The S Word

Deciding to write a blog post on sleep when you’re wide awake at 2.30 am with your child probably isn’t my smartest move ever. But here goes.

Sleep. A basic human right, yeah? Not for us Special Parents. Most of you reading this who are parents, will probably know something of sleep deprivation and what it does to you mentally and physically. But that usually ends at around three years old, if you have a mainstream child (and I can say this with some confidence as I have two mainstream children too). However, for various, often very complicated mental and physical reasons, most children with special needs have issues with sleep.

Our son has had major issues with his sleep pattern since the age of three. Because of the high anxiety issues associated with his autism, even at eleven years old and using two kinds of medication, he is still unable to go to sleep by himself. He still needs me to lie with him every night (yes, that’s every single night folks) and perform his strict nighttime routine with exact precision. I will not bore you with all the intricate and bizarre details of this, but it is a lengthy process. Even if I have a night out, this routine still has to be performed from scratch on my return.

Last night was particularly bad as it is half term and anxiety is higher, as he is out of the comfort zone of his regular routine. It was around half eleven when the routine had done the trick and he was asleep. Obviously resulting in me not having any kind of child free down time, that all parents crave (and actually require for their own sanity).

At approximately 1.45 am he is awake again and asking to watch YouTube. Ten minutes later he is playing Mr Tumble re runs in my ear and an hour later, here we are still. Being a Special Parent is a tough gig, but this particular part is the toughest.

Technology does help: it’s lovely to log onto Facebook and find friends in a similar situation and have a little on line natter. However it can also be incredibly lonely and desperate. Knowing that the majority of eleven year olds and their parents are fast asleep and pondering why you have been denied that particular human right. For years.

It’s really hard for us to smile and sympathise with parents of toddlers when their children are teething or poorly, when sleepless nights are regular part of our life. And will be for the foreseeable future.

Tomorrow is a school holiday and I’m taking the girls on a day out. So I’ll need to be full of energy and enthusiasm. I’m sure I’ll manage it, as I’ve had eight years to perfect the art. But by the time it’s tomorrow evening I’m sure I’ll be flagging.

Well I can sense a change in my little fella’s breathing and it’s looking like he might drift off to sleep, so I’ll sign off and hopefully catch some zeds myself. Oh no, scratch that. He’s awake again……


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