There’s something in the air tonight!
Monkey, is giggling his butt off at his V-Tech Alphabet Apple as I type these words. He has been at it for the last half and hour, without pause. Before that he was absolutely losing it watching old Bugs Bunny cartoons on his tablet. Luckily, he doesn’t have school tomorrow, and I don’t have to wake up early. Basically, if he’s gonna party hard; tonight is a good night for that to happen. I have to admit though, even if he was supposed to have school, I don’t think I could fight the cheer in his laughs tonight. He is just too happy for words.
Despite my absolute joy over his playful attitude tonight, I do need to calm him down so he can get some rest. Most likely he is still going to wake up early, and he is likely going to be at full speed when that happens. If he doesn’t get his sleep, he turns in to a total diva, and tends to have a rough day. This is the part of autism that seems to keep his maturity from progressing beyond a toddler. His younger brother is 12, and if he loses sleep; that’s on him. It doesn’t cause problems in everyone’s day, and if it does, then I guess he will have even more problems to sort out with all the additional chores I give him. With Monkey, that’s not so true. If he is a grumpy Monkey, then the house whole house will know it, and there isn’t much anyone can do about it.
So, what to do?
Well, I have learned over the years that I need to slow him down like a train. I need to bring him down one notch at a time. To do this, I use something to persuade him to give up the tablet, or toy that is making him so excitable. The only other option is to go in there and just take away the tablet, and call it a night. The problem with this approach is that my son truly can’t control intense emotions. Definitely not well enough to experience such a sudden drop, without having a meltdown. So, say this was a school night, and we still had to get up at 5 a.m. for the bus. I would still be in the same position I’m in tonight. The exception is that I would’ve started the process I am about to explain sooner.
Bribing a Stairway– to Heaven
So, I need to take him down a notch at a time, and do so in a way that doesn’t cause an outburst. After all, an outburst, when he is already tired, would only make us stay up later, and later. Since my son already uses his tablet to start his bedtime routine, I need to get that out of his grips. I need to do this while he is in the middle of his favorite episode, and incredibly excited. This means a bribe is required. Now I’m not much for cowering to demands. Mainly because it isn’t good for him in the long run. However, we have to remember, he is going at full speed. He’s currently one of those speed trains in Japan. All aerodynamic, and on a nonstop track. I need him to be like one of those trains out of the old west that’ll stop for the distressed damsel on the track.
I just need to give him the time to see the damsel, known as destiny, known as sleep.
Step 1: Establish Order
The first step involves getting the tablet, but I also need to curb his activity. As described above, the V-Tech Alphabet Apple is very exciting, evidently. At this point, I need to make the swap. Of course when I asked for the tablet tonight, I was met with a suddenly serious, Monkey. A Monkey, that had no interest in cooperating. However, he knew it was bedtime, and one way or another I was leaving with that tablet.
He looked at the apple all perched up on his bookshelf… he looked at me … he lunged!
In the meantime he dropped the tablet, dove for the apple. Ultimately, he believed he had won.
One point for the home team!
Monkey, now has something that is good enough, and I now possess the tablet. We’re entering Bon Jovi territory- half way there. Now for the second half of this first step down to Bedtopia. I need to gain some control. When he had his phone he was so excited that he was bouncing on the bed like a madman. So- that’s the next step; the other foot making its descent. From here on, I am operating from my command center. I have myself at the kitchen island so I am closer, and I use my camera (See: Tips & Tricks) to watch him from my phone. The mission for the next half an hour, is to make sure is foot doesn’t touch the floor, and he doesn’t bounce on his bed. Basically, he has to rest as if he was going to sleep. However, he can still have his apple, and he can still giggle his butt off. He just has to lay relatively flat while he does so. So far, so good!
On a side note, I can’t tell you enough how much a simple wireless camera has saved me from standing by his door all night. It makes every night so much easier when he is winding down for bed. My knees can’t thank me enough. If you want to learn more, click the Tips & Tricks link above.
Step 2: Remove Stimulation
The second step is to remove all electronics from the room, and thereby remove any extra stimulation. The Alphabet Apple lights up, and plays music. It isn’t as exciting as the tablet, and he has been laying down for the past half an hour, but it’s still causing him to laugh uncontrollably. Obviously, he is still a bit excited for bedtime as a result. Just as before, Monkey, knows that it’s bedtime. Therefore, he knows that I need to take the apple. This time around I will grab a few of his favorite books from his bookshelf, and offer for him to pick one. This kind of lets him have some say in the matter, and in a way, he gets to save face while giving in to “The Man.”
Since I am not a savage, and my son only has one eye as it is, I do provide a light source. I keep one of those projection night lights in his room. In his case it shows a picture of the earth on the ceiling, and is mostly a blue light. The great thing about this is that it provides just enough light that he can lay there and read. If there’s no light at all he would naturally get up, and turn on his light. That would be counterproductive to the past half an hour I’ve spent slowing him down. With the nightlight shining on the ceiling the entire room has a dim glow that lets you just barely see the words in the book. 5-10 minutes of that, and he’ll be out for the night, and I can get to bed.
In fact- it’s getting to be time for Step 2 now… Wish me luck!
In My Opinion
Autism presents a lot of issues for my son in regard to how well he can control his emotions. I developed the strategy described above over the years, and it will typically allow for these supercharged nights to end peacefully, and with a good memory or two. I share this story, and process, because stuff like this wasn’t obvious to me starting out. There’s no handbook to speak of, and the more we share our experiences, the more effectively we can tackle the stress from raising an autistic child, from household to household.
If you have a strategy for getting your autistic child/teenager/adult please feel free to share. What may seem simple to you may be a revelation to some of us 🙂
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