Since Johnny turned 4 he has been able to transition through his bedtime routine, go to sleep in his own bed and have pretty good sleeps except for the one or two walk ups in the middle of the night. He would come in to our bedroom and wake his Daddy up and would go to the bathroom or go back to bed and need tucking back in. The challenging part would be if he had to use the toilet at night time because he would be upset that his sleep was disturbed by his body or he would be really upset because he had accidentally wet his bed. We then would find ourselves in this accumulative sleep deprived loop where for a two to three hour period during the night Johnny would wake us up, go to the bathroom and then ten minutes later he would be back to do it all over again. I would sit with our iPad and read some stories and time it and not go to sleep until I knew I could get to the thirty minute mark without any interruptions. We felt like we were caught in a loop, an endless cycle that had no ending. The repetitiveness of trying so hard not to have an accident in bed even though we never made a big thing about it and just quickly changed his sheets was so tiring and frustrating. At one point we started putting a baby gate up in his door way after an hour of bathroom breaks but this only go him upset and angry at us. The anxiety that Johnny must have been feeling in the daytime from his days at school, learning to talk and just be a kindergarten student must have been boiling over at night.
What did we do?
Well we started using the Glo-Clock in late Spring and I have written about it before in my blog here:
We decided to create a Social Story because Johnny is a visual learner in order to remind him every single night of what our expectations were for him and what wold make us happy. We have used the little story book that comes with the Glo-Clock but we found taking pictures of each stage and putting it in a story format really helps because this is the world that Johnny our literal thinker lives in. He is not a sheep, cow or duck like in his book.
We have used the Stories 2 Learn App for the iPad and I have shared screenshots below:
You can create your own script, add your own pictures and record your voice for the added personal touch. We start off with the first page with a picture of Johnny’s bed with the words:
“Johnny sleeps in his bed.”
We then want to remind him of what his clock looks like when its sleep time.
Because we were having trouble with frequent wake ups occurring during the night because of potty training and trying to make it through the night without wearing pull-ups we created two pages that say:
“It’s okay to wake up and go potty”
“We wash hands after potty”
Then we show another picture of his bed so he knows that THIS is where he is expected to go and not back to Mommy and Daddy’s room.
We also felt that it was a good idea to show another picture of the Glo-Clock with the blue star on it to re-affirm the expectations and if need be to show him how to count the remaining starts on the face of the clock to understand that there is still sleep time left.
Then we have a page where we have a pictures of a happy Mommy and Daddy with the words:
“Mommy and Daddy are happy when Johnny goes back to sleep.”
Right before the blue star transforms into a yellow sun the sun turns a reddish orange but I have decided not to show this in the story because I don’t want Johnny trying to wake up early trying to catch the clock doing this.
So every single night since late Spring/early summer we have been showing Johnny this social story with my voice recorded for every page. I am happy to report that beginning in October Johnny began sleeping through the night without any wake ups at all. He wakes up around the time of the star/sun transformation and we go to him and prompt him to begin his morning routine. The incredible news is during the last 2 weeks we will wake up and hear him in the bathroom and realize we have slept in a little and he’s doing his morning routine himself. Last Saturday morning he was sitting in the hallway quietly looking at books while he waited for us to wake up.
I think what I have learned is that even though sleep deprivation is very hard and extremely frustrating especially when you are dealing with someone with Autism you CAN if you are stubborn, patient, and consistent you can use repetition to finally cement the expectations and behaviors you want.
Now if only we could teach our cat to stop waking us up in the middle of night to go outside.