Monday, 9 January 2017

Bringing back bedtimes

So, while my crazy, intrepid adventurers are outside digging a hole in the pouring rain (literally one of their all time favourite things to do!) I thought I would take a moment (from inside, in the warm and dry!) to write a quick post about bedtimes.

Obviously, being an autism house - with a healthy dose of sensory processing disorder and ADHD unofficially thrown into the mix - bed times are, well, not BED times lol.

In the summer months we don't officially have a bed time any more - this was dispensed with last year as it is IMPOSSIBLE to get DD to sleep when it is light. Fact.

However, they are not allowed to 'stay up' either.  So it's our usual routine of no tv after dinner (we only have a TV downstairs in the lounge anyway) and no computers, blue screens etc (again, they don't have anything of this nature of their own anyway) after dinner either. 

Both children have pets in their rooms for company - and to provide white noise (without actually providing white noise, because 3 CD players have been wrecked by fiddling fingers when we did attempt music, stories or white noise on CDs!) so apart from George the tortoise, Ginger the bunny and Goldie (original huh?) the goldfish , all is quiet.

So, the rule is 6 o'clock is Get Ready for Bed time - ie. jamas, and bathroom routine. In our case this is brush teeth (with help), wash face, toilet and do inhalers.  We tend not to do bath before bed as both find bathtime enjoyable and highly stimulating so we tend to do it as a relaxing day activity rather than before bed time.

Once they are ready for bed (rooms must also be tidy at this point) they may then have Quiet Time - on their own, in their rooms.  If their rooms were not tidy, they must use their Quiet Time to tidy rather than play....
They are not allowed to play with each other beyond this time (as they become too over stimulated and the inevitable sibling fallings out will ensue!)  and the idea, of course, is to de-stimulate at this point.

In the summer they are allowed an unquantified amount of Quiet Time.  There are still rules - it is quiet play ONLY.  So that's jigsaws, reading, drawing, writing, Lego etc. And they may only do one activity at a time, and everything from it must be put away before they start the next activity as rooms must be tidy before they go to bed.  We enforce this by revoking the free bed time the following night if they do not comply - ie. if they stay up til 10pm and trash their rooms, the following night it will be lights out and in bed at 7pm.

In the winter (hurrah for the winter!) when it is DARK, then lights out is 7pm anyway (oh yeah!).

But, as I say, due to the light evenings and the difficulty in sleeping generally they are allowed to choose when to actually go to bed in the summer months.  Happily it is usually by 9pm :-)   However, let me assure you - we put in YEARS of groundwork and hard labour in the early years in order for this to be achievable now!  I spent a good 18 months sitting/ sleeping in a chair in DD's room just holding her while she screamed and DH did the same with DS, walking the floor for hours upon hours upon hours - having taken over from me when my thumb dislocated from the weight of carrying DS day and night, hour upon hour.  Then followed more painful years of silent returning to rooms, co-sleeping, floor sleeping, night driving, re-inforcement, Gro-clocks, you name it!  But this is where we are now :-)

As it's been Christmas hols etc the kids have been staying up with us generally speaking. Not much point trying to do anything else when you have so much excitement, visitors and change of routine.  But this past week we have been gradually winding it back - starting with bed at 9pm and working back from there.  Amazingly, it has actually worked in steps. 

The first night, both were in tears, up and down the stairs and eventually settled about 11pm.  The second night, same but settled a little earlier - around 10.40pm.  The third night, similar.  We just cuddled, consoled and tucked back in to bed each time.

Forth night, no tears!  Doors slightly open, asleep by 9.30pm. 

Last night, the 7th night, we got to lights out at 7.30pm, asleep before 9pm and no-one got out of bed AT ALL!!!

This has definitely been an eye opening learning curve for me.  My husband (DH) is always desperate to get back into routine immediately once the holidays are over, but I have learnt - through extremely painful and damaging experience - that you can't do this with autism.  They need time, time to adjust, time to process. You CANNOT just pull (or put) the rug from under them.  This only causes more panic, more tension, more stress and more opposition.

So this year, I am pleased to say we went at their pace AND IT WORKED! DH had a little wobble one night and I had to send him to the kitchen lol. But other than that, we stayed on course, we didn't tell off, we didn't 'send back to bed'. We simply received them when they got up, gave them a cuddle for a few minutes and said goodnight again.  And now they are ready to do it themselves again as per our routine.

This morning I told them how proud I was that neither of them had needed to get up last night. That I was really happy for them that they felt ok not getting up.  DS immediately proudly proclaimed "and I didn't wet myself the WHOLE time!"  (Huuuuuuuge achievement btw, we got through 3 mattresses last year alone!!)  and DD grinned "and I put my head above the duvet!"  Again huuuuuuuge achievement as she normally will only sleep head under the duvet then wonders why she wakes sweaty and itchy!!

So, I don't know how long it will last - things change daily (or oftener!!) in our Autism House, but today I'm celebrating those achievements, for however long they do last :-)

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