Sometimes the kids surprise me with the things they want to know about or the questions they ask. I usually enjoy the moments that the kids make me do a double take over something they ask about. This evening was one of those moments between The Thunderous One and me. He walked up and not really looking at me, but standing beside me asked, “Mom how did you get me to sleep before I looked at people?”
I was surprised at his choice of words, he has never mentioned that fact that for years, till he was about 5 years old, he didn’t see anyone else. He looked right trough them, and sometimes tried to walk through them too. He started to occasionally notice other people but has never seen them the way most people do.
He caught me off guard.
I am trying to remember… am I blocking out the trying memories?
I told him a summary of what I would do and he was disappointed, none of it would really help him now. So, we are looking over it again to see what we can pick out that may help him.
Most of the time I sat by his bed and he held my hair in a death grip and I would sing to him till I was tired of singing… then I would pretend to be falling asleep.. You know, breath slower, let your eyelids droop, head fall… then when he was finally asleep (and I was hopefully not) I would have to take my hair away from him. If he woke up while I was untangling my hair from his fingers we would have to start over.
I learned to slowly take my hair away as he fell asleep so it was easier. He liked to hold a certain amount…so some nights it was a big fight.
We tried a few suggestions from other people, like:
Cut a lock of my hair off and give to him to hold… Painful for me, no dice for him.
Get a soft animal for him to snuggle, a start, but only worked if he fell asleep holding my hair, then I could move his hand to his animal..
Just tell him No. I didn’t sleep for over a week while we tried this one.
Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating.
What finally work was a long process broken down into smaller steps.
Step One: a bed time routine.
Now as anyone with an Autistic child can tell you a routine for them is a different thing then a routine for an average kid. The bed time routine started back at 4 o’clock. Things like watching how much he ate and drank and of what till we figured out what would keep him up. He ended up not being able to drink anything, but water, after 4.
The Routine included things like:
Check calendar (that way he knew what to except),
Lay out your clothes for tomorrow,
Take a bath… I’ll have to get back to that but bath had it’s own check list.
Go to the bathroom,
Glass of water,
Story or song,
We added one thing in at a time so as not to overwhelm him … or ME! Our long term goal was for him to be able to go through his routine with little prompting from us. To help him on that we made Routine books for each of the kids. I loved the Routine Book!
For me they were fun to make, I love the chance to be creative and some times when you have kids you forget to take the time and be creative. Or some times there is no time to be creative!
(To tell you the truth it seems the more I type about what we did the more I remember it!)
We had fun one day… I had to keep looking at it as fun, because he was not good with transitions and making the routine book called for a lot of transitions. I wrote it on the calendar a few days before we did it., I told him and the girls what we were going to doing… act out getting ready for the day, for bed, to go, and take pictures of it!
It was mostly fun, there were some trying moments as kids had to wait their turns, but we got through. I didn’t have a photo printer… this was back in the olden days of film getting developed. So we had to wait for them to get developed. Then I cut out them doing what ever was on the check list , cutting out as much of the background as possible so the main focus would be what they were doing. Each of these was glued to a page ,I may add a few stars or hearts to the page with stamps, and the simple phrase of what they were to do.
I put them in the little photo albums that are one picture wide, I think they are called event photo albums.
Each of the kids had their own set.
So now Bedtime routine became, “Go get your book and see what you need to do!”
That helped me a lot. I didn’t have to think about what needed to get done, so there was less stress. Anything to reduce stress!
We got to the point in his bedtime routine, and inability to sleep, where I could not miss any more sleep, I was losing my mind! Sleep deprivation will do that. I was worn out. So we made a deal, I would sit by him and sing, he could hold my hair, but it was only 3 songs total. I would sing one or two by his bed and the other in the door way. I usually ended up singing one in each bedroom and the last one in the hallway so they all could hear. When I left he had to stay in his bed. He didn’t have to sleep, but he could not get out of bed. Most of the time it worked. He began to hold onto the mane of his stuffed lion after I left the room. Sometimes he still wasn’t asleep when the grown ups went to bed, but he wasn’t out of bed so that was good enough for me.
We also found that if he got out of his schedule it was easiest to fix it from the morning side.
If they were going to bed later and later or having more trouble finishing their bedtime routines, we started making sure they were up exactly on time. This way they were tired when it was time for bed, and since bedtime routine makes morning routine go better the routine wasn't ignored.
So here we are years in the future and none of that seems to be what my independent asperger’s teenage can use so he can fall asleep and get the rest he wants. We still have the rule (even on the weekends and summer) that when the parents go to bed the kids do too. They do not have to sleep but they can not be up walking around the house.
If I look at his problem the way we learned to when he was young it looks like we need to simplify. He gets up every day at 5:30, but lately he has been staying in bed moaning till almost 6:30. So that will be change number one.
Change number two will be thinking up a new and improved bed time routine. But, this time instead of pictures we may just have a check list that he can post on his wall or put in a notebook. He can be in complete control on the formatting of the list, so it will look exactly the way he wants it to. Maybe not as fun for me as the photo album, but this is all him this time.
Change number three will be taking a close look at his after school till bed time activities so we can see if there is anything we can tweak there.
I think the hardest thing will be getting him to stick with this all on his own. He is not excited about this. I pointed out that a check list will make the logical side of his mind happy. He countered that the logical side of his mind is never happy. So I replied, :”Then let’s aim for Content,.” I think shrugging and walking out of the room for a glass of water was his way of agreeing.
Do you have anything you do that helps you when you get hit by a spell of insomnia?
I would love to hear more suggestions that I can pass on to him to try!
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