Thursday, April 4, 2013

Autism Awareness #2 - In bed but not sleeping

I travel a lot.  Planes mostly but sometimes by car for local trips.  Putting my son to bed feels like a plane trip.  Why you as?  Well, you know how you arrive at the gate good and early and they board on time and everyone gets to their seats only to pull away from the gate to sit on the tarmac?  Rumor has it that the grounds crew's primary motivation is to simply "leave" on time. 

Sometimes putting my son to bed feels like that.  My wife and I focus on having a consistent bedtime process but I know darn well he will just lay in bed, wide awake for hours.  At least sitting on the tarmac I can read a book or possibly take a nap.  In this case, though, I'm rarely sure what he's thinking about.  I don't want to just leave on time.  I want the darn plane to take off!

I check on him 2-3 hours later when I'm going to bed.  Most often he's awake. I kneel down beside him and on occasion ask him what he's thinking about.  He always pauses and unless something really big is happening the next day (like Christmas, departing for vacation, etc.), he responds "I don't know".

From presentations at the Autism Society of Wisconsin's Annual Conference by the likes of people like Judy Endow, I have a pretty good idea of what he's doing.  He's processing.  I guess it's kind of like when I can't get to sleep because I'm worried about that presentation, the mortgage, or a sick loved one.  At her keynote a few years ago, Judy talked of going to New York to places like Times Square.  She talked of lieing in bed at night and reliving theprocess.  She saw in incredible detail all the images, the sounds, the smells.  I think that's what my son is doing in some way.  His answer of  "I don't know" really means he simply can't express all the things that are going on in his head.  Is he reliving the past in exquisite detail or just repeating the same thought over and over like he's stuck?  I don't know.

The whole concept just scares me.  I try to focus on the fact that he may be reliving all the wonderful things that happen to him.  But I also know he is processing the bad things.  He clearly gets less sleep than other kids but this time seems to be critical for him to make sense of the world.

My hope is that he'll be able to express to me and his Mom some day what he's thinking about so that I may help him in some way work through what he's thinking and feeling.  For now, I do my best to give him time to do so.  I hope that's the right decision.

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