What do you think when someone says their child is "high needs"? - Mothering Forums
View Poll Results: What do you think when someone says their child is "high needs"?
Yup, I feel for you, so is mine. 87 100.00%
You haven't seen high needs 'til you spent a day with my kid! 15 100.00%
All babies are high needs. 25 100.00%
There's no such thing as high needs. 3 33.33%
That must be so tough! 69 100.00%
My kids are easy because I practice AP with them. 8 88.89%
The parent(s) just need to ____ (set some boundaries and limits, try a routine or schedule, etc.) 16 100.00%
Some kids are high needs but the term seems to be really over-used/incorrectly used. 169 100.00%
Other (explain) 17 100.00%
Multiple Choice Poll. Voters: 9. You may not vote on this poll

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#1 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 10:35 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm really curious what people actually think when they hear this. I won't elaborate more until you guys have a chance to vote/respond.

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#2 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 10:57 AM
 
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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.  

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#3 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:00 AM
 
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I believe people when they say they have a high needs baby. If they feel overwhelmed they probably are and need support. Everyone has different thresholds for stress. Some people have really fussy babies and don't seem bothered by it, others have relatively easy babies but feel totally drained. I was lucky and got the worlds easiest baby.....that is until she learned to walk!

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#4 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:05 AM
 
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I think, I prefer "spirited child."

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#5 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:05 AM
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I don't want to hurt feelings but yeah I voted that some kids are obviously high needs but the term is super over-used. I think it really takes away from the high needs kiddos and their parents as well. If everyone is throwing that term around (I have heard it more than once IRL to a kid who was cranky because a toy was taken away or something) then the people with the kids who really do need a little extra help (or the parents too) just kinda fall by the wayside.

 

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#6 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:11 AM
 
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I'm not sure exactly how to answer this question.  I think I have responded differently based on the situation.  I've met people who've complained about how "high needs" their baby is and I admit to having been flabbergasted and thought "you haven't seen high needs till you've spent a day with my kid".... basically that their baby seemed insanely "easy" compared to mine.  But I've also met babies who seemed to be even more work than mine, but who's parents just took it all in stride.  I think scottishmommy is right that everyone's stress threshold is different.  Perhaps there is not exactly an objective scale of "high-neededness", but rather when you hear a parent say their kid is "high needs" they really mean that they are feeling stressed out/overwhelmed with parenting that child.  Or maybe that's not quite right... I do think there are some babes out there who are relatively "easy" and some who are relatively "high-needs" (objectively speaking), but how a parent might "rate" them on that "scale" is subjective.  The important thing is that if a mama (or papa) is feeling overwhelmed and reaches out for help we take them at face value, no matter how "easy" their kid might look from the outside.

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#7 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:14 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ldavis24 View Post

I don't want to hurt feelings but yeah I voted that some kids are obviously high needs but the term is super over-used. I think it really takes away from the high needs kiddos and their parents as well. If everyone is throwing that term around (I have heard it more than once IRL to a kid who was cranky because a toy was taken away or something) then the people with the kids who really do need a little extra help (or the parents too) just kinda fall by the wayside.


 

Yeah that.  I do believe there are high needs kids, but I don't think that every kid labeled that actually is high needs.

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#8 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:18 AM
 
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Sometimes (and this probably depends on who it is I'm talking to) I wonder if the child is completely normal in terms of what sort of supervision/discipline/attention they need, but the parent has a weird idea of what a kid should be.  But I have also had several of the thoughts you've listed, again probably depending on the parent and maybe the child, too.


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#9 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:19 AM
 
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I voted somewhat contradictory answers. "I feel for you, so is mine" and " all babies are high needs." my feelings are probably even more contradictory than that. Yeah some babies are higher needs than others, but really all (or most) babies are pretty high needs. It's legit but probably overused too.
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#10 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:32 AM
 
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Depending on the child/parent in question, I alternate between having sympathy for them and wanting to lend them one of my darlings for a day so they can see what high needs is all about. Sometimes I span the bridge and feel both! *lol* Having two kids who, in completely different ways, have garnered comments from friends and acquaintances along the lines of "Wow, better you than me," I can see how high needs can come to play in a number of different ways and I'm sure I don't have the corner on that market.

