The monkey’s sleeping wasn’t getting any better. His routine was to wake up at 1, 2, 3, in the morning. He’d turn on all of the lights. Get his iPad. Go downstairs and play on his indoor swing. Run up and down the stairs laughing. Running from my bathroom to his room. This was pretty standard. Loud, loud loud. We would try to sleep besides him with his iPad on. We would go downstairs and sleep there while he would swing away to make sure he didn’t try to get out. We would try to squeeze in as much sleep as we could while he ran around playing, which would typically be a little bit of sleep.
But this past week, at 2 am, I was beyond exhausted. Have you ever beyond so so exhausted that you are just so upset? That you have just had enough. Where you don’t have an ounce of patience?
Well, that was me. He woke up, turned on the lights from our bedroom and went to get his iPad. And I just couldn’t take it anymore. I realized that everything we were doing was not working. And I had had enough.
So, I turned off the lights. I took his iPad and hid it. I asked my husband to go to the monkey’s room. I told him I got this. I closed our bedroom doors.
The monkey was livid. He was so upset. He didn’t understand why I turned off the lights and why he wasn’t allowed to get his iPad.
Changing behavior is very difficult specially with kids on the autism spectrum. They have routines. And when routines change, they don’t understand why.
He cried and cried, he tried to pinch me, hit me, everything he could do. I restrained him for 3 to 4 hours. I was trying not to let him hurt me and was trying to make sure he didn’t hurt himself. He cried so much my husband kept trying to come in and help. I kept telling my husband not to worry. I told him that I got this. I was on a mission. We were going to change his behavior. Everything we had been doing up to this point was not working.
We had to make a drastic change.
A few times my husband knocked on our door and was telling me if maybe we should just give in? He could her how I was struggling, and he felt bad for him. But I told him no. We needed to be firm. We needed to change this. He stayed outside the door, just in case I needed him. He could hear the monkey screaming in anger, so he didn’t want to abandon me. But I kept holding the monkey down. We had to make a change.
Finally, at around 5:30 in the morning, we both fell asleep on the floor. I struggled to get up for work. I was just so tired. But I was happy I was able to hold my ground. I wasn’t sure if it worked. But he didn’t get his way.
The next night, same thing. He wakes up at 2 am and turns on the light. I run and turn it off. I told him he was not allowed. This time, our struggle was about two hours. Not as bad as the night before. But it added to my exhaustion. We had won round two.
Third night. This time he takes my hand and as he is crying, asked me to turn on the light. I told him no. We are all to go to sleep. The lights were to be kept off. He cried. He asked to shower. I told him no. We are to go to sleep. He cried for about one hour. He didn’t fight me as much, more of a sadness cry. He didn’t turn on the lights at all. We had won round three.
Fourth night. He didn’t ask for lights, he didn’t ask for iPad, he didn’t ask for shower. What he did do was walk up and down the hall. He was very anxious. He was struggling. I told him he is not allowed to walk. He is to lay down. Another hour or so of struggle for him to lay down and not walk. It was not a major struggle. I didn’t have many scratches. Round four is a win.
Fifth night. He didn’t get up at all. He was singing at the top of his lungs as he is laying down in bed. I told him he is not allowed to sing. He is to be quiet and go to sleep. He cried for a bit. He didn’t like it that I told him to be quiet. It hurt his feelings. Not bad of a struggle. We won round five.
Sixth night. I could hear him awake. He was humming low. He didn’t get up. He didn’t sing loud. He stayed in his bed and eventually drifted to sleep. ALL ON HIS OWN.
Seventh night, same thing.
We had won.
I cannot express how excited we are over this. Last night was the third night in a row and he has slept thru the night. He wakes up for a bit, but goes right back to sleep. After a long battle (I have scratches and cuts to prove it) he managed to understand that he is to lay in bed.
I know this is so hard for the monkey. He didn’t understand why his routine had changed. He couldn’t understand why I would be depriving him of his iPad. But he has managed to accept the change.
I have talked about how he loves to have car rides. But he only likes to ride around our side of town, he doesn’t let us deviate. But lately he has asked us to go beyond the normal route. He has asked us to drive to downtown or the east side of the city. This past weekend I had to stop by my office. I figured we could stop by at night, while he slept. But he was wide awake when we stopped by the front of the building where I work. My husband told him: “Buddy, mom is going to get off and we are going to wait for her.” But the monkey took off his seatbelt and got out of the car and grabbed my hand. I was so surprised. This kid wanted to go inside with me! He had so much fear of getting out of the car since the quarantine started, and now he was bravely getting out of his comfort zone.
My husband went to find a parking spot while I brought the monkey inside. I told him he needed to wait in the lobby while we waited for dad. He patiently sat down and waited. As my husband came inside the lobby, the monkey got up and went straight towards the elevators. He was a bit scared as we went up, but he simply braved it out. He patiently waited while I worked.
When I told him we were leaving, he went to the door and knew his way out. He bravely went inside the elevators, and pressed the button.
I am so proud of this kid. He bravely ventured out. And he did it all on his own. I am not sure what came over him. But we didn’t have to push him. He pushed himself.
Change takes time. And as we have been forcing him to change his sleeping routine, he changed and ventured out on his own.
This past week has been horrible, terrifying, exhausting and now it feels excited, proud, accomplished. It is so crazy how it can change so quickly. Fellow autism parent, I want to say to just hang on. The bad days will pass. They always do. The fight now will be worth the results later. Hang in there. You may not see the end result, but you are paving the way. Just don’t let go. You’ve got this.