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Could use some advice or suggestions..

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...first of all, I'm not sure I'm on the right board. My 7 yr old niece (8 in Feb) is currently living with us, along with her mom (sil). She was a micro-preemie (my sil delivered twins at 5 months, only one survived), and in the beginning had a number of physical issues (eye surgeries, etc.) but now seems to be physically fine. However she is developmentally behind, she is currently in grade 1 at a school here (that is two years behind where she should be going by her age, she repeated KG twice).


She has never been formally tested; my sil looked into it once she moved here, but the cost was prohibitively expensive for her.


My issue is that since she moved in with us over the summer she has been writing on everything -- walls, furniture, and last night my boys found she had colored in one of their books (a history extra-reading book) with black marker. From what I have heard from sil, she did this also in the house where they lived before.


What she's writing seems very repetitive to me -- usually a collection of letters and some stars (which mil taught her to draw). In the book she then inked out the pictures that were on those pages she wrote in.


Sil has tried many things to curb this behavior -- punishment, cajoling, talking; even I have tried talking to her. Nothing has worked. We can't understand why she's doing it or how to get her to stop. I have plenty of paper around, coloring books or just plain paper, marker boards, you name it.


In the end, at their prior house, sil simply hid away all writing utensils. Am I really going to have to do that? My kids keep pens/pencils and markers in their bedroom because they like to write and/or draw at night or different times of the day (in their journals) -- do I have to stop them now from doing that (their bedroom is where my niece found both the book and the marker this last time)?


Sil also puts away all books, and only takes out a book when she's going to read it to her; that would be next to impossible for us to do here, too many books and it is integral to our learning style that the kids have open access to all our books.


I'm at a complete loss, and so is sil. I have to think there is something else going on here, more than simply naughtiness.... or maybe not.


any help?

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Sounds like impulse control issues...honestly in my home we have had to put up anything that dd could use impulsively that could be a problem. All books are locked in my room unless I am using them. All art supplies in a box up high that only I can get out when I want to supervise. She just doesn't have the impulse control to handle having these things available. That said it would be sad to have to change your whole life for her. Perhaps being more intentional in when she can use the things she is getting into so she gets more of her fill in a correct manner.

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I don't know if you have testing options available to you or not but sounds like an evaluation is in order. If she behind, had a high risk history, and is showing more toddler like impulsivity then a full eval might help figure out what is going on. Will the local schools do some testing or health insurance or special health care services since she was a preemie?


This could be on the autistic spectrum, a child with a mental impairment, brain injury (from being preemie), etc.

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My ds went through a prolific writing stage, now a scissors thing. In his case it's because the brain needs an outlet for its energies because the normal path isn't working right. In his case the one that isn't taking up enough of the brain energy is speech. So I ask if her speech is on-track. Just google for a chart of developmental milestones (for speech, for everything) and start looking. It really isn't rocket science in that sense. Yes she NEEDS to be evaluated. But even with some basic charts from online you can start to tell where she's not hitting standards, even when you subtract two years. Then find her weakest point, use that as the therapy/interaction, and bring in the others as topics.


So for instance if she's weak on turn-taking (just pulling something out of a hat), then you would take her WEAKEST thing (which we'll just say is speech) and play a game that involves turn-taking.


What you can do in that situation is assume (based on the charts) the delays are there and get information for each category on how to work on them. You can probably find books or therapy lists online to work on gross motor skills and vestibular. Therapy at this age is play, so you play, working those target skills, for 15-20 minutes. Later work on speech, intentionally doing an activity that integrates the target skills you're working on.


If she can't afford a full eval (neuropsych), then start simpler. Look at those developmental progress charts and see what her worst area is and start there. If say it's speech, get that eval. A speech eval costs 1/10th the amount of a neuropsych eval around here. You could probably even make it happen as charity, just to save her furniture. Then use that information and have the therapist talk through a game plan they can afford. If they can afford once a month of therapy, do that with lots of homework. Just see what you can work out.


So for us, it was the brain trying to find a spot for the energy. Given that it's not responding well to correction, I would try the therapeutic replacement approach I described (I'm making that term up, lol). At the very least it won't *hurt*.

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Thanks for everyone's replies, they were very helpful.


You know, there is so much going on with this poor girl -- different schools, different languages, different houses (divorce), plus whatever is involved with her personal status; I'm finding it really difficult to know when/whether to discipline, or maybe she can't help it, or what.


Options for evaluations here are very limited, and confidence in the quality of those is not always high (maybe you have the same issue in the US?). We looked into a British one (which one assumes would be good), but it was going to be almost US$200 dollars just for an initial consultation with the dr (that's without the child, they said to leave her at home), only to determine from what the parent said what tests would be needed. Is that a normal cost?


We will definitely look into the options and ideas y'all gave here, thanks so much!

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Unfortunately, that is a normal cost. Dealing with appts/evals for this type of stuff isn't cheap. We paid about $1500 to get our dd evaluated for autism...and that was only for the eval. We can't afford to do any therapy now because our insurance won't pay for it. It's very frustrating. I hope your niece can get the help she needs.

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Yes, a full neuropsych eval runs in the thousands. (I've been quoted from $1500 to 3K.) Actually, what they're asking isn't as nuts as it sounds. There are a lot of questionaires you fill out to screen for things. The questionaires are normed against a population, so they can use them to get an initial sense of where to look deeper. So it's not like they're being quacky or something. We've gotten those screening questionaires at other practitioners, so that's pretty normal here.

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