Bedtime in the Autism House

Bedtime has always been difficult in our house. Going right back to when Matthew was a baby, he was very difficult to settle. It wasn’t unusual to still be up at midnight and beyond with him, wandering about downstairs u til he would finally drop off – for a few hours at least.

We’d assumed that over time, things would get  easier. They didn’t. Matthew does tend to settle better now (no more midnight settling down) although he still needs someone with him before he will drop off to sleep. Daniel is altogether different. Unless he is beyond tired, he won’t settle. Right after we started to get Matthew to settle better – about 3 years ago – Daniel started going ballistic at bedtime. This was well before we got his aspergers diagnosis, so we had no idea what we were dealing with. Bedtime would be going well until it came to actually settling down. With Daniel, this really was like touching the blue touch paper. He would go into a violent rage at the drop of a hat. He would throw things, punch, kick and occasionally bite. To sum it up, bedtime with him became a nightmare. I’d often think that at least the next night it would be Matthew I’d be putting tho bed. It was dreadful to feel like that because on the occasion he was calm, he was lovely at bedtime. Of course, with hindsight, Daniel was – and is – aspergers. It made it so hard for him to be at rest.

Eventually, the violent rages would ease off, although getting Daniel to settle down continued to be difficult . Even when he was in bed, he was never still. His legs were always kicking, and he was always turning over and over. It was as if he was terrified he was going to miss something if he went to sleep. He’d constantly chatter until he was tired enough to suddenly drop off in mid-conversation.

But things have turned for the worse again. Over the weekend, bedtime once again became a battleground with him. Again, there were no outward signs of any defiance until it came to switching the light out when he announced he was going to “escape.” Naturally he was gently told no, which has triggered off a bedtime meltdown. All that can be done is to minimise the disruption to Matthew who was at least trying to settle down. Bedtime the last four nights have been a 2 hour battle to get Daniel to settle down. Eventually exhaustion gets the better of him, and the meltdown will end and the usual bedtime chattering will begin before he conks out. By then, its not only Daniel that’s worn out by it. Daniel comes up to start getting ready for bed at 630pm, and it has been closer to 9pm when he has gone to sleep.

What has changed? Yesterday at lineup time at school in the morning, a lady we’d not seen before came out for his class. D announces that they were told on Friday by his regular teacher that she wouldn’t be in class until the following Thursday. Now, as any parent of an ASD child will know, they love routine and sticking to established plans. Any deviation from the routine, or last minute changes to plans can be very damaging. Daniel of course finds communicating his fears and emotions, so just bottled it all up. He needed to find a way to let it all out, and boy, did he find a way. I’d not enjoy it if he were to go back to being like he was 3 years ago, so hopefully when his regular teacher returns, he will settle down again.

To most, something so trivial as having a supply teacher for a few days would be nothing to be concerned about.  But for a child with an ASD, it can have a devastating effect – an effect that impacts on the whole family. A minor unannounced change to staffing by the school has resulted in bedtime being drastically changed. If only they had thought of the impact on special needs children, then we could have anticipated it. In future, just pass on the news. It makes life easier for all of us.

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