Our kids have major SLEEP ISSUES!!! As probably any parent of a child with autism will tell you, sleep (or lack thereof) can be a HUGE problem in our kids’ lives. I really wanted to talk about it on here, but, really I think that what I feel like sharing even more, is how this whole dialogue with Emma has given me more and more of the big three: faith, hope and love.
I decided to share this story because Emma has been “telling” me when she’s tired, and sometimes, when I don’t even ask. I suppose she has also been aware of how all those sleepless nights have effected her life. So now, here she is, spelling it out for me. Sometimes I just hold the paper keyboard up and she will reach out and spell I am tired at bedtime. Recently, we had this conversation:
Emma: I am tired
Me: “You are?”
Emma: I used to be up all night
Me: “I know. Do you remember that one week that was so bad when we first moved here. Was it because you couldn’t sleep?
Emma has pretty much always had sleeplessness, even when she was a baby. At two and three she would be wide awake in her room, many times laughing, for hours on end. And for those who may not know, my son, Hayden (almost 5) also has autism, diagnosed at around 15 months old. He has had the same sleep problems and many nights has been up for hours, if not the whole night.
When she was about six, Emma went through this horrific week of no sleep, where she was up ALL night! Many parents I know can relate. At first we didn’t realize that she wasn’t sleeping and it was Jared who finally figured it out and said we needed to give her something for it. That week was a nightmare. She had deep circles under her eyes and her tantrums were so bad that I had to keep her home from school. Why, oh, why didn’t I try melatonin much earlier? Again, I can’t begin to count all the woulda-coulda-shouldas over the last nine years. We finally gave her some melatonin and it worked great. I guess I’ve always been one of these hesitant parents – hesitant to give my kids anything. And Emma doesn’t swallow pills and won’t take anything unless you hide it in something. And she’s good about sniffing things out let me tell you! But she likes the chewable melatonin now.
FYI, Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone. According to some studies, children with autism show to have lower levels of their own body’s melatonin. And melatonin is actually a pre-cursor to serotonin. Anyway, I guess you could go really deep with the info ( and bogged down) . But it worked for us and we’ve used it for both kids ever since. But just like lots of others things, it doesn’t work for every child. This spectrum of autism is a rainbow of individuality.
And even with the melatonin, the kids are still up periodically for long periods of time. I think Emma might be up at least once a night and sometimes ALL night from time to time.
Our conversation the other morning is the reason why I said that this post isn’t really just about sleep issues, but another moment of enlightenment for yours truly….. Emma had stayed in bed forever ( girl after my own heart) and I finally had to drag her out. We sat on the couch and I held up the keyboard and she started to spell:
Emma: I am so tired
Me: “Were you up last night?”
Me: “How did you sleep?”
Emma: Really good
Me: “Why do you think you slept so good?”
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about what she said. Some things just really take you back and stay with you a while. I felt like in that one word, prayer, was an answer – maybe the answer – to all the questions that have plaqued me and problems we’ve faced over the years. It really feels like God’s been beating me over the head to say “rest in Me”. That word rest is appropriate. I feel like I’ve been exhausted with anxiety and unable to sleep myself for a long time now. The weight of it all has held me down for so long. I have said so often,”no one is going to help these kids if I don’t?!” I feel that God is trying to tell me “I have, I will, I AM“. That He really does have us covered. Can I accept that?!! Do I really believe it enough to trust and let go? Some times are harder than others. Some days are hard for our whole family – ups and downs. I think I’m starting to let go a little more and more in realizing that I didn’t do this for Emma. That is a truth I just know in my heart. And God’s message through her is powerful to me – life changing.