are nurses and doctors familiar with Autism?

Are nurses and doctors familiar with autismAre nurses, doctors, radiologists, and other hospital staff familiar with Autism? I wish the answer was, yes, but sometimes they don’t know enough to make a visit to the hospital or ER a pleasurable experience for our children who have Autism.

Wait a minute. Did I say “pleasurable”? Whose visit to the hospital is a good one? Most aren’t, and when our Autistic child is facing some time in the antiseptic palace, it’s downright scary. We’ve been there. We haven’t been anointed with as many trips as many other families who have kids with Autism, but we’ve been there enough to realize that not every nurse, doctor, anesthesiologist, etc. know how to handle and care for an Autistic person.

I wish they did, but living with the Autistic child every day is far different than seeing one every few days. Seeing an Autistic persons interactions on a day to day basis teaches us far more than hours spent inside four walls in some seminar where another highly accomplished physician teaches on the medical care of an Autistic child.

Dr. Bruce Perry says, “Many physicians find “psychological” or social aspects of medical problems less interesting and less important than the primary “physiological” issues.” Caring for the psychological aspects of the Autistic person is paramount, there isn’t much you can accomplish if you don’t meet the needs of their psychological self.

A great example of this was when we showed up at an after-hours urgency care center after Jeremiah had a seizure. I went inside to check in while Justin waited with Jeremiah in the car. I told the receptionist that Jeremiah has severe Autism and couldn’t come in until they were ready for him. She took me very seriously (not the norm) and set everything up so it was a smooth transition when we brought Jeremiah in.

The receptionist offered that he come in through an alternative entrance in case he was afraid of sliding doors, the doctor was supposed to come in right after we entered the room, but Jeremiah’s primary care physician called him at that moment to discuss what happened to Jeremiah (I’d already spoken with her on the phone – yes, we have an excellent doctor). We made plans beforehand to meet Jeremiah’s psychological needs, we brought in the magic DVD player.

Surprisingly, the whole visit went really well. Why? It began with those exceptions the receptionist put in place which put us, the parents, more at ease, and led to less stress. It continued with staff that recognized what they were facing, they referred to us in each step they took, whether it was getting his weight, taking his temperature, or looking in his eyes and ears.
care for the psychological element of the autistic person

We’ve had some less than acceptable experiences in the hospital, not every situation goes as well as the one above. When receptionists, nurses, and doctors don’t work with Autistic individuals on a regular basis, their understanding of Autism isn’t going to be as satisfactory.

After one of our trips to the hospital, I was sent a survey. I filled it out and wrote an additional letter. The letter was written in a kind manner, but pointed out that we felt there wasn’t enough awareness of Autism. I later received a call from the group who receives the surveys, and she was recommending I speak to the director of pediatrics at our local hospital. I then got a call from the director, she asked me to come and speak at their staff meeting.

I spoke to the pediatric staff last week, and they were grateful for the information I shared. None of the doctors and nurses who’d seen Jeremiah were in attendance, which was disappointing, but this is a start. The director even asked to share my information with the rest of the hospital.

“This is excellent information. I would like for the whole hospital to know about this.”
- Geri Tamborelli, MS, RN Director of Women’s Health & Childbirth Services

The average person doesn’t think they can make a difference. They think they’re stuck with what they’ve got. They think doctors are more educated, and they can’t help in any way. If only they lived in a bigger, better city. If only they lived in an area where the doctors understood Autism. If only…

But the thing is, you can make a difference. If you approach others in a kind way, there’s a good chance they’ll be receptive to what you have to say.

When I shared with someone that I was going to speak to the hospital staff about Autism, they said, “Why? They know about Autism.” We often think that the medical community knows everything medical, and they do, but before you can assist an Autistic person in a medical sense you’ll need to pay attention to that key piece, the psychological. If they do that, they’ll get much farther, and the Autistic patient and their parent will be more at ease.

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what a relationship from a movie can teach us about adoption and foster care

what a relationship from a movie can teach us about adoption and fostercare
In the movie, Blood Diamond, I witnessed a relationship that I thought resembled what should take place in adoptive and foster families.

