For wussy moms like me, I prefer the other name for The Ferber Method, "graduated extinction". Yes, I realize that "extinction" refers to extinguishing the negative behavior, ie, a baby crying it's face off, but, I find it ironic that extinction is also a word used when something no longer exists, like the cuddly mommy that used to hold, snuggle and feed the baby. Unlike the extinction of dinosaurs that occurred after a comet came barreling through the earth's atmosphere, for a bit of a quicker extinction, I decided a long time ago that I would happily take the quicker, fiery, explosive earthquakes and ruinous tidal wave extinction over the wailing, rip my heart, out "gradual extinction" of a baby's cry...especially my baby. Cudos to every one of you who successfully "ferberized". I pass no judgement on you, in fact, most nights I am consumed with jealousy of your, most certainly used ear plugs, success.
Yes, I have made my bed, as far as failing to Ferberize, but believe it or not, significant sleep problems can occur in 40-80% of kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder. If you don't believe me, just ask so many sleepless mothers, but be prepared to have them fall asleep standing up as they try to share their stories of endless, sleepless nights with you. There are various theories as to why kids with an ASD have trouble sleeping. Some studies suggest that kids with ASD have sleep rhythm disturbances which may have to do with abnormal melatonin regulation. Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate wake/sleep cycles. There are also a slew of medical problems, mostly digestive issues, in kids with ASD that can effect their sleep. As I have shared before, many kids on the autism spectrum are extremely sensitive, so the slightest change in the environment, like a light being on, the sun coming through a window, the blanket falling off them (or not covering them in the exact way it was 10 minutes ago), the feeling of a mother's knee in their back when said mother is trying to sneak out of bed, or the sound of their parents' bedroom door closing and locking, can disturb them. Any sensory experience, no matter how slight, can cause these kiddos to wake up and stay up.
My fear of Ryan feeling rejected is what has prolonged this bedtime routine. In order to avoid hurting Ryan's tender heart, I have been waiting for him to say, "Mom, I'm getting too big for you to lay down with me at night, but don't worry, I still love you.", but, since that scenario seems nowhere near the horizon, I may have to take matters into my own hands. This time, though, I will not consult a proclaimed "expert" in the field of autism, I will find my own expert, someone who also made their own bed, but has finally figured out how to sleep in it. Someone who can come close to knowing my heart, and knowing my heartache. An expert who loves unconditionally, who knows how to make the covers "just right", and who knows how to function on 6 hours of constantly interrupted sleep. Someone who, hands down, is an expert, in the truest sense of the word, and whose advice I would never LOL......another mom loving a child with autism. We autism moms are a unique group, united in a club where we were initiated by fire, never once given the choice of membership. A club that holds us together like glue, and that no outsiders can join. As I seek advice from my fellow club members over the coming weeks, I will continue to try my best to stay awake while snuggling with my babies and hope that when I finally do get to lie in my bed, that I made without Ferberizing, that my husband is the only one who awakens when I, oh so quietly, close and lock the door and that a boy in a Mario cape stays asleep in his own bed until sunrise.