Special Needs and Toddler Sleep

It’s extremely common for children to have sleep difficulties. There are so many things that make the little ones too uncomfortable to sleep. Teething, growth spurts, and even learning new skills can tip the balance between a restful night’s sleep and a restless one. Unfortunately, sometimes for special needs kids there’s more complication than normal getting your child to rest. Further muddying the water, your child may not be able to communicate what’s wrong. What do you do? The best you can, and that’s really all there is to do.

It’s extremely frustrating. Not only is your child losing sleep, but you are as well. Knowing there isn’t anything you can do to help just makes it that much worse. When I’m up with my son it’s typically between 3am and 4am. I don’t know why, but this seems to be his witching hour lately. He hasn’t pooped (or if he has I change him in the light of his nightlight and he still won’t go back to sleep). He has his blanket, except when he throws it out of his crib… but I go in and give it back to him within a few minutes. I check in on him regularly… he looks comfortable. He’s just laying there whining.

There are some things you can do to make sleep come easier. For instance, a consistent bedtime routine helps significantly. A soothing bath, a book, and clean pajamas works wonders. Even medical things, like starting his overnight feeding and hearing the hum of the pump, can be soothing. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to find a way to get a child back to sleep when they wake up in the middle of the night and appear to need nothing. At that point it’s just a waiting game.

I feed him, I snuggle him for a few minutes, and I check his diaper over and over. This time mommy doesn’t have the answer. Mommy usually has the answer, and she wants to always have the answer. By 4am he usually settles back down. No real reason, and I’ve done nothing different than I did at 3am. Is it just a normal toddler problem? Is it his reflux? Is it his feeding tube? Does he have gas he can’t pass? Is he constipated? There’s really no way of knowing because he can’t tell me. I can’t wait until he can tell me…

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