The movie, Blood Diamond, is based in Africa, during the Civil War in Sierra Leone. During the war, Solomon’s young son, Dia, is captured by the rebel army. He’s forced to perform terrible acts (including killing), and is given drugs.

When Dia is rescued by his father, he doesn’t even recognize him, or doesn’t want to. His terrible deeds overwhelm him, he feels worthless and horrible about himself. The rebel army has taught him to forget about his family and serve the “cause.”

Shortly after Solomon rescues him, Dia points a gun at his fathers head. Dia seems serious about what he’s about to do, but Solomon knows his son and reaches out with forgiveness, mercy, and love. Solomon slowly moves toward his son, telling Dia that he’s a good boy, not bad, he loves him, and his mother loves him and misses him.

Our children are hurting, they come from a place of pain, and just because they leave that place and we offer them love and a wonderful life, it doesn’t mean that they’ll forget that internal pain.

Traumatized children will reach out with anger, hate, harsh words, manipulation, and disobedience. In turn, their internal turmoil can hurt us, the parents who are trying everything in our power to help them succeed. But, we need to look at how Solomon reacted to his son in Blood Diamond. No matter what his child did, (and he participated in some horrific acts) he loved him and accepted him fully.

I write about having compassion for our children, about understanding where they’ve come from, and this is a perfect picture of love that reaches beyond the choices a child makes. Our children need to know that we will carry their pain, we will love them unconditionally, we will fight for them and want them in our lives every moment – even the ugly ones.
hurting children need to know that we will love them unconditionally

Even I can’t be reminded of this enough. It’s a simple concept, but so difficult to carry out. Yes, consistency and routine are important, a child needs to know there are consequences in life, but above those comes love and acceptance.

Reminds me of something familiar: “…For if I do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.” 1 Corinthians 13:1. It’s true for our children, if we don’t have an all accepting, inclusive love for them, they are aware of it. In the end, love will help heal their hearts, knowing that no matter what they do or how they act, they are treasured will make all the difference in the world.

*The intent of this post is not to recommend the movie, Blood Diamond. It’s not appropriate for younger audiences as it contains graphic scenes, however, it is based on true events which took place in Africa during the Sierra Leone Civil War.

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where the abuse of Autistic people begins

abuse of special needs
You may have seen it in the news, a teen was talked into the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but, instead of ice, peers doused him with urine, feces, cigarette butts, and spit. This enrages me. Part of me can’t believe people would behave this way, but then I have not lived the secluded, naive life, and I know what humans are capable of. Still, it’s maddening and inexcusable.

You can see the video here. ABC News Channel 5 says about the video, “The above video is graphic and disturbing. The boy’s parents say he is ashamed and scared by what happened but are sharing to raise awareness about the cruelty of bullying and the need for tolerance and kindness.”

There may be arguments as to whether it’s appropriate to share the video so publicly, especially since the teen is ashamed of what took place. I’m giving you a link to the video if you have older children and want to share with them how others will treat people with disabilities. Children and teens need to know how to stand up for those with special needs, they need to understand what’s not okay.

If the offending teen’s parents were talking about special needs in their homes, this wouldn’t have happened. If they’d had conversations about people who are different than them, this terrorizing wouldn’t have taken place.

If they went to a school that included special needs children in the regular classroom, there’s a good chance this teen wouldn’t have been abused. If that inclusive school educated students regularly on special needs, these offenders wouldn’t have committed a hate crime.

Special needs and Autism need to be talked about in every home, not just certain homes, in certain families, in certain areas of the country. Not just when there’s someone with special needs next door, or a clerk at your local grocery store. Education needs to be everywhere because you never know when your children are going to meet up with someone who has special needs.

Don’t keep your children away from people with special needs because you’re afraid of what your child will say, there are excellent teaching moments everywhere. If someone is in a wheelchair, you might be afraid that your child will ask, “What are you in that rolling thing for?” You can then kindly explain to your child that it’s called a wheelchair, and the person in said mobile unit may share information. If not, when you walk out of hearing distance you can share why they might not be able to walk.

