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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Sleep Challenges in Young Children

I've heard that many people with AD/HD have sleep difficulties at some time or other during their lives. When my son was young, even in infancy, he did not sleep as much as others his age. He gave up naps sooner, and genuinely was wide awake in the evenings when I hoped to get him in bed for the night. I eventually came to the conclusion that you can't make a person sleep when they are not tired, just as all of my great parenting couldn't alter Josh's neurology to rid him of his AD/HD and other challenges. If you've ever been wide awake at a time you wish you were sleeping, you know that sleep cannot be forced. There are things you can do to facilitate sleep, however, and that's what I ended up doing with Josh. He rarely had anything with caffeine in it, and never within hours of bedtime though I've since learned that having a stimulant actually helps some people with AD/HD to be able to sleep. We subdued the lighting in Josh's room to one small lamp with a soft glow. We limited physical activities and required him to stay quiet and remain in his room. He could look at books or play next to his bed with Legos. He could draw pictures. That was about it for bedside activities. When he was able to sleep, he got into bed and we turned off the light when we turned in for the night. If he was still awake when his Dad and I were ready to go to bed, we put in a long-playing tape of Bible stories that he could listen to and turned off the light. Josh knew how to turn the tape over if he was still awake after side one was completed. He could have a small sports bottle with a straw for water, but we didn't give him large amounts so that he wouldn't have to wake up to use the bathroom once he was asleep. After experiencing so many battles with his well-meaning parents who tried to insist that he go to sleep before his body would allow it, Josh accepted the new rules of being quiet and staying in his room with no resistance.

1 comment:

Penny said...

The BEST explanation and remediation of sleep challenges in young children to which I've been introduced is from Judith Bluestone of the HANDLE approach (

Here's my attempt to summarize what I learned from a HANDLE intro training: Children who have little-to-no sense of where they are in space (proprioception) have to compensate for that somehow, and they use their VISION to replace the unreliable proprioception. When you ask a child who uses their VISION as his most RELIED UPON sense (not most RELIABLE, but most RELIED UPON) to lie down and close his eyes, he completely loses sense of where he is in space. Vision and proprioception are meant to work together to tell you where you are in space. Bluestone's HANDLE approach gently helps to intregrate in a neuroevelopmental fashion the senses.

Bluestone is the author is "The Fabric of Autism". Don't let the title dissuade you from reading it if you don't have a child w/ an autism label--this book is for more than just autism.

Additionally, Autism One radio has a series of interviews w/ Bluestone about this book in its archives.

Hope this helps someone.