We got Daniel’s report card home today from school. It described a compliant, quiet, studious little boy. This isn’t the little boy we know at home though. I’m not saying Daniel kicks off as soon as he gets home. Most of the time he’s a “normal” little boy. He plays (usually by himself), he yells, he fights with his brother. Its usually within reasonable levels though, so he’s left to his amusements most of the time. But recently, bedtime is becoming more of an issue.
Pre-diagnosis, Daniel was very up and down at bedtime, but for a period a couple of years ago, he was wild at bedtimes. Violent tantrums were the norm. Ultimately the outbursts even frightened Daniel. They would come from nowhere and would be beyond control. We tried everything to help him, but finally went to his GP who referred him to the Family Mental Health Unit at the hospital in Aberdeen, where he was eventually diagnosed with Aspergers. At least we knew what we were dealing with, and we could start coming up with strategies that could help all of us at bedtime. Daniel at least had an explanation for some of his behaviour. The tantrums diminished in time, and bedtimes went back to being much more relaxing, and he’d regularly be sleeping by 745pm at the latest.
All good things come to an end though. Daniel has gone back to some wild behaviour at bedtime again. Its not as bad as it was a couple of years ago though, but its making bedtime harder again. The slightest thing can be enough to set him off. Its difficult to say. If its becoming habitual – its becoming part of his new bedtime routine – or are genuine meltdowns. All the signs are there’s the grunting, then the foot stamping, then the screaming before graduating to throwing things and punching and kicking. They’re all stages of what we’ve come to recognise in one of Daniel’s meltdowns. But Daniel is a) a clever lad and is capable of recognising what behaviour will result in the attention he so desperately craves – and will get a reaction from us and is, b) an Aspie how loves routine, and what becomes habit is his new routine.
Tonight’s episode kicked doff when he refused to get out of the bath, despite getting cold. We went through all of he usual stages and it looked like every night for the last week. Jane tried mirroring his actions and yelling, hoping that he’d see how silly his behaviour was. No luck. Then Jane struck a nerve. My brother is coming over on Friday when we’ll have Takeaway curry. Even as a five year old, Daniel loves curry night. And curry night with his uncle? Heaven! Well, as soon as Jane told him we’d phone his uncle to put off curry night, he calmed enough to get him into bed. Once he’s in bed and lying down and is getting his beloved cuddle, he’s good for getting to sleep.
But, meltdown or learned behaviour, its hard to tell. I guess we’ll just have to go carry on helping him cope with his bedtime routine.