Deborah at www.care.com wrote a fantastic article called, Teaching Your Child about Peers with Special Needs, it’s an excellent resource I highly recommend.

I feel the teens who abused the Autistic boy didn’t understand he has feelings, likes, dislikes, and opinions just like they do. Those teens didn’t see who this teen is and appreciate him for who he is, they only saw his differences. They viciously attacked his differences and made a mockery of him. Understanding, empathy, compassion, and acceptance can happen through continuous discussions about special needs and the differences in others.

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how to help your adopted/foster child sleep (sleep issues part 2)


Sleep issues are a hot topic in the adoption and foster care community. Last week I highlighted why hurting children have problems sleeping in my post, Why Adopted and Foster Children Have Sleep Issues, and as I promised, I’m back this week to give you ideas on how to help your kids sleep. If you haven’t yet, I encourage you to read the post I wrote last week on sleep. Reason being, if we familiarize ourselves with what’s at the heart of our children’s sleep disturbances we can better help them in a compassionate way.

Now let’s get some rest! How, you ask. First, let’s look at some simple steps to take. You may have already tried these, and if you have, don’t worry, a more in depth plan will follow in this post.

  • Routine – Consistency and schedules are especially important for children who’ve been adopted. Even if your child came from a foster home in Korea that had the sweetest foster mom, your child’s gone through a lot of change, and routine is essential.
    Have a calming routine before bed that does not include screen time, rambunctious activity, bright lights, or sugary snacks. (Preferably only veggies if they’re hungry. Because of food issues and adopted kids, we never denied our daughter food. But, she’s a good eater, so she will eat baby carrots before bed if she’s hungry. You can choose the most nutritious food your child will eat.)
  • Rocking – You can read all about rocking (I’m not just talking about infants) and it’s proven benefits here. Rocking can be done with any child that can sit in your lap. I suggest every parent rock their adopted child (for teens, you can incorporate other rhythmic movement during the day, ideas can be found in the previous link), and rocking before bed will help calm your child.
  • Quiet – Be sure that your child’s room is quiet. If their mind is working overtime, any noise will keep them alert and make their mind wander. Any noise coming from outside their room will make them obsess about what’s being said or done. Some children are worried about what’s happening on the other side of the door, and some wonder what they’re missing out on. They want to join the party! In fact, they want to be in the center of it. :)
  • Calming music – Just try it. Don’t listen to any other parenting advice about how they’ll get used to it, and won’t be able to sleep without it. If they can’t, so what. They’re sleeping! Our daughter still uses her lullaby (no words) music at night. It does that extra little bit to keep other noises from seeping into her brain, and lulls her to sleep.
  • Night light – Most parents think of this one, but just want to cover all the bases. If your child has fears, which all adopted kids will have some. I mean if you’re human, you have fears, and a night light can help relieve some fear of the dark. Make sure the light isn’t too bright, and if your child’s taking a nap, be sure that the room is dark enough during the day.

*I was reminded earlier today the importance of considering the child’s background. One foster mom said she let her foster son pick out his own sleeping bag. He’d never slept in a bed so they started with a sleeping bag, where he was comfortable, added a pillow, and then the mattress on the floor, then onto the bed. Always have the nice bed available, but don’t force what they child is anxious about.

The above solutions seem fairly simple, but if, in the past you’ve had children who fell asleep easily it may not occur to you to try these different resolutions. My daughter’s Grandma is a perfect example of this. She’s been running an in-home daycare for forty years, and in that time she hasn’t taken care of one adopted child. I have to assume that every child who’s ever entered her home takes naps without a fuss.

Then my daughter entered the dynamic. She needed to take the occasional nap at Grandma’s during daycare hours. It didn’t work. Why? Because Grandma didn’t set the room up for Payton to have a restful nap. First, Payton’s amped up because she’s at Grandma’s and loves to be around the other kids. Second, noise, noise, noise, and for her, this doesn’t work, her brain cannot shut down without a quiet place to rest. Third, light. Forth, it was a warm house. I wouldn’t have been able to fall asleep, and I’m usually running on some barely there exhaust fumes. The sleep situation wasn’t conducive to sleep, so we must make sure that is taken care of first.

