Try This Tuesday #28: Getting Through the Night

Try This Tuesday

If you’d like to join in but aren’t sure what to write about, try the topic suggestion for this week: Book Recommendations – what book or books have you found most helpful since finding out your child has special needs? I’m answering this question for myself over at my blog, since I actually have a guest post here today.

I recently met Dr. H through the world of social networking and was intrigued by her experiences with adopting. She offers advice and resources about older child adoption at her blog, Adopting the Older Child, and is sharing here today about the sleep issues she has encountered with one of her adopted daughters.

Getting Through the Night

Thanks, Trish, for asking me to guest post here at 5 Minutes for Special Needs.

I have two special needs children. One of them is mentally ill and developmentally delayed and with has great difficulty falling asleep. My daughter joined our family through adoption at age 11. For the first six weeks living in our home, she did not sleep but rather roamed the house at night, keeping the rest of the family awake as well. We tried everything, reading to her, singing lullabies, sitting with her (which confused her at first), warm bath before bed, etc. The standard tricks didn’t apply and no doubt the transition to a new family made things more difficult for her. What finally worked for us is a mix of traditional wisdom and unconventional practice.

Establishing a rigid routine is a tried and true bedtime helper. We found that our daughter’s bedtime routine needed to start early, and that it worked best if we did not read books or tell stories. Reading books with her somehow woke her up rather than lulling her to sleep. Same with stories. Bathing had to occur early. While bathing relaxed her, drying off agitated her.

A crib toy and a “lovey” blanket soothed her and helped her relax. Over time we realized that helping our daughter to get quiet and relax were necessary for her to sleep. A crib toy is one of the strap-on-the-crib music and lights players. The music was hushed and repetitive and my daughter controlled the volume. The lights, which she could turn off, both distract and relax her. She began looking forward to going to bed because she wanted to cuddle with her lovey blanket and watch the lights from the crib toy. Sitting next to her on her bed until she fell asleep, I must admit that several times I dozed off to sleep, lulled by the music and lights.

Another item that was important for my daughter was knowing what to do when she woke up. While she falls asleep more easily now, she wakes several times a night and occasionally cannot fall back to sleep. She felt better understanding what was expected and required explicit directions: go to the bathroom, wash your hands, go back to your room quietly, close the door, play with your dollhouse if you can’t sleep. Her dollhouse is one of the few toys in her room; the rest are in the playroom. The toys are too enticing for her and we realized she would feign sleep only to jump out of bed later and play. Loudly.

We also purchased a bed tent for her to sleep in. The bed tent not only helps her feel safe and secure, it helps to keep her from walking around her room and playing when she should be sleeping.

Robin D. Hayes, Ph.D. (Dr. H) is the adoptive parent of three school age children and is a writer and researcher of adoption issues. Read more about her and her family as well as information and tips regarding older child adoption at and in Adoption Today magazine where Dr. H is a frequent contributor. Currently researching the issues older girls from Ethiopia and Liberia face as they adapt to life with their adoptive families, Dr. H is at work on a book about older child adoption.

Please join in and share the creative solutions YOU have found to your own challenges, or feel free to post your own challenge for input from others. For more details on how to participate, read the welcome post.

Well, I forgot to put this in earlier, so here goes…
Topic Suggestion for Next Week: Communicating with Teachers and Paraprofessionals – how do you create and maintain a good relationship with your child’s team? What methods seem to work best for you?

Trish can be found writing here at 5MFSN every Friday in addition to hosting Try This Tuesday. You can also find Trish blogging at Another Piece of the Puzzle and Autism Interrupted.

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