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#11 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:37 AM
 
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I voted "That must be so tough!". I had a fairly "easy" baby and feel that for the most part, it was the luck of the draw. I absolutely believe that some babies are naturally higher maintenance than others.

 

In some cases, I do think parents may incorrectly perceive their baby as high needs because they have unrealistic expectations. I would have thought my baby was high needs too if I had tried to force her into an unnatural eating/sleeping schedule, then had to deal with the fall-out from that.


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#12 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:41 AM
 
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I think it depends on the parent-child combo as well, and on the intensity of a particular need. (Can you tell I'm one of those SPD mamas coming out of the woodwork to comment on your post?) ;)

 

One of my kiddos is diagnosed with SPD and if he were the son of the guy down the street with nigh-on infinite energy who loves to do hands-on projects all the time, he'd probably never have been diagnosed. On the flipside, if he were the son of my parents instead of their grandson, he'd probably have been shipped off to military academy by the age of 2. Being my son, he's had a diagnosis and extra supports and resources since he was a toddler -- because hey, every kid needs to eat and sleep some time -- but he's also growing up knowing that people come with all kinds of quirks and SPD is just another kind of quirk, like his dad's inability to shut his brain off at night leading to random web domain purchases and grand project ideas at 3am, and his mom's need to walk with canes like a little old lady. (Actually, my grandmothers are both little old ladies at 90 and they can beat me down the driveway and back any day.)

 

It does depend on the personality combo. I'm sure there are some parents who wouldn't have blinked an eye at his needs and others who would have had him medicated. Likewise with my daughter's intense (there's that word again!!) need for social time and constant talking, or the inability to ever put her down as an infant. Depends on your own quirks and what is deal-able to you.
 

 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.  



 

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#13 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:44 AM
 
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I feel for a person who is dealing with true high needs. That fits a medical description. Babies I don't think are high needs unless its something obvious medically. Because honestly all babies are high needs in some extent since they do depend on us 100%. I also think a lot of the parents create their own problems and might turn the eye and rather then deal with an issue its easier to say oh well they are high needs or special. And people see things they want to see from reading books, talking to others and so on. 

 

I truly do feel for the ones that are honest and real about it. But I have a harder time believing people because it is so overly used now a days. 

 

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#14 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:51 AM
 
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I voted the "some are but it's an overused label" one. And I considered my ds1 to be high-maintenance as a baby.  I prefer that term over high-needs - I see high-needs as requiring unusual circumstances or special needs. Because yes, if I tried to do anything other than hold him and be engaged with him, and walking him where he wanted to go or nurse him as soon as he needed, or attempted to walk away when he was sleeping, then he would often cry and be very upset.  BUT, he was totally consolable and wonderful and enjoyable, if I just dropped my expectation to do anything other than take care of him.   :)   So, in that way, he was a pretty normal baby.  If his needs were harder for me to meet, I would have called him "high-needs". 

DS2, by the way, was easy-goingas a baby.  So I know my ds1 was much higher up on the needy spectrum.   ;)

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#15 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:54 AM
 
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I think the number of true 'high need' kids is pretty small. A lot of high need babies seem to stop crying so much when they are switched to a hypoallergenic formula or allergen free diet. A lot of high need toddlers magically calm down when they are switched to a decent bedtime/schedule. Also consequences for behavior are important, imo.

Sometimes you see 'high need' children go on to have other diagnoses (SPD,ASD). That makes sense, I think.