Now we’ll move to the more complex, but often necessary plan to help your child fall and stay asleep.

The following ideas are going to take time, but they’re proven to work. You may come up with reasons why you can’t carry out this plan, but I encourage you to try everything possible to follow through.

Getting your child to sleep has many benefits, all of which I am sure you are aware. A tired parent can become easily irritated, impatient, and forgetful. A tired child can become irritable, angry, excessively hungry, have a short attention span, and an inability to focus (the list goes on). This will cause problems at home and school. I’m not saying sleep is going to solve all your child’s behavior problems, because it won’t, but wouldn’t it be nice if it took care of some of them?

It’s best if the following plan be accomplished with both parents. If your child is attached to one parent and will not let the other parent put them to bed, have that parent help in another area of the house; putting another child to bed, washing dishes, picking up the house. Try to get on the same page and work together. (Have your spouse read my first post on sleep issues so they understand why this needs to be done, and read this one as well.)

The plan below is what helped our daughter truly fall asleep and stay asleep. It was also a big part of our bonding experience because it shows the child in a physical way that we’re there for them.

We can tell our child all we want that we won’t leave them, and they are safe, but they can SEE and trust the physical more readily.

I encourage you to begin with the steps listed above before moving onto these. Make sure all your child’s needs are met before going to bed, make it part of your routine if needed. Have them get the drink of water, go potty, blow their nose, put on chapstick, get the bear, get the blanket. Whatever it is that your child asks you for after bed, make sure it’s done before they go to their room for the night.

Each of these steps we did for an average of two weeks (some were longer). There is no set pattern, as each child is different. Just make sure you do it long enough so as not to set the whole process back.

  • After you have finished the above routine and put your child in bed, sit next to your child’s bed and hold his hand while he falls asleep. If your child won’t hold your hand, lay your hand on his back. Be sure your child is asleep (deep rhythmic breathing) before you leave their side.
    If your child wakes during the night, go to him and do the same thing. If there’s a storm, make considerations to let him sleep in your room (check regulations for foster children – maybe you can camp out on the floor, or all camp in the living room if there’s more than one child).
  • After you’ve held your child’s hand for as long as needed (a couple of weeks or more), move away from his bed. Make yourself comfortable, lay down with a pillow and take a nap.
  • Now you will move to the doorway and sit just inside his room until he falls asleep.
  • Next move outside his door, but leave the door open. If he says anything, reassure him you’re there.
    You may be sitting outside your child’s door longer than you were in their room because you are now out of sight. Over time your child will begin to trust that you’re going to be there, as along as you really are (and they will know).
  • If you close your child’s door at night, it will take an extra step. If you’ve never closed your child’s door at night, there’s no need to now (unless of course it’s too noisy). If you do begin closing the door, expect some anxiety, because this will be a big change for your child. If needed, close your child’s door and sit outside his room. If he calls for you, if at all possible, stay outside the door and reassure him that you’re there.

*The above plan was recommended by Scott Chaussee of Ariel Clinical Services.

Always consider what is happening in your child’s world to cause sleep disturbances.

Think about what happened that day, what’s going to happen in the next week or month. Anxiety can cause exacerbated behaviors in hurting children and the inability to fall asleep is a big one. As your child bonds, they’ll become less anxious, but it’s still something to always be mindful of.

About three years after we implemented this whole routine with our daughter, Payton, it was clearly embedded in her mind. For years, when she put her babies and animals to sleep, she placed a chair outside her door and read a book. That’s exactly what we did with her. Thankfully she didn’t yell and scream from her chair, telling her babies to be quiet. At least we did one thing right.

When we’d had success with this plan, we noticed that many families who had adopted their children around the same time as us had kids who still weren’t sleeping. These families weren’t willing to look at what was causing the sleep issues and neither were they willing to put the time and effort into dealing with it.

This is a short investment for a long term gain.

It will probably take a few months, and some lost time with your spouse, but in the end, you will be so glad you did it, I know we are. In the end, using this technique will help everyone in the family.

*Another post that might be of interest: what happens when hurting children can’t sleep?

