I was seeing a one-month old boy in the office. He had no problems, but his cousin Anton who was three years old came with him, and he was all messed up. He cried a lot, hardly spoke and appeared to be in his own world. When his aunt called his name, he would sometimes turn to her but more often would seem not to hear. Occasionally, he would say jargon with no apparent subject. His aunt was worried, to say the least.
Anton's mom had to leave to work out of town, and he and his older brother were left in the care of his nearest relatives. He was often angry and violent and the aunt and her husband tried their best to explain things to him and hugged him as often as they could. Nothing seemed to help for a while.
I suggested that she talk to him more, be firm with him, involve him in household activites and use play to explain what happened. There was some improvement in his behavior but he was not really saying much, did not look at people when talked to and still seemed depressed.. That was when I asked his aunt to try talking to him when he was asleep. I told her to apologize to him in behalf of his mom, and to reassure him of their affection and support.
I saw him again in the next few weeks for his shots, and I noticed that he had a better social response. He would smile at me and really listen when I talked to him. His vocabulary improved considerably. He was also not angry when we gave him his catch-up immunization. He allowed me to give him several shots over a few months with just a little squirming but no tantrums. Before this, he would throw several tantrums a day over the smallest provocation, which I attributed to his anger since no one, especially his Mom, had talked to him about her leaving.
His mom came back a few months after. By the time she was back, however, he had already made great strides in his speech as well as in his relationship with other people. He greeted me very clearly when he came to the office with his cousin who was already a year old, and he looked happier, for good reason.
Jan Hunt, counseling psychologist and Director of the Natural Child Project, shared her experience with me:
When my son Jason was just a few months old, he suddenly started waking very frequently through the night, nursing back to sleep each time. I was exhausted from the interrupted sleep and frequent nursing (looking back, I'm pretty sure it was because I had been eating a lot of chocolate, which has a kind of caffeine that causes wakefulness - but I didn't know that then). Each time Jason woke up, he would get even more caffeine through nursing - and babies can't tolerate much of that! When I told a neighbor about it, she suggested that I wait until Jason was asleep, tell him what I had just told her, and ask him for help. So that's what I did - I said something like, "Jason, I don't know what the problem is, so I can't help you, but I'm exhausted - I really need some rest! Can you help?" And he slept straight through the night! It's interesting to me that the sleeptalking was so successful, even though this was a food-related problem.
Megan is one of the kids I don't really like to see in the clinic often because they scream and appear so terrified of being there that they also upset the other children. Many times, I tend to hurry the examination so they could have some relief from their fear. In Megan's case, the whole thing started when she was about 8 months old and her earring needed to be removed because the clasp had gone into the back of her earlobe. We had to ask a surgeon to do it since he had the necessary instrument. From that time on, she would sweat and scream and scramble for the door when she was brought to the office.
We were able to give all her immunizations and she didn't need to come back till she was almost three, but the same thing happened despite the time lapse of 12 months since her last shot. Of course I was not surprised because I know that she is a smart child with a really good memory, but she seemed to be afraid of a lot of things. Her young mom was distressed but tried to calm her, appearing unperturbed by all the yelling. We decided to postpone the injection for a few days but only for a few days because this was her hepatitis A vaccine and it was imperative that she get it this month.
I decided to give sleep-talking a try. I gave her mom a script with the four parts, emphasizing that she say that we didn't want to harm this little girl but only wanted to give her protection from disease, and that we loved her and hoped she would get over the fear. In four days, her mother was able to do two sleeptalking sessions.
While she waited for few minutes in the office, Megan was relaxed and peaceful, a sharp contrast to her usual behavior. When they came in, she walked in following her mom (usually her nanny has to carry her in) and started to play with the toys in the toy box, then called my attention to the 'big horse' . When her mom told me about something that she did, she put in several words that clearly showed she wanted to talk to me. Another unusual thing was that when I asked her questions, she responded appropriately. Her mother told me that she was in shock over Megan's current behavior, and told me again that she had talked to her only twice.
Twice, I asked Megan's permission to give her the shot, and twice she said 'uh' and nodded. She resisted when we were finally doing it, but there was no angry screaming after, although she did cry for a while. She, however, agreed to take the small toy animal that I offered as a reward, and waved goodbye to me as she was leaving.
Her mom says she is going to work on her other fears as well as her stubbornness in insisting that she stand when she passes her stool. I made a script suggestion for that, too.