April is dedicated to Autism Awareness around the globe. Last Saturday, the 2nd, was Autism Awareness Day.
I admit right out that I need to read some of the stunning books about autism that have come out recently. At the top of the list is John Donvan’s and Carrie Zucker’s In a Different Key: The Story of Autism or the books on this list from Today’s Parent.
We are all increasing our awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). One factor is due to pop culture. The character of Sheldon Cooper in The Big Bang Theory has netted actor Jim Parsons awards and acclaim for his nuanced portrayal of a person who very likely has ASD. The HBO movie about Temple Grandin’s life is recommended by school psychologists so that children and tweens can be compassionate with those who seem a bit “different”. Whether they’re diagnosed with ADHD, ASD, or might naturally be introverts or not like sports.
…or maybe they have families where sleep is a priority and sleep deprivation is not a badge of honor.
Then there’s the statistics: 1 in 68 children are diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This is a 30% increase from 1 in 88 in 2012 according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The odds are very good that we know someone who has been diagnosed with ASD. The odds increase because managing ASD in a loving way has an impact on families. The circle of ASD’s influence widens.
Which does not make it “bad”. It makes it real. Wired Magazine did a quiz in 2001 in which you could assess yourself to see where you were on the autism spectrum.
I want to encourage us to use these shared traits as ways in – points of compassion.
The absolute last thing I want to imply is that if ASD presents itself across the entire population we should diminish its effects on children and particularly their parents and families. They are in the front lines and are frankly, exhausted.
Children diagnosed with ASD have more difficulty sleeping, for example. We’re all suffering from sleep deprivation to some extent but these kids suffer more. Which means, their parents and siblings have to manage more.
They have to manage more patience, more boundaries, less freedom but more flexibility…
And they have to manage – as a family – more routine.
The issue of sleep and ASD is prevalent and so are online resources. Autism Speaks has a valuable Sleep Toolkit which can be downloaded here. Other guidelines can be found on WebMD and from the Autism Support Network this advice.
These are just a few of the quality resources out there about sleep for families with children diagnosed with ASD.
One of the many reasons those who are not managing children with Autism Spectrum disorder is we get more than one “free pass”. For example, our patience isn’t tried as much, our personal needs aren’t getting sidelined, and if we employ the guidelines suggested in the resources listed above, our kids might behave like angels.
If it kinda/sorta works for kids diagnosed with ASD, these guidelines might really change sleep patterns for other kids. Which makes it completely unfair because this population of parents isn’t doing things like keeping sleep diaries and over-monitoring one child over another.
Sixty-eight children to that one with ASD don’t wake up frequently at night. When one of those children out of sixty-eight is sleep deprived, managing the subsequent mood swings and behavior issues gets more complicated.
We want to honor and have compassion for families with members diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder, but let’s not say we’re all walking the same road.
While these established routines and practices for children with ASD are gifts to many of us, they are perhaps – just perhaps – a lifeline for the families with those 1 in 68 children.
For more information on the power of routines and sleep, listen to the free Get Your Sleep On Summit by filling out the form below.