Since the beginning of time, when Adam and Eve got talked into eating an apple by a psychotic snake, women – and to a lesser extent, men – have been pondering the same question. It is a question that crosses all geographic, ethnic, cultural and religious boundaries, one that unites mothers in a way that nothing else can.
How am I going to get this child to sleep?
When there’s a child with autism in the family, that question crops up with frightening regularity. It becomes an automatic response to just about everything. Here’s a typical conversation between husband and wife while the kid with autism bounces on the ceiling like a yo-yo:
Husband: What should we have for dinner tonight?
Wife: How am I going to get this child to sleep?
Husband: Ummm. I don’t know. So, dinner. What do you think? Chinese takeout?
Wife: Sure, sure. How am I –
Husband: Do you want chop suey or chow mein?
Wife (sobbing): How am I going to get this child to slee-eee-eeeeeep?
Husband (fumbling awkwardly with takeout menu): OK, I’ll just order something.
For you autism parents who are feeling a little desperate, I offer you my Bedtime Survival Tips.
1) Make sure you have wine. You won’t need it for the bedtime ordeal itself, but it will a great reward for you to give yourself
if when the kids get to sleep.
2) About two hours before bedtime, sweetly ask the fruits of your loins to put on their pajamas. You’ll have to ask both of them about a gazillion times before they comply, so the more lead time you give yourself, the better.
3) An hour before bedtime, calmly talk to the Hyperactive Neurotypical Child and ask him to put on his pajamas.
If When he argues on the grounds that his brother doesn’t have pajamas on, explain to him that you need him to lead by example. Bribe him with a donut.
4) Send your husband out to buy donuts.
5) Repeatedly tell the Autie to put on his pajamas, with your voice gradually increasing in pitch and panic. Right before you hit your breaking point, sob with relief when you hear your husband return with the donuts. Armed with your confectionary currency, coax your kids into their pajamas and then give them their reward. Fail to care when they wipe their gooey hands all over the fronts of their nice clean pajamas.
6) Sergeant-Major the kids into the bathroom one at a time to pee and brush their teeth. Do the Autie first. If you do the Hyperactive Neurotypical Child first, the Autie will head for the hills and you won’t see him until next Christmas.
7) Get the kids their bedtime milk. Remember to break a Melatonin capsule into the Autie’s milk, otherwise he will spend the entire night gleefully and vigourously rubbing the top of your head.
8) Channel the days when you used to herd cats and get your kids moving in the general direction of their rooms. Naively believe the Hyperactive Neurotypical Child when he says he’ll quietly try to go to sleep.
9) Kiss the little darlings goodnight and retreat into the living room.
If When one of them makes a sudden appearance by your side, calmly shepherd them back to bed.
10) Repeat Step Nine 84 times.
11) When there has not been any activity for three geological eras, you can safely assume that the kids are asleep. Pour some of the wine from Step One into a glass and drink. If you’re feeling really frazzled, cut out the middleman and just drink straight from the bottle.
(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)