So I guess I'll be rude and say that when I read a post about a high needs/spirited 6 year old who is up until midnight and likes to do things like paint the couch I eyesroll.gif and think that child would be a lot less 'high needs' with some logical rules in place.
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#16 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 11:54 AM
 
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I go back and forth. My DD1 was HN even at 8 now she still is so draining compared to her younger siblings. As she got older though, multiple disorders showed themselves but back when she was a never sleeping, screaming all day long until age 1 child, who didn't not sleep a single second on top of me until she was 3, high needs was the only thing I could call her. Possessed monster child just didn't sound that great. lol.gif But then I run into parents all the time who use the term because their baby does not take a 3 hour nap  or won't sit in a bouncy seat most of the day or because the toddler is well, a 2 year who does have feelings and emotions of their own. I consider those parents maybe people who have unrealistic expectations of what children do. And then I get the parents who had an insanely easy first baby, think all children are like that, the rest of us just didn't do x, y, and z with our children and then get another child who is more normal and struggle to cope. And honestly, there are parents who just struggle being parents, not to say that all of us don't on some days, but some struggle with the basic parenting tasks more so then others. I run various things for parents around my town so I spend a lot of time talking to moms, and hear/see all sorts of things. 


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#17 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 12:30 PM
 
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I think the term is overused, but there definitely is such a thing as a high-needs child.  DS had severe reflux as an infant, and now as a toddler has many digestive issues, including several bad allergies.  There's a long list of things we can't eat around here.  He is a terrible sleeper because of his medical issues, and is often up in the middle of the night screaming if he eats something he shouldn't have had.  He is 19 mo and has never STTN- in fact he never sleep more than a few hours at a time.  I definitely consider him high-needs.  

 

However, I've had several people tell me their child is high-needs just because he/she is spirited.  My son is also very spirited (curious, silly, stubborn, likes to run everywhere and explore/climb everything), but I don't consider that to be part of his "high-needs" label.  A friend at a playgroup yesterday was lamenting about her "high-needs" daughter who STTN, can eat anything, and has not a single medical issue to speak of- she simply is a spirited toddler.  I felt like that was definitely a misuse of the term.

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#18 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 12:41 PM
 
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I chose the first option.  Because my first was a high needs baby.  She didn't fit just 1 or 2 of the criteria.  She fit all 12 (the only exception was that she slept really well at night - just not during the day).  And when I would talk to people about her, it wasn't so others would feel sorry for me; it was to see if anyone had else who was going/had gone thru something similar had any advice.  Unfortunately, the only other person I found was also a new mother looking for answers, so it usually turned into a b&^$% fest because we were the only one who understood what the other was feeling!  Everyone else seemed to have "perfect" babies and I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. DD1 has since grown into an intelligent, rambunctious, active, loving, amazingly spirited child, but those first 15ish months were hard.  I was stressed all the time because I felt like a failure.  What was I doing so wrong that my kid screamed all the time?  If I were a better mother, she would be happy.  Etc, etc.

 

Now dd2 is almost 3 months old and while she's not as easy a baby as I had hoped to have, she is by no means "high needs".  I know the difference in my own family but who I am I to judge someone else's assessment of their family?  If another parent says that their lo is high needs, I can only offer a shoulder to cry on, to let them know that they aren't alone, that it isn't their fault, and that it will get better.

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#19 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 12:53 PM
 
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I had a high needs child (my first) and I picked the first option. Sure, some people might over use the term. Whatevs. I'm not judge and jury on that stuff.
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#20 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 12:55 PM
 
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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 agree.  Everyone wants a label.  It's like a fashion statement.  You rarely hear "eh.. he's just regular".  Everybody has it worse than the last parent.

 

It's sad because there are kids who truly HAVE issues, and I never believe it til I actually experience that child for a long time.  Otherwise, I just figure the parent wants to draw attention, or have an excuse for the behavior.  Most babies are fussy, not really "high needs", or toddlers are Busy.. not "high needs".  Three year olds are opinionated, it's not "high needs.  Some kids are easily frustrated, or have a low tolerance for something.  It's not "high needs".  

 

I really get annoyed with the word "spirited".  I hate that label.  

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#21 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 01:05 PM
 
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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!"

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#22 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 01:13 PM
 
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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.


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#23 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 03:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.

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#24 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 04:10 PM
 
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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. 

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#25 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 04:19 PM
 
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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.

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#26 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 04:34 PM
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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.

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#27 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 04:35 PM
 
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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".

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#28 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 04:54 PM
 
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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.  



 

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#29 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 05:03 PM
 
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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. 

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#30 of 208 Old 04-15-2011, 06:21 PM
 
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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.


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