eager" for such...but because I need help, and I need to know what he needs, and I don't have a clue. Nothing gets through to this kid, and I can't figure out what might work, without knowing what's going on in his strange, sweet, lovable, infuriating, little mind.

 

Whether he fits all the criteria or not, I don't feel bad saying he's high needs. And, as I have three other children, all of whom are energetic, intelligent, rambunctious, active, volatile (not ds1, so much, but dd1 is very much so, and dd2 is somewhat), etc. and have had people comment on the energy level of all of them, and have had people say "I don't think I could handle him/her" about all of them, and don't consider any of them to be high needs, I think the idea that I am - or other parents like me are - "over-eager for labels" is really obnoxious and offensive. Kids are kids, and most of them are difficult, at least sometimes and to some degree. But, there are kids who are on a whole other level, and it's not always obvious to outside eyes.

post #32 of 208

If they co-sleep, baby wear, and breastfeed, I assume they have a high needs infant. If they don't do all three things, I tend to assume that they'd have an easier time of things if they could do all three, but still recognize that being unhappy in a sling and hating to bed share can be part of being a high needs infant.

 

What I don't do is say anything like "oh yes yes, they all cry they're all fussy" or other BS that people get from IRL folks.

 

Note: My dd was NOT high needs. I basically didn't try putting her down for her first few months, but I had the option to. I also was able to sit. Which are luxuries for high needs mamas.

post #33 of 208

If it were possible to diagnose in babies, I suspect most high needs babies would get diagnosed with SPD. It's just that babies develop soooo fast that by the time they could get that diagnosis, most of them have more fully developed nervous systems and aren't being completely overwhelmed by the sensation of air on their skin and the sound of their own breathing.

 

No, that's not it, because there are infants with clear SPD who get diagnosed as such.

 

Is there anything that just presents as overwhelming sensory input, reliance on a single person as a comfort source, and can come at varying points between birth and around age 5?

post #34 of 208

When I hear the term "high needs," I, um... think it refers to a baby who has high needs. I hadn't really occurred to me to question whether or not someone should be using the term. Most of the instances I hear it in doesn't sound like they could possibly be looking for pity/sympathy/whatever because they're telling a story in past tense ("My baby was high-needs, and...").

post #35 of 208
Quote:
Originally Posted by La Limena View Post

Since you asked to spare the sugar-coating, I think parents these days are over-eager for labels. If their child doesn't have a bona fide medical or psychological issue, then they will opt for something generic as "high needs" or "special needs". I think there is a munchausen-by-proxy-like need for sympathy and praise.

 

 



Dude. 

 

How do you know the child doesn't have a "bona fide" issue?  Are you aware that many diagnoses are not made until a child is a bit older, but that the child was always experiencing whatever it is, it just wasn't named yet?

 

Or, did it occur to you that maybe they're not interested in sharing the specifics and opt for a generic term?

 

OP, when DD was a baby and anyone asked such a question, I generally commented "yeah, she's not much of a sleeper" or "she's pretty intense, seems to know what she likes or dislikes."   Both were true, and were more communicative than a general high needs.  Then the other person could take from that what they would, I'd spoken truthfully and we could all move on.

post #36 of 208

I generally think that they have food intolerances or other digestive problems.

post #37 of 208

I voted for "I think it's overused, but there are high needs kids." If someone says they have a high needs infant, who am I to tell them that they don't? Especially since my kids were not high needs and so I haven't walked that walk.

 

In my experience, part of the 'issue' is that many people don't have a sense of the range of child development. So, they assume that the things that are hard about all kids (such as the fact that stranger anxiety and separation anxiety are normal stages of development) are specific to their child. For some kids, they probably are within the range of typical, for others they aren't. But if you're not really anticipating the issues, does it make a difference? We're growing up with smaller families, with fewer cousins, and more distant from most of our relatives. I had quite a bit of experience with babies because my oldest sister got married and had kids while I was quite young (there's a pretty big age gap), and my mom's youngest siblings were having kids too (again, a huge age gap in her family of 11). But I find that my experience is the exception rather than the rule. Now, having this exposure didn't necessarily make having my own kids easier, but it did give me some sense of what different kids are like.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by sapphire_chan View Post

If it were possible to diagnose in babies, I suspect most high needs babies would get diagnosed with SPD. It's just that babies develop soooo fast that by the time they could get that diagnosis, most of them have more fully developed nervous systems and aren't being completely overwhelmed by the sensation of air on their skin and the sound of their own breathing.

 

No, that's not it, because there are infants with clear SPD who get diagnosed as such.

 

Is there anything that just presents as overwhelming sensory input, reliance on a single person as a comfort source, and can come at varying points between birth and around age 5?

 

Normal development?

 

I don't think it's SPD. My SPD kid was actually a relatively easy baby. He had his moments (such as not ever nursing or falling asleep in public, and pretty intense stranger anxiety starting at 4 months and lasting until, oh, age 4). But he slept long stretches of time. He hated to be worn and to co-sleep. He was happy wriggling around on the floor all by himself. In fact, he needed that more than other babies I knew. Luckily for me, I figured that out by trial and error early on. But I know parents who would give a lot to be able to do that.

 

post #38 of 208

I voted that i think it's often overused.  I have however said that about my own now 2 yr old.  From a few days old until about 4 or 5 months old, she would begin screaming around 5ish, right as DH walked in the door, and usually passed out from exhaustion around midnight.  Once she passed out, she slept for like 12 hours solid.  But from around 4ish months, until like 9 months, somewhere around there anyway, she REFUSED to nap during the day.  She would fall asleep, I would lay her down, and she would pop back up.  And she would be tired and fussy and she wanted picked up but she didn't want to be held but she didn't want to be put down but really...she just didn't know what she wanted and she was unhappy.  A lot.  And between all that, and the PPD I was dealing with, I totally called her high needs.  I would sit on the floor and cry and just wonder what the heck was going on, repeating to myself that this just wasn't what this was supposed to be like.  She is my second, my first is a teen, there are 13 yrs between them.  But while I remember it taking as much as 4 hrs to get her to sleep, I don't remember her crying nearly as much as my second did.  And now that I have a third, who only cries about a third of the time that dd2 did, I know that really, she did cry a lot and needed more than the average kid.

