I am learning that our family is very different to most families. We don’t operate in the same ways that other families do and probably never will. Our methods may sometimes seem a little odd to the uninitiated outsider, but that’s ok
I have written before that I literally tossed out all the parenting books that we owned because none of them were covering the issues that we dealt with and as a result, we have had to figure out different ways to communicate with and discipline our children more effectively.
Ways that really work for us.
Years ago, I can remember sitting down watching Super Nanny and being so impressed by her techniques and I often teared up when the family became closer to each other and way more functioning as a unit by the end of the 60 minute episode. So as soon as the TV was switched off each week, I became determined to implement her strategies starting the very next day. I would make a family rules list on big sheets of paper like she did and stick them on the walls, I prepared a “naughty mat” and I decided that this was finally going to be “our” week.
But what I didn’t know back then was that her methods are tried and tested on neuro-typical children NOT children like mine with an ASD. (In fact Super Nanny did do an episode with a family who had a 3 year old autistic son, and Jo Frost actually admitted that it was out of her league and called in back-up from Dr Lynn Koegel who is a renowned specialist in that field.) Ha! What most of us would give for a one-on-one specialist to work with…but I digress…
The most noteable method of Super Nanny’s that we tried, was the sleep technique. As my regular readers will know, Harley has always been a shocking sleeper and way back in the pre-diagnosis days when we just thought Harley was a difficult child, we had exhausted every method we’d heard of or read about. So when I saw the success on screen that she was having getting children to stay in their rooms and falling asleep – I truly believed that we would have him sleeping through in no time.
I couldn’t have been MORE wrong!
Jo’s method worked brilliantly for our daughter and I know many, many other families who have also found it to be fantastic, but all of those kiddos are neuro-typical and (to my knowledge) don’t have the added anxiety issues on top.
The idea is that every time your child comes out of their room looking for comfort, you walk them back the first time and say firmly….”It’s time for bed” and then every other time following that you avoid eye contact and stay silent but you keep walking them back in until they get the message that they need to stay in there.
Well, I remember one night we counted:- 103 times we walked that child back in there! And that’s NO exaggeration. This went on hour after hour, night after night, week after week, month after month until we finally gave up and slept in there with him until he fell asleep from sheer exhaustion.
But often -as soon as one of us would sneak out…..he would wake and it would start all over again.
Well, I knew this method it was going to take time, I was aware that it is not a quick fix solution and that all kids are different, but after about 9 weeks, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we were really really crappy parents with a child who would probably never sleep! And the sleeping issues have continued ever since.
But here’s the good news…..he has had blocks of time-often a few months long where the sleep issues have disappeared and he has slept (reasonably well) for a few nights in a row, – they are few and far between but they have happened. And all of those times have been when he is at his calmest and when there is nothing going on in his life to causes the crippling anxiety that he suffers from.
Like our time recently in America. He slept brilliantly every.single.night. But…he knew exactly what was going to be happening EVERY minute of every day and he had no time constraints, no rushing and no stress.
He shared a double bed with his siblings and apart from safety issues – there weren’t a lot of “rules” to follow. He was as relaxed as I’ve ever seen him!
Which was really surprising since I had anticipated him being a nervous wreck being so out of routine!
However…..since we’ve returned home – the sleeping issues have become MAMMOTH!
We have had hysterics at bedtime, night wandering, screaming and tears every night at all hours of the morning. The whole house has been like the walking dead because we were so darn tired!
I tried moving his bed away from the outside wall in his bedroom, I bought him a brighter night light, I bought an iPod dock so he could listen to music to go to sleep and I put a new weighted blanket on his bed.
Nope. Didn’t work.
But 3 days ago, we took a step that I have wanted to take for years but Mr P has been against: We moved Harley’s bed into Lucas’ room. BEST thing we ever did. (Well….so far at least!)
Both of them have been excited to go to bed, they both fall asleep almost immediately and for 3 nights in a row now – Harley has slept 11 hours straight!!!!
He tells me that sometimes he wakes up in the night but looks over and sees his brother and feels safe so he goes back to sleep.
I asked the question “Should I put my boy’s in the same bedroom” on WW’s Facebook page a while back and there were a lot of mixed opinions about this topic and a lot of pros and cons were presented to me, but I figured that I would never really know if it was going to work if I never tried it.
I’ve also had people ask me why I would do that to them when we are lucky enough to have enough rooms for the kids to all have their own, but this is simply not about that.
This is about doing “whatever works”.
And right now…It does. I’m aware that it may not work forever, but while it IS working….I’m going to accept it with open arms! Our family isn’t ‘typical’ by ANY stretch of the imagination.
So….Whatever works people….. Whatever works.