My first endearing memory of my son is late at night when we were back on the delivery ward. My red-haired bundle was swaddled up lying in his plastic cot and he was looking at me! Odd I thought, why is my baby not asleep like all the others? By that time I was too tired to really think about it. But that sums it up – all the other dear little cherubs appeared to be asleep but mine was most definitely alert…… and watching!
Did I realise at that stage my son was a little bit different? Not at all. I had absolutely no experience of children. I had never even held a baby until I had my own. It was only our lovely, supportive Pre-School teacher who picked up almost immediately that Samuel was on the spectrum. But that was 3 years down the line and it was another 3 from that before he was diagnosed with ASD and ADHD.
Samuel has never needed to sleep as much as other children. Even at 6 months he had practically given up having a nap during the day. Diligently I used to wrap him up (it was winter) and take him out in his buggy in the afternoon in the vain hope that he would nod off. Sometimes he did. We were living in a small Victorian terraced cottage at the time. I would then have to navigate the pram through the tiny garden, carefully unclip the seatbelt, gingerly lift said baby up and navigate through the front door to place baby on bean bag. I would then worry frantically that he would overheat as I couldn’t get him out of his pram suit without waking him!
By 12 months I had given up trying to put him down for a nap. If he did fall asleep late afternoon it meant that he would not sleep at night.
As Samuel grew up I would try to stick to a good bedtime routine. This would mean nice warm bath, soft lights, in bed by 7 pm, story, lights off. At 9 pm and numerous trips upstairs things begin to get a bit fractious. However, I kept persevering, trying to keep calm even when School believe that I am deliberately keeping my child up late.
You name it, I’ve tried so many techniques to get him to sleep. One October when he was six I thought that I had hit the jackpot. I had bought a number of relaxation cd’s. “I’ve cracked it” I thought. One week later we were back to the usual problem. Next on the list was weighted therapy. Weighted blankets can be a bit pricey but nevertheless I invested in one. It is sitting quite nicely in a cupboard now, weighing down all the other clutter. I have even tried the “not watching TV or tablet” about an hour before bedtime. So in the end, I stopped worrying about it. I have a routine that actually works for me. Samuel goes to bed later than the average 9 year old but once he is asleep he does actually sleep through to about 7 am. So we are lucky. He goes to bed at 8.30 pm. He plays on his tablet whilst I read a story (I could actually be reading anything as he doesn’t really notice). Then lights out at about 8.45 pm. It is then that Samuel decides that he is going to read a book. In fact it is the only time that he does read! He doesn’t read fiction so it is all “reference books” or “information books” as he calls them. So he will read for another 15 to 30 mins before I go up to settle him. He will then usually drop off or at least by 10 pm. It is a routine that works for us and I have given up feeling guilty over the fact that he is not in bed earlier! Although I feel that I still have to justify myself when I attend the obligatory school meetings!
Shuush………he’s finally asleep!