When Norrin was first born, I read many books on sleep. I was determined to get Norrin to sleep through the night. And by the time my maternity leave was up and I returned to work – he was. But as Norrin got older, sleep became more difficult. He’s 8 years old now and autistic. Going to sleep and staying asleep remain a challenge for us. But I’ve learned to make getting ready for bed into a fun game.
1. The Final Countdown
We give Norrin a warning before we start our bedtime routine. We tell him what time it is and announce how much time he has before it’s time to get ready for bed. Kids with autism need to know what comes next. We allow him to do something he wants to do right before bedtime. Whether it’s have a snack, play a game or watch something on the iPad.
2. Bath time is fun time
Norrin loves the water. And taking a bath is not only a necessity, but it’s soothing and fun. I fill up the tub, add some bubbles and toss in some of his toys and let him play.
3. Toothbrushing contest
We always brush teeth before bed. And the new Philips Sonicare toothbrush is great for Norrin because it not only brushes his teeth, it gives him the sensory input he needs, too. The easy grip handle is ergonomically designed so that Norrin can brush his teeth independently and I can help him if needed. What Norrin loves best is that he customized his toothbrush with the fun stickers Sonicare provided. The toothbrush is a reflection of Norrin’s personality. The Sonicare Toothbrush also has a kid timer which gradually increases to two minutes. I challenge Norrin to see who can brush longer (and yes, I let him win).
4. Special pajamas
I let Norrin pick out the pajamas he wants to wear. He almost always picks his favorite pair. They’re Christmas PJs, but he likes them, and more importantly, he feels good in them.
Nothing feels better after a long day than getting into a comfortable bed. Norrin can look forward getting into bed because I’ve created a fun environment. I always buy fun character sheets. I have two sets that I continually rotate — Disney Cars and Star Wars. He loves them both and I hope they spark his dreamtime imagination.
6. Act out a bedtime story
Bedtime stories have always been a part of our routine. One of our favorites is Frog and Toad. We read the story together and we act it out. I’m usually Toad, Norrin likes to be Frog.
7. Something to look forward to
Right before I kiss Norrin goodnight, I tell him what we have planned for the next day. I like giving him something to look forward to. Now that we are nighttime potty training him, I tell him if he stays dry, he will get a surprise in the morning. The promise of something is always a nice way to fall asleep.
For some kids, bedtime means the day is over. And if a day has been especially fun or exciting — it’s understandable that they don’t want it to end. We talk through our bedtime routine with Norrin and explain that bedtime and a good night’s sleep will lead to a better tomorrow.