  • I would like to talk about sleep aids. I feel there is a time and place for natural remedies, even medication. In fact, we tried a natural remedy (for sleep) with our daughter and it didn’t work. However, I believe there is an underlying cause for most of our children’s sleep issues, and if we don’t get to the bottom of it (or bond – even at night by showing them they’re safe) the lack of sleep will continue and won’t be dealt with at the level it needs to be.

good night

I hope these ideas help your family. May you all begin to rest!

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Autism Birthdays

Jeremiah turned five today. So, here’s the birthday deal. Jeremiah doesn’t like many foods (like, um, two at the moment) and doesn’t like cake, but this year I wanted cake. (I apologize to my sweet boy for the piddly cupcake, it’s your Dads fault.)

I get tired of not being able to celebrate my sons birthday like every other child. No party, except family, because it would wig him out and he’d hate it, not a big to-do because he wouldn’t notice. So, I at least wanted the cake. I did the cake. He smelled the cake, because, well, that’s what he does. He smells most things he comes in contact with. It’s cute…for now…at age five.
Jeremiahbdaycollage9.14

He smelled that cupcake, and actually licked it which was quite a celebration, he then got down from his chair, went to the fridge, opened said fridge and got out the eggs. He wanted a fried egg, so fried egg is what he got! Happy Birthday with a fried egg. That’s him on the right, eating an egg. This is our life. Life is good. We find the good.

*For those who might think “Oh, that poor child doesn’t get a birthday party,” don’t worry, Jeremiah is plenty spoiled in every other area of his life. ;)

life before and after seizures (Autism)

life before and after seizuresAutism + seizures = parents on edge, constant concern, and questions, questions, questions.

When Jeremiah was an infant he had seizures, he’s adopted and after he came to us we never saw more evidence of seizure activity. That was until he was about two-years-old. One night we woke up to this frightened cry, when we opened Jeremiah’s door, he toppled out crying, terrified, and shaking. Now, some could say it was a nightmare or a night terror. It felt different, I can’t explain it, but my Mommy instinct knew it wasn’t a nightmare (more about that later). Plus, afterwards he had significant regression in his abilities and understanding.

Until last week we hadn’t noticed any more seizures, but the thing is, there are absence and petit mal seizures. This means there’s no shaking, and they can often be invisible. www.rightdiagnosis.com says, “[In the case of petit mals] The person will stop moving or talking and stare into space for a few seconds. Some muscle jerking and twitching may also occur. Once the seizure has passed the person recovers quickly and carries on with what they were doing with no memory of the episode. These seizures can occur occasionally or very frequently, hundreds per day in some cases.” These seizures usually last around thirty to forty-five seconds. When Jeremiah had the episode two years ago, this is what they thought might be happening.

Last week he had another seizure.

It was frightening. Both kids were in the backyard and Payton was having a meltdown because she’d been asked to do something, and in her mind, she wasn’t able to complete the task. Jeremiah was out in the  grass staring at her, not too odd because he’d really been paying attention when she’s crying lately.

Justin brought Payton inside and called for Jeremiah to come in, but he didn’t move. Justin waited a minute and stuck his head out the door again, calling for Jeremiah to come inside and eat. Jeremiah usually responds well to this, but he still didn’t move. Justin went outside and picked Jeremiah up to bring him inside, at that time he didn’t notice, but he would later realize that Jeremiah was stiff when he’d carried him in.

Justin and I both had our attention averted elsewhere, on making dinner and on the girl who was throwing a fit about something ridiculous, so we didn’t notice until a little later that Jeremiah hadn’t moved on his chair. Justin had placed him on his chair standing, holding the back of the chair, because that’s what he does all the time. Finally it clicked that Jeremiah hadn’t moved and was still standing where Justin had placed him.

We quickly went to him, I felt his arms and there was a slight tremor in them and he wouldn’t look at me (as opposed to some people with Autism, Jeremiah will look at us when we talk to him) and was staring off into space, he wasn’t there. Justin picked him up, took him to the couch and began removing his clothes, we were thinking he’d been bit by something and it was causing an adverse reaction. We checked his entire body, but didn’t find anything.

