- Kids Health
How to help your special child go to sleep peacefully
Special children may have a variety of problems that cause them to have difficulty falling asleep. Many special children have difficulty with language and may be unable to fully express their discomfort regarding hunger, full bladder, temperature, or uncomfortable clothing. Any or all of these problems may be irritating your child causing difficulty in falling asleep. In addition to physical discomfort, anxiety often vexes the special child and resting may be difficult. Unspoken worries or memories of the day may be too difficult to place aside for the special child who may obsess upon these things. Rituals of varying forms and degrees may need to be performed before the special child feels permission to rest. And fears of all manner of real and imagined may creep into the minds of the special child. Here are some techniques I have used with my child that worked very well and may help your special child fall asleep peacefully.
COMFORT: Your special child needs to be comfortable to sleep. Be sure to help your special child to the bathroom right before sleep time for physical comfort with an empty bladder. Special children may be unable to tell you they need to go so remember for them. Change your child into the most comfortable night clothes and use very soft comfortable sheets and blankets. Be sure bed clothes and linens are clean and fresh smelling. Hunger and sleep are not compatible so be sure to give your special child a light snack before bed. Check the temperature of the room and adjust to the most comfortable for your child. Some children get hotter and enjoy a soft fan blowing. Consider what makes your child comfortable physically and be sure to provide these things.
WINDING DOWN FROM THE DAY: When your child is completely physically comfortable then it is time to begin the wind down from the day. Do not expect your child to simply drop off to sleep before having a period of wind down. Winding down may take the form of allowing the child to discuss the day and what problems they faced that day. For the special child this may be difficult and other methods rather then talking could be helpful such as drawing a picture or using a sewing card. Many children need a story to get their minds off of their worries and onto something nice to think about. Pick stories with happy endings that give the child many things to imagine. The more new good things the child has to think about in the story the better.
MUSIC: If music can soothe the savage beast then surely it can help your precious special child calm down and rest. More often then not, music will help your special child focus positively towards a peaceful rest. Some music CD's have stories embedded into them. Knowing your child's likes and dislikes will help you choose the right music. Soft Celtic music is lovely as well as American Indian flutes. Latin scripture chants can be amazing as well. You will need to test out different types of music during the day time and see which ones soothe or which ones have the opposite effect.
FEARS: Be sure to address all fears with your special child. If your child is afraid of the dark be sure to leave a night light on. If your child is afraid of the closet be sure to go check it while they watch you do that. If your child is afraid of ghosts have the family dog come sleep in the room, after all, we all know that no ghosts can live in the same space with a dog because they would sense it--you can assure your child of that fact. Animals such as furry kitty cats purring beside your child can reach deep into the child's soul and offer peace that we can not. Don't underestimate the power of your animals to help your special child with fears. Last, but not least, reading scriptures and saying prayers with your child is always wonderful. Psalms 23 is a good choice.
YOU: It may be that all your special child wants is you, and all of your focus. You need to put away your distractions and focus on your special child during this time. Rubbing your child's back may be more helpful for the touch of your hand then the benefits of massage. Singing a song may soothe your special child as your voice is heard in a peaceful steady tone. Laying down beside your child and taking some special time to hug may be all your child wants. You can not be replaced. Consider a tag team approach and sharing bedtime duties with your spouse or other loving caregiver so that who ever puts your child to bed is at their best.
*SLEEP DISORDERS: In the rare case that your child has a sleep disorder, here is a link to a hospital that treats sleep disorders--The National Children's Hospital.
*Or for general health issues that may be effecting your child try this fantastic link to the Mayo Clinic for a newsletter (available in English, Spanish, and Portuguese) and portal to finding treatment in many countries.
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