Autism · Autism Awareness · Autism Spectrum · Behavior · Psychology

Counting Sheep… With One Eye Closed and One Eye Open. Part Two

sleeping chart
Sleeping chart we used on a weekly basis. BP would place an X in the box everyday and at the end of the week receive his reward.

Last post I talked about our struggle with sleep.  This time I will relate to you about needing a plan.  Always, always have a plan A AND a plan B.  Because kids with Autism are not always going to go with your plan A.  You have the choice!  Should we go hog-wild and go forth with plan A? Knowing that full well we wouldn’t be getting any sleep and being prepared for the constant “blowouts”  while in his bed. This is what psychologists call “Flooding or Extinction.” Basically exposing your child to the behavior that they fear most or trying to avoid. That was sleeping through the night in his own bed. I don’t recommend this method at all. We tried it for about three days and three days was simply too much. Dad was the one going into his room if needed, we would offer choices to read in bed and other toys to play with.  If he decided to launch a book or a toy across the room it would get taken away. Crying, yelling, and throwing things. Sorry that’s not tolerated. As parents try not to put yourself through this method.  The goal is to make it easier on you and your kids.  You don’t need the drama. Am I right? Throughout all my posts I stress simplicity.  Why make it difficult on yourself?

After three long days of crying, tantrums, yelling and lack of sleep from both parties. We all were in favor of plan B: The De-sensitization Method: This method involves the use of a timer and gradually increasing the time he would spend in his own bed and eventually doing with the timer as he got used to sleeping in his bed. It also allows the use of toys or books as long the child is calm. A more timely approach to dealing with their own phobia or fear. Same rules apply: Launching a book or toy across the room is not okay.  With this method we also used a reward system!  We implemented this weekly. With our son food is a big motivator and I know some will disagree with it.  But if you choose food in moderation and appropriately I don’t feel it’s an issue. If he enjoys something else he can work for, by all means, go for it. It doesn’t have to be food related at all. Notice I said in “moderation”, that’s huge.  If it is going to help him succeed, why not?

Step one: BP gets in his own bed till timer goes off and then gets to go in our bed.  Basically this was just to get him acclimated to being in his room and in his own bed.  Something he wasn’t at all comfortable with in the beginning. The first week we determined that he would have to stay in his bed for 5 minutes. I highly recommend using your timer on your phone or one of these. With this step using the timer really helped him stay in his structured routine.  Timing is everything. Every week we would gradually increase the time. 10-15 min.  There was an a bit of an issue with this.  BP would be so be focused on the timer and not going to sleep that he would ask when he could get up.  Our Solution: We would tell BP that he must be completely quiet and cannot ask about the “time” or more time will be added. Problem Solved. Happy parents. You might have to figure out how long it takes your child to naturally fall asleep.  With BP, it depends on how good his day has been. Does it take 5 minutes or an hour? Keep in mind our son is 13 so sleep issues might will vary for each child. Also I have not brought up the issue of drugs for sleeping.  We have not used anything as of yet.  He is a light sleeper but I try to keep drugs out of the picture.

Basically by the time week four rolled around he was sleeping in his bed all night long.  This method has been proven and does work. I know that every child will be behave differently, but give it time, it may not happen in a month or even 2 months.

Basically with anything, a child with Autism will learn in steps, pieces or chunks.  A little bit goes a very long way. That’s the Autism mind. Learning anything can be broken down into a step at time. I am not advocating that you need to use these methods, take up child psychology or know what they are. But it truly helps to know about your child’s behavior.  It helps parents understand, so I can help our children.


1. Use a timer, this is a must.  Utilizing a timer helps him know there is a definite end to the activity.

2. Make a chart or purchase one. This shows their progress and will keep your child motivated.

3. Acquire a lot of patience.  This isn’t going to happen overnight.

4. Praise your child for staying in their bed, even if it is for 5 minutes!

5. Have a reward system in place.  This will be a huge motivator.

Autism · Sleep

Counting Sheep…With One Eye Closed and One Eye Open

Sleep…What is it? How can we get more? How much is a enough? How can kids with Special needs get their sleep so we can get ours?counting-sheep-clipart-counting_sheep3-300x155

As parents we ask ourselves many different questions almost daily regarding sleep.  In our circle, we are truly sleep deprived and it doesn’t stop at the toddler years.

My journey with sleep deprivation begin long before the dinosaurs. At least that is what it felt like at the time. My NT child who will be graduating from high school soon, had no issues with sleeping through the night when he was an infant. My friends were very surprised. The child was sleeping through the night at 10 weeks. Yes you read it correctly…ten weeks.

BP came along in 2002 and of course I didn’t think too much of sleeping issues at that point. I was more worried if he could point to things, crawl, walk, talk, and do all the toddler things. That wasn’t the case and when he was diagnosed with Autism at 6.5, sleep issues started to creep up and stay.

It might have begun when the boys had to share a room in a tiny apartment. I say “might” because it could have begun way before than and I just never took the time to notice. It was decided that we would get bunk-beds because that was the most logical thing to do to save space. Mistake number one out of 500,000 mistakes. But life itself is full of those, but that’s another post. On the other hand, BP would not have slept if it hadn’t been for the bunk bed. It was a problem of doing. Now what does that mean you ask? Brendan’s gross motor skills are weak. He had to sleep up on the top bunk for a few months, which for him was a disaster. He could climb up okay, but he could not climb down. It was such a struggle, for him day after day of being stuck in that bed. Wetting his bed because he couldn’t climb down. Daily have would have to be his teacher and convince that it was okay to climb down. Finally, after a very long battle with fear of climbing down from his bed, he did it! After 2 years of help with ABA therapy. I was free and so was BP!

Fast forward to another few years and a house later. Brendan finally would be getting his own room and his own bed. At least that what we thought. Financially we were going through a rough patch. So for about a year, Brendan had no bed. He slept with me for an entire year in my bed. We were able to purchase a bed for him for his own room! So, another problem arose. BP was not exactly thrilled to say the least. Needless to say were going to be dealing with the same problem we had years ago and try to answer the age-old question: How will we get BP to sleep in his bed all night?
Fast forward to April of this year…

We needed a strategy. What would it be? BP wasn’t having the bed at that point. Something to get him to at least be interested in thing. Why would you not be interested in a nice new soft fluffy mattress to slumber on? I’d trade beds anytime. Mine is ancient and there are earthquakes every time someone sneezes. So my first thing was to try to make it motivating. He loves red. I purchased red sheets, red blackout curtains, he had a very cool Lava lamp that I had purchased for his room before and I even decided for Christmas to purchase those glow-in-the-dark-stars to stick on the ceiling. Then some nice lighting. We had also purchased a TV for his room for his birthday the year before. So the kid was set. Right? Wrong.

This recent experience with trying to get BP to sleep in his bed has made me an expert on behavior methods. To be continued.

Lava Lamp