Can you help me teach my six-year-old son who has autism how to sleep alone in his own room?

Irish Independent - Health & Living - - PARENTING -

? SMY son, who is six, has autism, and I would love for him to sleep in his own room by him­self. This has al­ways been a prob­lem from when he was a baby. He has al­ways been in our bed or needed me in his bed. At LEEP is­sues are so com­mon for many fam­i­lies. I think the level of co-sleep­ing (where a par­ent shares a room or a bed with their child) is mas­sively un­der­re­ported. Very many fam­i­lies have one or more chil­dren who rarely ei­ther fall asleep, or stay asleep, on their own.

In this re­spect, then, you and your son are cer­tainly not alone. In­deed, in sit­u­a­tions where co-sleep­ing leads to a good night’s sleep for both the par­ent and the child, I think there is a lot to rec­om­mend it. the mo­ment when he goes to bed at about 9pm or 9.30pm I have to lie in be­side him. He likes to hook his arm around me to en­sure I am there! It might take him up to two hours to fall asleep. I sneak out then, but he might wake within the next two hours and I have to go back in to him. It’s like he needs to hold on to me in or­der to sleep.

Par­ents gain the com­fort of know­ing their child is close by, safe and sleep­ing soundly. Chil­dren gain real com­fort and se­cu­rity from the pres­ence of their par­ent and can af­ford to re­lax deeply into their sleep.

Even though you seem de­ter­mined to help your son to tran­si­tion to sleep­ing in his own room, alone, it might be worth con­sid­er­ing why this tran­si­tion is nec­es­sary just now? Per­haps he needs you, rather than just sim­ply want­ing you. On the f lip side, how­ever, maybe you have had enough of the dis­com­fort, or per­haps you have other rea­sons.

That your son has an Autis­tic Spec­trum Dis­or­der (ASD) pos­si­bly plays a big role in the dy­namic of what is hap­pen­ing cur­rently. You don’t say what his level of com­mu­ni­ca­tion is, but, if it is lim­ited, then that might add to his in­se­cu­rity and also your abil­ity to rea­son with him about the dif­fer­ence be­tween what he might want and what he might need.

It may be clear to you, for ex­am­ple, that the close­ness and se­cu­rity he ap­pears to seek, with you, at night is not nec­es­sary for him. If you are de­ter­mined to change it, then look at cre­at­ing a very grad­ual with­drawal from the high level of phys­i­cal com­fort you cur­rently of­fer him.

This is achieved by tak­ing small in­cre­men­tal steps from ly­ing be­side him, to sit­ting in the bed with him, to sit­ting be­side the bed (but still touch­ing him), to sit­ting be­side the bed with­out touch­ing him, to sit­ting apart from the bed in the room, to sit­ting by the door, to sit­ting out­side the door and then to just vis­it­ing on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

You can ex­pect your son to protest at the changes, but on each oc­ca­sion his protest might only last a few days or a week or so, be­fore he re­alises that you are will­ing to stick by what­ever stage you are at.

You can re­spond to the protests by be­ing warm, car­ing and firm. Try to avoid get­ting into big dis­cus­sions with him (if he com­mu­ni­cates at this level) and use lots of em­pa­thy to let him know that you do un­der­stand that the new stage might be chal­leng­ing, but that you have con­fi­dence he can cope.

He, in turn, needs to be con­fi­dent that you will be re­li­ably avail­able to him, even if the level of phys­i­cal close­ness is re­duced.

It is your re­li­a­bil­ity that gives him enough se­cu­rity and com­fort that he might be able to fall asleep.

Try, then, not to rush ahead with mov­ing to the next stage, or the next step, in the with­drawal process.

Give him plenty of time to get used to the new way of do­ing things af­ter each stage. Back­track to an ear­lier stage if he seems over­whelmed and up­set and not set­tling into a new stage.

As a con­se­quence, this kind of ap­proach to grad­u­ally wean­ing your son off your phys­i­cal pres­ence in the bed with him, can take sev­eral months of in­vest­ment of time and en­ergy ev­ery night.

If you are in re­ceipt of ser­vices for your son, then talk, too, with his oc­cu­pa­tional ther­a­pist, who may have some guid­ance for you in re­la­tion to help­ing him set­tle from a sen­sori-motor per­spec­tive.

How­ever you choose to pro­ceed, be pa­tient.

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