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Monday, September 30, 2013

Counterintuitive Wins Again

Janey's sleep started to be more and more of an issue around the beginning of August this year.  What was an occasional night waking turned into an every night thing, with her staying awake for hours at a time.  From about the middle of August until around a week ago, I think we had only one night with full sleep.  It was becoming harder and harder to take.  We tried most everything we could think of, including a new medication, melatonin and any behavior approach we could find.  Except one, and that is the one that finally might have worked.

Tony mostly deals with Janey at night.  This is because medical issues make me very tired and also because he is better at getting back to sleep after being woken up.  We have a rule between the two of us, though, that if he or I get overwhelmed, we just tell each other and switch places.  It's necessary, with a high need child like Janey.  However, Tony still does the brunt of the night work, and I greatly appreciate that.  About a week ago, as I slept, Janey once again woke up, and in the morning, Tony told me he had done something new.  He completely embraced her being awake.  He didn't tell her to go back to sleep, he didn't try to keep things quiet, he didn't try to make deals with her, he didn't get upset, he didn't show a trace of annoyance.  He simply accepted she was awake, and had fun with her.  He played the recorder and they sang, they watched some YouTube together, they drew (which to Janey means making her J's on paper), they laughed together---they had a great time.  And after about two hours, Janey fell asleep and stayed asleep, the rest of the night.  And since then, for the last week, Janey has slept all night.  She even slept in on Sunday morning---we all slept until about 10.  It was incredible.  A couple days, she napped, and even then, slept at night.  Every night, we are astonished that another night has gone so well.

Now, of course, as I'm writing this, I'm knocking on wood.  And I in no way think the sleep problem is solved.  Janey is cyclical, and it just could be that the bad sleeping time had reached a natural end.  But it also could be that Janey needed to see that night or day, we were there for her.  Maybe she kept waking up hoping for a time like Tony and she had.  I don't think Janey gets the difference between day and night much---not in that she sleeps all day, but she doesn't understand why we aren't as alert at night when she does wake up.  Maybe now, if she wakes for a minute, she isn't feeling she has to test to see if we will still be happy to see her.

So, so often, Janey has shown us that the regular parenting truths don't work with her.  They don't work because she is autistic, and doesn't have the same motivations and reactions to how people act as most kids do, and they also don't work because she is intellectually disabled.  She doesn't have the ability to reason out things like most kids do.  I don't think she can think out "I really shouldn't bother them at night.  They need sleep.  I need to let them sleep.  They won't be happy if I wake them up"  Her mind doesn't do that, because of the autism and the retardation.  I believe she thinks on a more basic level, a more self-centered level, because that is what she is able to do.  I have to believe she's doing the best she can.  By trying to deal with parenting issues the way that would work best for most children, we are not honoring who she is.  It is something that only now I think I'm truly understanding.

So, at least for now, if Janey awakes in the night, we will do our best to make sure she knows we always are happy to see her, day or night, and we will hope that it keeps working.  My fingers are crossed.


Ruth said...

My fingers are crossed for you! You're doing a great job.

Julie Dobrovolná (Vašků) said...

Dear Suzanne, I think you are right! I think Janey wanted to be comforted and loved and now she feels secure and that makes her feel calm and tired also.... It's amazing:-))) Julie

Freeyoke said...

It's hard to force someone to sleep but you can force them to wake up. I've always been a night person so I get it with my kids that refuse to sleep. I don't let them sleep in much in the morning or naps beyond 3 hours because I know they're just recharging their batteries for another night of mayhem and excuses of anything to avoid sleeping in their own cribs. No lights, no sounds, locked doors and the temperature turned down helps if they aren't too wired.

Antti said...

I agree with you, she is doing the best she can. I liked the way you put it, "honoring who she is". We have a similar arrangement for the nights, say hi to Tony from me.