Single Moms Raising Autistic Sons

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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

How Do I Get Griffin to Sleep?

This is a question that I need help with desperately. I would like to know how you help your autistic children to get to sleep on time and on a regular basis. Griffin has great difficulty getting to sleep when mommy wants him to sleep. I have a routine that we follow, we use PECS, there's no TV time for 2 hrs before bedtime, and he won't take the melatonin (which used to help) anymore since he can taste it in all the foods I have tried to use to disguise it in. I have Clonodine to use to help him sleep and I only use 1/4 tablet when the recommended dose is 1/2 - 1 tablet but I really don't want to use drugs to sedate my child. Clonodine is a drug used to treat high blood pressure in adults. When I gave him 1/2 tablet he turned into a zombie.

Are there any of you who do use medication to help your child to sleep? If so, do you feel that it is relatively safe? Griffin is not quite 4 yrs. old so I wondering how safe can it be to give him meds on a regular basis.

The problem is that without the meds he stays awake until midnight regardless of how much exercise or mental stimulation he has had. It is like he gets a second wind right around the time I want him to go to sleep and then he is wired for sound. I have tried a pressure vest and deep pressure, I have tried calming techniques, writing the words on paper, and no sugar long before bedtime, keeping everything on a strict schedule fpr example: dinner, bath, reading a book, and trying to get him to sleep/snuggle time.

I was just hoping that maybe some of you could help me out with suggestions or sharing your experiences with me and maybe one of them might just work for my little guy. I am open to anything no matter how wild it may seem. I just feel uncomfortable giving him drugs if there is something else out there that might work

Thank you for your input, I really appreciate it.


Kristina Chew said...

Until recently Charlie's usual bedtime was 11pm at the earliest, or rather midnight and sometimes 1am and later. You are already doing the right thing by having him on a schedule--I also say NO to any food, computer, TV, music after 9pm. (We try to keep it really boring, pretty much.)

My autism consultant also suggested:
1) At whatever time he really gets tired, do some activity (like reading a book). Keep doing this so he associates that activity with being tired.
2) Once that is established (and it may take awhile), do the activity about 15 minutes before Griffin's usual sleeptime. Keep trying to move the time up in small (15 minutes) increments.
3) Also, get him up at a reasonable hour for school time--Charlie used to wake up at 8am and roll (or be dragged) out the door for school. We make sure he is awake by 7am (on weekends, too--yes, tiring!). I make sure there is something worth staying awake for, TV or something good for breakfast. Of, I just am pleasantly noisy so sleep is not an obvious option.
4) I have found that getting Charlie a lot of exercise in the evening--swimming, for instance--can stimulate him and keep him awake. So after 7.30/8pm, we try to tone down the physical activity. If he starts to get hyper, I tell him bedtime in a sensible and blasé voice.

We used to get into "stay in the bed" back and forths with Charlie---not a good idea. (These made getting out of the bed way too much fun for him.)

None of this is foolproof. The main thing is trying to keep things (myself esp.) calm and quiet and not communicating any of my own anxiety about him going to bed late. We have contemplated Clonidine and so far not had to use it.

Hang in! It will get better.

Jenn said...

I can so totally relate with my own 3-1/2 year old. It boggles my husbands mind how this little boy can stay up so late, and get increasingly hyper instead of tired. Many times we have finally gotten him to sleep, only to look at the clock and decide to go to bed ourselves, another evening shot simply trying to get that boy to sleep. It's frustrating. I know.
recently I have discovered that Matthew sings to himself when he is tired. Twinkle twinkle little star. Over and over, he likes the repetitiveness of that song I guess. He doesn't sing the words, just hums it over and over about 50 times whilst banging his head repeatedly into the door, or the head of his bed, or the wall, or anything hard.
I have started singing with him at bedtime, after our story, and humming with him (He gets mad if I sing the words) so we hum together for about 10 minutes and then I Tell him that it is time for sleeping.
Anytime he gets out of his room, I just put him back and say "it's time for sleeping".
We try to make it dark, and boring, so that it doesn't become a game.
Threats do not work, punishment does not work. we just have to condition him that a quiet dark room means time to sleep, and be consistent with our own behaviour (difficult to do without getting frustrated/angry at him).
I do not want to ever have to use meds to get him to sleep, but will admit that when he had a cold, and I gave him nyquil nighttime formula, he was out like a light and it was so easy. I can't depend on that though. rats.

MOM-NOS said...

Have you tried mixing melatonin in applesauce? Bud doesn't seem to notice the taste at all and he is usually sensitive to that sort of thing. The texture of applesauce masks it well because it's lumpy to begin with. When we tried mixing it with things like yogurt he refused to take it because he said it had "seeds" in it.

mommyguilt said...

This is really going to sound awful, but for ANY of my kids, even my two NTs, I've always given them a dose of Benadryl if they need to get to sleep. Although, this doesn't always work, because in some people it wires them. Most people it either doesn't affect at all or knocks them on their butts (like me and my kids). Just a suggestion. I'd try it at a non-sleep time first, though, if that's something you'd like to try...just in case.

Peggy Lou Morgan said...

Sleep issues seem to be a constant struggle for those on the spectrum. I wrote about my experiences with my son and sleep if you want to have a look Billy Ray and sleep.