There are two times of day that are difficult for those of us raising kids on the autism spectrum….day and night.
You see, most of these kids have such a difficult time falling asleep that many of us find ourselves up with them all hours of the night. They become exhausted, but are unable to fall asleep, so then they become agitated and difficult to deal with. After several years of this, the writers of the Zombie Apocalypse movies start asking us to star in their next film because they can save a fortune on makeup and costumes. At that point, we realize we need help and seek out our family doctor or a pediatric psychiatrist to provide us with that help.
Ahhhh….the nights are finally so lovely! We have the kid on a medicine that puts him on a regular sleep schedule and we are starting to look almost human again. Although, it does take many years for those bags under our eyes to start to disappear…In fact, I’m still waiting on mine to go away. They will go away…right? 😉
Oh and then … there is morning … Not just any morning, but now the tables have turned and we are trying to bring zombies back to life after the first ‘dead sleep’ they’ve had all of their lives. We expect them to take this medication, sleep the way other people sleep, and get up for a day that other people get up for. Let me tell you, this is just as difficult as getting them to sleep in the first place…only different!
You want to talk about a Zombie Apocalypse? Try to wake one of these creatures up and see what happens! HAHA!
After many, many difficult years of difficult mornings with autism, I am finally learning some tricks. Some of these are not my own, some I give credit to my dear friend who is raising D’s un-biological-twin. My prayer in making this list is that something will help turn your zombie apocalypse into good mornings with autism.
1. Food – D does not eat in the mornings, but let me tell you…My friend told me that her son can be bought with donuts. Yep! Every morning we spend $0.47 at the Dunkin’ Donuts drive thru. He gets two munchkins, takes his meds, and is ready to get out of the car when we get to school. I bribed him with munchkins the first time, but since then it has been expected. He is willing to get up when I remind him he will be too late to get munchkins if he doesn’t get up.
2. Incentives – those silly sticker charts don’t work for him, but telling him he gets a dollar for every day he gets up and goes to school does. Either way, I would have to spend $5 at the end of the week for him getting up and going to school. So, instead of giving him a sticker chart where he sees that he did not go to school, I give him $1 for every day he goes. At the end of the week when he gets his $5, he has the choice to save it or spend it. Oh yeah…he spends it…
*Now, I know at this point you probably think I buy him out for going to school. That’s not the case, because truly, until we started having better mornings, neither of these worked.
3. Mood – I gauge his mood first thing. I get up usually a bit before 6 so that I can flip his light on and talk to him. If he answers me quietly, he is generally ready for a good day. Occasionally, I still get the initial scream and I know that pushing will only make things worse.
4. Senses – I appeal to his senses. If I can tell he is feeling pretty well, I will go in and use one or two fingers and start poking him in a playful/tickling way. Once I see his first smile, I will start using 3-4 fingers and walking them up his back and down his arms. He gets much needed sensory input from this and it makes him laugh which motivates him a bit more to get up and get moving.
5. Senses Take 2 – If I can tell he is not in such a great mood, I take another route. I give him deep pressure. I rub his back, use both hands and rub his shoulders, or even sometimes lay across his back and talk to him softly as he starts to wake up.
6. Slow and Steady – When he is not responding well to either of the sensory input techniques, I back off and take it slow. Many times, those mornings he will be late for school, but after not going at all last year, I am ok with him being tardy. He will get up, tell me he isn’t going, pitch a fit, yell, etc. I just take it slow. I will feed him something after he’s been up a bit, kind of give him some space, and walk away when he tries to engage me in discussion that I know will escalate. Eventually, he gets bored and I can move on to step 7.
7. Choices – I will give him two choices. D, I have errands to run. You’ll need to put these clothes on and you may either run our errands or I can take you to school. He, like a lot of kids with autism, would rather not leave the house and run errands. So, generally he will say he’s going on the errands with us (which always need to be run next to his school, of course) and then ends up in school instead.
8. Pray – Until just the last few mornings, I would get up and start my day, but I would pray while I was getting the kids dressed, fixing coffee, etc. I was not taking quiet time to pray. The last few days, I have started praying before my feet hit the floor. Since D has fall break, I cannot attest to the prayers before getting out of bed working better or worse, but I feel better. What I can say is this, When I am overwhelmed because none of the other techniques are working…When I am yelling, fussing, and crying…When I am texting my friend mentioned above saying, I cannot take another minute!?… I pray – I stop right in the middle of whatever room I am, I stand there, and I pray. If it is my bedroom, I will sit on the bed – in the kitchen I will lean over the washer, in the other rooms I stop everything, put my head down, and ask God to intervene.
I won’t lie and tell you that we have all good mornings now. We surely still have our fair share of rough ones. However, every day is a new beginning and with each new day I try one of these techniques and will always be adding new things to my bag of tricks. Honestly, there are some mornings that I don’t have the fight in me and I back off earlier than I should, but he still ends up at school. If you are a parent of a child like D, you know that some mornings are just more than you can bear to look at. However, having God as my focus when the mornings are rough has surely given me a lot more energy to face the morning and a lot more wisdom to change my mornings from zombie apocalypses to good mornings with autism.
How do you get your kids up in the mornings? Do you have a trick you can share to help me increase the number of tricks I have?