I have a niece whose development I have been concerned about for some time, and I suspect she could have Asperger's or PDD. She is four years old. Below are some observations I have made that I would consider relevant:
- While she does not "toe walk", she is severely pidgeon-toed and has a waddle to her gait.
- Her speech was a bit delayed and while her vocabulary seems right for a four year old, she is still difficult to understand and speaks in what I would call "baby talk".
- She does not seem to struggle with eye contact.
- She will engage in conversation about something she is already focused on, but will ignore repeated attempts to engage her in conversation about any other topic.
- While she engages in imaginitive play with dress up clothes, she does not appear to know how to play with Barbies imaginitively. She will put them in the Barbie car and push the car around, but she does not appear to "be" a certain Barbie and does not make up stories or interact with other children with them.
- She does not seem to recognize that toys may belong to someone else. My daughter brought a bag of toys to share with her and she acted as though they were free for the taking, even going so far as to re-name one of my daughter's dolls and insist that everyone call it by her new name.
- She does not seem to grasp the concept of sharing an activity. When my daughter tried to share a book with her, she took it and carried it off.
- As a toddler, she was deathly afraid of the vacuum cleaner or anything making similar noise. I am not sure if this is still an issue.
- Her congnitive development seems to be on track in that she knows her colors, recognizes the letters that make up her name, etc.
- When coloring in a coloring book, she is meticulous about staying in the lines. Her coloring looks like that of an 8 or 9 year old.
- She is very bossy and demanding.
- She is an only child who has had no real corrections or discipline in her life.
- She has never attended any formal day care or pre-school. She does go to a baby sitter, who has no formal training.
Her mother, my sister-in-law, has never questioned that anything might be at all concerning, including the pidgeon-toed gait. Thoughts on this?
None of that sounds like a defect to me. Babysitters don't need formal training, in my opinion. They do need to be loving and keep the child safe.
Because you mention this is a four year old only child that has little social interaction beyond her parents, I would not suspect anything you mentioned.
It is normal for her to learn to do her own thing and to think of toys as her own. Rather than worry about her, maybe you can get involved and gently teach her when you are around. It does seem she could use some socialization and gentle teaching. You could ask if you can take her on short outings to get her used to being around other adults and around children her age or younger since she has little of that kind of interaction. Bossy & demanding is typical of only children, and of the first born, esp. if they are indulged some by her parents.
It isn't a mental defect for certain people to be more social and others not so much. Learning what belongs to who and doing things on her own reflects being an only child...it appears that's all it means. Those skills are typically learned by social interaction, and adult reinforcement. An only child only has her own toys.
Her language skills reflect how her parents interact with her. I didn't know it until I heard my recorded voice, but I spoke like a little girl until my voice changed from being hypothyroid. This child from your description is acting just like a child with no siblings. It is not a big deal. Later on in school she can learn more about people. If home schooled, it still is no big deal. Eventually she will be exposed to other people, and hopefully she will still be her own person rather than a mime.
I know grown adults that are pigeon toed and waddle. Everyone is built differently. I hate for children to be judged as defective because they are not always someone's idea of perfect. My feet were turned in when I was a child. This changed as I grew up. I had no interaction with other children as there was a seven year and longer stretch between me and my older siblings who never played dolls or dress up with me or gave me any attention beyond when I was a baby. I became content with myself and never became highly social. I still enjoy a lot of time to myself, my books, and my art.
If her mother does not play dolls with the child, there is no reason for the child to think to make up scenarios. Why any four year old should be playing with Barbie dolls or think of herself as 'being' the doll escapes me. There is a belief going around now that babies must have formal training from birth on how to be a person, but I have not seen anyone fail from not being pushed along. I have seen people develop anxiety and fear of failure from not being accepted for who they are, though.
Just love on the little girl and give gentle instructions when you perceive she doesn't know the limits between what is hers and what belongs to others. You might get to see her open up and really blossom.