A year ago, I started a structured bedtime routine that finally worked. I had tried many methods. Savion spun endlessly, Anwar would start singing at 3 am in the morning and Taj would cry because he was trying to sleep. Currently:
- all screens turned off an hour before bedtime at 8pm
- Pandora Relaxation music turned on
- bath time
- tooth brushing
- drawing or play-doh time at table
- reading books at beds
- books to book shelf
- pillows come out
- after lying down, quilts
- stuffed animals are given out
- good night song
- Lights out, sleep
We give baths every other day, depending on the days’ activities. I’m not always home at night; so we have a notebook with velcro strips that laminated cards attach to, telling the boys what comes next. When the boys exhibit negative behaviors, night time privileges, such as drawing or play-doh are taken away.
We make sure that if it is a sensory need(someone needs to bounce before going to sleep) we provide a support(a mini trampoline, for example) that they use before bed.
Last night was challenging. I gave the warning at 7:30pm that we would go to bed soon. I was reading with Anwar and Savion and Taj was with the provider, Sasha. I had taken away Savion’s Ipad and he was upset that he couldn’t watch “Rio,” the movie we had rented when I ordered pizza.
“I WANT MY IPAD!!” Savion yelled.
“Yell again, and you will lose your pen privileges,” I said.
“NOOO!” he stomped and ran into the wall.
“No pen and paper tonight Savion, I am not yelling, use your inside voice please.”
“I CANNOT HAVE IT? I LOST MY PRIVILEGES? NO IPAD FOR SAVION!”
“No books tonight Savion, go sit in the chair behind the red line( There is an area in our house where I have a red line. A social story on the wall has a picture of a boy sitting calmly)take deep breaths and relax, imagine you’re a balloon.” At school they do breathing exercises, they pretend they are balloons and inflate as their hands go up, and then deflate, releasing their arms down as they relax.
“NO IPAD, NO BOOKS, I HAVE NOTHING.” Savion started hitting and kicking the wall while in the chair.
Meanwhile Anwar, dressed in his pajamas, was sitting patiently at the table. The timer had gone off for Anwar to put down his pen and he got a book. Taj was with his provider, Sasha, and Taj was upset about putting day clothes in the hamper after pajamas.
“Alright Savion, now you lose your animals.”
He started to pick at the wall and eat the drywall, then picking things off the floor(dust, sand,) and eat it. Sasha told me this later, which she stopped. As I was going through the bedtime routine, I knew Savion was seeking attention, so while he kicked, stomped and yelled I brought out the quilts and animals.
“Savion, please get up calmly and walk to the bathroom so you can brush your teeth.” Savion protested and, as he walked by Taj’s bed he swung his arms at Taj, who was sleeping.
“Now you lose your quilt, and will have to use a plain blanket.” This surprised Savion. Savion has a beautiful peacock quilt that was made by my mom. “After brushing your teeth you will have to go to your chair and sit during the bedtime story and song.”
This was the farthest I had ever gone, taking away the special nighttime quilt and replacing it with a plain blue one. Also making him sit in the chair while I read the story and sang the bedtime song.
“Awww, whined Savion, I will have to sleep in the chair.” And he crossed his legs in the chair placed his hands in his lap and started breathing normally.
“You may now go to your bed Savion.” He walked to the bed and got under the covers.
“I know you don’t want to hear this right now, said Sasha, but you did a good job.”
I nodded. At least everyone was lying down. And thankfully, Anwar and Taj had not become too agitated by Savion’s behavior. At one point, Anwar did start biting his hands, but before I could get to him he stopped biting.
“Goodnight, Sasha.” And I closed the door.
I do hope tonight is better.