The Good and The Bad of Learning Something New

by beagooddad on November 10, 2008

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Good News: Pookie has been dry in the morning for something like 5 out of the last 6 nights. The change came completely out of nowhere and it has us wondering if he has really started to master the situation or if it is one of those odd streaks like flipping a quarter and having it come up tails 5 out of 6 times. There’s really no way of knowing at this point but it sure is nice to not have to constantly be washing sheets even if it is just for a week.

Bad News: Pookie has been waking up somewhere between midnight and 5am almost every other night for a couple weeks. He is then convinced that night is over and it is time to get moving on the day. It takes at least an hour and up to two hours for him to fall asleep. During that time, he is screaming for the bulk of the time.

Whether the night time potty training is really happening or not, I refuse to believe that there is not a fairly strong correlation between these two events. Learning something new is often hard and confusing. Especially for children with autism. And for better or worse, I am usually in charge of things that happen between midnight and 6am with the kids since I just happen to function better during those hours.

So, this is a post for those of you with autistic children who are having trouble falling back asleep in the middle of the night.

Here are a few facts:

  • They will fall back to sleep
  • This yelling is different than any yelling they might do during the day
  • They are probably confused about what is happening and need comforted not taught

I don’t think I could emphasize that last point enough.

During the daytime hours, I hold Pookie very accountable for his emotions. I tell him that his yelling is not acceptable and that he needs to use his words. I will send him away from fun activities if he is misbehaving. I will stay by him and constantly remind him that he needs to stop yelling and start talking. During the day, it frequently does work and at least I’m helping him understand what my expectations are in the house. (For the record, he really doesn’t have trouble during the days nearly as often as this paragraph might make it sound. But when he does, I hold him responsible for his actions).

None of that works at night. Trust me. I’ve tried. Even after 5 1/2 years of raising Pookie, I still do stupid things from time to time (normally daily).

Last night, he woke up at midnight and tried getting dressed. I herded him into the bathroom figuring that he needed to pee. Nope.

Than I herded him back into bed and firmly explained that he needed to stop yelling because everybody else was trying to sleep. This had no positive effect for nearly an hour. Than I shut up, sat on the ground next to the bed and rubbed his back applying less pressure when he was calm and more when he would start yelling. It took a while, but he eventually did calm down and went back to sleep.

I actually left the room while he was still awake but clearly calm. I am a big supporter of leaving the room while kids of all ages are still awake so that in the end they are putting themselves to sleep. I lost two hours of sleep but Pookie did manage to get back to sleep, in his own bed, on his own. I learned that I could have probably saved at least a half hour and probably an hour if I would just quit trying to tell him to be quite between midnight and 5am.

As I walked out of their room at 2am, I was dreading waking up between 3-5am which is when I expected him to have an accident since he didn’t go at midnight. But no. He woke up around 6:30am completely dry.

Did I mention that Pookie is night time potty training himself and doing a great job of it?

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