Mum and dad told me that tantrums were a regular fixture and they were very concerned about his behaviour. He'd recently stopped talking as well. Food and mealtimes were a nightmare. They'd taken him to see a paediatrician as they really were at their wits end. The paediatrician who is a specialist in Autism Spectrum Disorders had diagnosed him with Aspergers. At 11 months a diagnosis of Aspergers!!! I kid you not. I was shocked. Both parents are scientists and we know a lot of scientists and IT people tend to have some autistic traits. However, 11 months is way too young to be diagnosed.
We decided that the dummy had to go as maybe that was causing the frequent night waking. Mum had been to sleep school a month previously. She'd waited 3 months to get a place and had to basically say she was suicidal to get a place. By night 4 she couldn't cope and left in a taxi. It had been a long difficult road and had really taken its toll on herself and her marriage.
So we set to the sleep training. We used a very kind technique called Parental Presence that I've developed over 20 years. We took his dummy away and sat with him in his bedroom. By the middle of the night we could see a breakthrough. He slept until 7am and we had to wake him for breakfast!
What I saw that morning astounded me. He sat in his highchair, ate a heap of breakfast and was so happy. It was like we had a completely different child in this home.
I left and rang the parents over the next few days. By the weekend he was chatting away again. Mum felt hope for the first time in ages. Her husband said that if this only lasted 2 days he didn't care. He was so grateful to have his happy wife back again.
He continued to sleep well and all through the night. The dummy was only used when desperate and they'd stopped using it as a regular fixture.
I recently received an email from mum asking me a couple of little questions. He is potty trained at 2 years old and talking in sentences. I asked what had happened with his development and the Aspergers diagnosis? The paediatrician had discharged him 8 months ago. No Aspergers. How huge is that? It blows me away how lack of sleep can lead to diagnoses of Aspergers and I hear a lot about kids being hyperactive and parents suspect ADHD. I'm of the opinion that most of this is sleep deficiency. Within a few days of sleep training, most parents report calm and Zen babies and children. I love my job I really do. The gift of sleep gave this family hope and a normal child.
Mum signed her email off with, 'forever indebted to you Karen'. That's why I do what I do. I love giving families hope. Lack of sleep can look like a multitude of things and yet most sleep problems are behavioural in origin and very very fixable.
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