 

But, looking back, I don't think it was "high needs" so much as it was that she needed to figure out how to get the right amount of sleep and she couldn't do it.  That, and now, she's GO GO GO GO GO all the time, I think she just hated being a baby who needed someone else to do everything for her lol.

 

I DO somewhat agree with the idea that there are some parents who really want the lables.  My sister has a stepson who is 10.  His biological mother is ALWAYS looking for some lable or something to be wrong with him.  He got into a fight at school-nothing too extravagant, just a misunderstanding that lead to pair of 10 year old boys throwing a couple pushes.  His mother decided he had "anger management issues" and set him up with therapy.  She's constantly telling him he has "food intolerances" that somehow magically disappear when he's with my sister and his dad.  I am not saying that I automatically assume that every parent who says they have a high needs kid is an attention seeking label whore, but I do believe there are plenty of folks like that out there. 

post #39 of 208

I think if a parent feels like their child is high needs, that's enough for me to know that the parent is feeling overwhelmed, regardless of whether I would consider the child high needs or not.

 

My first was an easy baby.  He was a terrible sleeper, but he was just delightful and I never considered him high needs.  My second most definitely is.  I don't call her that because I think she needs a label, and I actually didn't call her high needs until after she was like a year old and I realized it wasn't just baby stuff, and she met most if not all of the criteria of Dr. Sears' high-needs checklist.  Before then, I just considered her extremely challenging.  Nothing changed after I realized she was high-needs except I felt validated that I wasn't exaggerating her personality to myself.

 

She's almost 2 and she's much easier now and a lot more fun, but she still NEEDS more than my son did at this age or her friends that are the same age do.  She needs a lot of stimulation, so we get out and do things all the time.  She doesn't have a disorder - she just requires more out of me than an "easy" child.  Though when others see her briefly, they don't see it, because she's not intense or whatever 100% of the time, and when we are out having fun with friends, that's a small part of her particular needs to be met, and she's content.

 

That's really what it boils down to for me anyway - it doesn't mean a child is impossible, it just means it takes more effort than whatever that parent perceives as normal to keep the child content.

post #40 of 208

I've never really thought about it much.  I don't think any of my friends in real life have every referred to their child as high needs so I guess it wouldn't seem obvious to me that it's over-used. 

 

I do see it often on MDC but I figure if a parent needs to post here often there's probably a good chance that they are overwhelmed by their child or something going on with their child at the moment so they come here seeking extra support.  Thus, it's not very surprising that it's mentioned here often.

 

I also think it's very natural for parents to question how normal their child is.  DD cried pretty much non-stop the first two days of her life while my roommate's child in the hospital slept the entire time.  I was a first time mom and so I definitely wondered if that was normal.  Then as she grew, when she was stressed she would force herself to vomit (this went on until she was about 1.5).  She would get extremely upset over certain outfits and refuse to wear them at a young age, she didn't sleep through the night until we night-weaned her after she turned 2 (before that she would wake once an hour at times), she refused solids until after she was 1, and in loud, noisy environments she gets easily overstimulated and starts hitting other kids. So we've always questioned this. 

 

At the moment we suspect sensory issues and/or allergies.  It's definitely NOT that we're seeking a label but DD comes from a family where there are members are both DH and my side whose lives have completely stopped due to anxiety/bipolar/depression.  One person in particular was on drugs they give AIDS patients because his immunity system was entirely destroyed due to his extreme anxiety. This person has attempted to starve himself multiple times.  So, yeah, it's something we're aware of and we try to keep an eye out for any signs. 

 

As for what people thing in real life?  I normally don't bring it up if I just met someone.  There's a good chance DD also has allergies so that might come up if someone notices her constant scratching but that's about it.  In many ways she's very normal and if you were just to see her at playdates when she's fed, has slept, and it's a place she's familiar with without too much going on she'd seem just like any other kid albeit very energetic.  However, she has been in 3 different child care environments (daycare, babysitter, now a preschool).  All three have mentioned how intense she is.  When we came home after our babysitter watched her she usually looked liked she just had ran a marathon and many times she had problems just leaving the house with DD.  Her daycare eventually just gave up even trying to get her to take naps because it would take an hour pushing her in the stroller with her screaming at full volume.  Her preschool is the lucky one because they've gotten her after she turned 2 and, generally, she's much easier now.  However, she's still "on" 24/7 and they have mentioned that along with issues getting her to sleep. 

 

If someone on here wants to believe it's all in my head that's fine that's their prerogative.  It's not like I know them in real life and as long as they are not hijacking a thread of mine where I'm seeking help for a behavior of DD's, I don't really care.  I question it often and wonder how much is normal or just her personality?  Is it really something else?  We're working on setting up some appointments to hopefully get more answers, do some allergy (allergies also run in our families) testing etc.  In the meantime I've found coming here and posting very therapeutic for me and for the most part I've just received very helpful answers (even if they don't agree with me, most have at least challenged my thinking).  I honestly don't remember how often/if I've used the term high needs and I don't really care to look through my old threads orngtongue.gif but I definitely consider DD to be spirited/energetic/intense.  I personally like the terms wild child/stubborn because I see how much of her intensity can be a good thing as well as stubbornness and wild child just sounds like fun (at least to me!).

 

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