If you’re a special needs mama, I really and truly wish I could send you a nice caffeinated latte every morning, but unfortunately I can’t. But I am sending you virtual hugs and head nods and yawns. So many yawns.
Getting any child to sleep can be a challenge, but the challenge grows when your child has special needs. A-Man has severe sensory processing disorder and mild autism (technically “high-functioning”, but I don’t use functioning labels, and you can read more of why here) which make it pretty difficult for him to fall asleep. His body has a hard time calming down and staying still enough to fall asleep, so he tends to just go go go until he crashes.
That doesn’t really work when you can tell he’s exhausted and it’s naptime now. So what do we do?
Helping Our Special Needs Child Sleep
Seriously, this made a world of difference in helping A-Man fall asleep. His weighted vest helps him to relax during the day, but it isn’t very practical to wear at night or while napping, so my sweet sister-in-law bought A-Man a weighted blanket. (Actually, she was kind enough to get one for each house, so he always has one!) In addition to the weighted blanket, A-Man has a twin size comforter that we fold in half and put on top. You can imagine, a twin size comforter, even folded in half, is pretty big and heavy on A-Man’s 4 year old body. It gives added weight and pressure and really helps him to fall asleep.
Lavender Essential Oil
Okay, first a disclaimer: I understand that using lavender on pre-pubescent boys is controversial, but I have done research and found that the main concern is the additives to the oil in certain brands that can cause issues, and I use such a tiny amount that I’m not concerned. Now that that’s over, I use lavender essential oil on A-Man with TONS of success. When we’re headed somewhere I know will be stressful, I put a tiny bit on the base of his neck which helps him to calm down. Before bedtime, I rub some (dilluted with coconut oil) on his feet and he falls asleep nearly instantly. My next plan is to put some lavender oil on his weighted blanket to see if that can replace the foot rub!
Tire Them Out
This might be the most important, and sometimes it’s the most difficult. Get them exhausted. Today I have my mom’s group Bible study, which means the boys will spend 2-3 hours this morning playing like crazy with 10ish other little kids. I can almost guarantee that we’ll come home, eat lunch, and immediately they’ll crash for a nap. I also scheduled our therapy sessions for the morning, so that we get the same results. Home, lunch, nap. With working at home, I need that nap time to get client work done, so making sure the kids are thoroughly exhausted at naptime helps a ton. Then for bedtime, we try to make sure they get to play outside with Chris when he gets home. That always tires them out enough to fall asleep quickly!
Now, all this said, these are tips. My house does not always run perfectly, and there are often “naps” where A-Man spends the whole time playing pirates or singing “Let it Go”. I use these tactics when I know they need SLEEP and not just quiet time.
What is your top tip for helping your child, special needs or otherwise, fall asleep?
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