Everything was so muddled, there was screaming in my ears, FEAR.

At some point I realized that he may be having a seizure. He then curled up in Justin’s arms in a fetal position and shoved his fists against his eyes for a minute or two, I don’t know how long, time drags when you’re terrified.

We then started his favorite movie to see if he would turn and look, and he did within a few seconds. That was a relief! I held him in my lap, wrapped him in blankets and he stared at the t.v. The seizure itself lasted about seven to ten minutes, which the doctors would later tell us was far too long to be a petit mal. He finally did come around to fairly normal, but we were fearful the seizure would cause regression, because that’s what happened the last time he had one.

All we could do was wait. And wait. And wait.

We picked him up the following morning at school and when I asked if he seemed his normal self, the aide nodded her head in a circular motion, meaning kind of. The teacher said he was lethargic. (We sent him to school because he was doing well, and for him, being out of routine is the worst, and we are confident his teachers are skilled enough to determine whether something odd is happening with Jeremiah.)

That day at home was near normal, but we still needed to see what he’d do in different situations and assess whether he still understood as much as before. As days passed we knew he was where he’d been before. Thank God!
The doctor is referring us to Children’s Hospital, which will take a few weeks, or longer since she forgot to put the referral in. He may need to have a twenty-four-hour EEG done, which makes me extremely nervous. But, I would really like to know if he’s having seizures more often than what we realize so we can do something about it. He’s had so many major regressions in his short life that I’ve always wondered if seizures were the cause, for a long while I was convinced. Yet, his skills and understanding have only grown in the past several months, so that’s wonderful.

The reason an EEG makes me nervous is because we’ve been through it before. After that episode about two years ago where I was sure Jeremiah had a seizure, they sent us to the local hospital for an EEG. No preparation was made for a child who has Autism, and it was a horrendous experience. 

Just try to take an Autistic child to the hospital, put them in a strange room, with strange people, then place dozens of sticky electrodes to their head, and have them relax while the brain is read. HA!!!! He screamed and writhed, livid because of what was being done, confused because he couldn’t understand what in blazes was being done to him. He screamed and fought until he fell asleep, but the techs were so irritated that after he’d only slept for ten minutes they decided to end the test and took the electrodes off his scalp. No evidence of seizures, because, see, the person has to have a seizure WHILE the test is taking place.

So, here we go. I thought that with my rare disease flaring up, and Autism, and my husband owning his own business life was full enough. Guess not. However, I’ve seen God carry us through the really tough, the impossible, and I know He won’t fail us.

*Another great example of seizures was shared this week by Faithful Mom of 9 on her blog, you can read about how her daughters seizures presented here.


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why adopted and foster children have sleep issues (sleep issues part 1)

A big obstacle adoptive and foster parents face is their child’s lack of sleep (aka: refusal to sleep or rest, inability to sleep). Many adopted and foster children have a difficult time falling and staying asleep. Sleep issues can wreak havoc on the whole family, and when everyone’s tired, everyone’s grouchy (at least in our family, I’m sure that’s not the case for yours;)).

Even when children have made significant bonds, they can still have defiant behaviors when they’re excessively tired. (Well, a few of us who never had attachment issues can attest to being testy when we don’t get enough sleep right?) Do you ever swear your child reached in and clicked the “off” switch when they’re sleep deprived? Does ALL logical thinking go out the window when they didn’t get enough shut-eye?

Obviously sleep is important, and we don’t want the lack of it to produce more negative behaviors that add to our already full life. There are a few reasons why our children don’t sleep well and have difficulty falling asleep. Let’s take a look at three of the main ones:

  • Control – Don’t jump to any conclusions yet. This sounds like something harmful that your child is purposefully doing to you, but it’s not. Their early life was usually chaotic and unpredictable. At a very young age, your child may have needed to protect themselves, fend for themselves, and worried incessantly about their needs being met. This creates a need to control their environment.
    In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry talks about a hurting child’s need for control. “After all one of the defining elements of a traumatic experience – particularly one that is so traumatic that one dissociates because there is no other way to escape from it – is a complete loss of control and a sense of utter powerlessness. As a result, regaining control is an important aspect of coping with traumatic stress. This can be seen vividly in the classic research on a phenomenon that has come to be known as ‘learned helplessness.’”
    Our children may stay awake because it’s one of the few things they can control.
  • Fear – We had major sleep issues with our daughter, Payton. She couldn’t go to sleep, and we never had a smooth transition to bed. We set up the routine, had a calming relaxation time before we put her to bed (included a back rub in bed), but all that didn’t help (but that doesn’t mean we didn’t stick to it, we still have a soothing transition to bed). We tried the Super Nanny approach that’s “proven to work”; put the child back in bed without saying a word, you may do it twenty times, but after a few days, they will stay in bed. Nope, that didn’t work either. We could put her back in bed without saying a word dozens of times, if not hundreds, and for months, not days, and it still didn’t make a bit of difference. We were EXHAUSTED! Sound familiar?
    After battling the sleeping issues (she also didn’t sleep well throughout the night, she woke up often) for over a year, we attended a training led by Scott Chaussee. During one of the breaks we asked him about Payton’s sleep problems. He asked if she’d been in a Meth home (this was a training held at the Dept. of Human Services, so many of us has adopted from foster care). We nodded our heads, “Yeah, she’d been in a Meth home.”
    Scott said, “Those Meth homes are very frightening, especially at night. She may not have a conscious memory of it, or be able to tell you what’s scaring her, but I would imagine that’s what it is.” He then gave us a plan on how to help Payton calm so she could sleep peacefully. (I will share that plan with you next week.)
    In The Whole-Brain Child, Dan Siegel writes, “Unless kids can make sense of their painful memories, they may experience sleep disturbances, debilitating phobias, and other problems.” Some of our children won’t be able to make sense of their traumatic memories. They may not even have a tangible memory of what happened to them. However, I do believe they can heal when attachments are made with their caregivers.
    There are many other fears that can play into a child’s reticence to go to sleep:
    – Fear of the dark.
    – Fear of being alone.
    – Fear of being unsafe.
    – Fear of scary noises.
    – Fear of abandonment.
    Think about yourself and fears you may have had at night, even as an adult. I know for me, if I hear a scary sound in the house at night, I lay awake listening for any other movement, it keeps me awake and on alert. If I wake from a frightening dream, I have to force myself to stay awake so as to not let the nightmare continue.
    So, we can see that even children and adults who haven’t experienced trauma encounter sleep disturbances. How much more is a child who’s been traumatized going to fear being alone in a room, in the dark, unaware of what’s happening in the rest of the house?
  • Their brains are always on high-alert/Worry – This is partly because of the fear mentioned above, but also because of learned behavior. Our children always feel they need to be alert and watching out for themselves, and when their brain is constantly in a state of hyper-vigilance, they can’t relax.

In The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, Bruce Perry writes, “If a baby’s primary metronome – his brainstem – doesn’t function well, not only will his hormonal and emotional reactions to stress be difficult to modulate, but his hunger and his sleep cycle will be unpredictable as well.” This absolutely applies to older children as well.

Now that we know some of the causes of sleep disturbance, what can we do? We want to send a clear and consistent message that our children are safe and loved. The faster your child feels safe, the quicker they will heal, which will lead to a more restful sleep and better behavior overall.

Your hurting child needs to know they can trust you. Next week, I’ll give you step by step ideas on how to build trust at bedtime so your child can rest peacefully.

We can’t truly fix the problem if we don’t know why it exists.

Our children may not look scared when they come out of their room asking for the next drink, Kleenex, back rub, or stuffed animal. Their crying and whining may seem like a behavior that just irritates you, but there’s an underlying cause as to why they aren’t able to fall asleep or why they wake in the middle of the night.

Here’s the follow-up post: How to Help Your Adopted/Foster Child Sleep (Sleep Issues Part 2)

Do your children have sleep issues? What do your children do? Do they have trouble falling asleep? Do they wake up in the middle of the night? I would love to hear from you! See you next week, and until then, I hope you get at least one good nights sleep.  :)


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