It is nap time in my classroom and I am rocking a sweet three year old as he snores. Getting him to sleep today was hard. Even when he is exhausted, his body does not let him rest. Typically, it takes him 20-30 minutes just to wind down enough to be still in my lap. Until he reaches this stillness, he is climbing, screaming (while not entirely non-verbal, he doesn’t use many words), squirming, and getting off and on my lap. He goes to his cot, lays down, gets up, bunny hops over to me, crawls under the rocking chair, climbs into a toy basket, and then comes back to sit in my lap. After about six trips to his cot and back, he finally settles down and falls right to sleep, snoring loudly. He likes to be rocked and I pat his back fairly hard, which also seems to help him fall asleep.
This is his body’s problem. It’s not bad behavior and its not his fault. Sensory dysfunction sucks. It’s a lot of work for him, for his parents, and for his teachers. Ultimately though, those of us with typically functioning sensory systems have a hard time understanding what it feels like. He doesn’t know anything different. This is the way its always been for him, in one way or another.
His OT and I brainstorm ideas. Compression, swings, compression swings, weighted vests, weighted blankets and smushing his body with a big ball. These things are ultimately not calming so we experiment. He likes the weighted blanket, but only after he falls asleep. He likes the compression belt for around 15 minutes but without the shoulder straps. He likes being smushed but it seems to energize him, not calm him down. After trying many new ideas, we realize he is not going to be an easy fix. But really, there are no easy fixes in the world of sensory dysfunction. Because it sucks. It’s no fun.
I am his person at school. He knows he can trust me. He only wants me to push him on the swing, to rock him, to help him with the potty, which makes sense. When everything feels overwhelming, you need a touchstone. Someone who can anticipate what will be hard for you.
We are rocking and he is sleeping hard. I try to put him down but he wakes up slightly and starts screaming. It didn’t feel comfortable waking up but going back to sleep is hard too. His mother reports that he often wakes up in the middle of the night and is up for the day. To keep him safe, she stays up too. Sensory dysfunction sucks.
I do get him back to sleep and I feel happy that he can rest. Its got to be hard not being able to communicate well and also having a body that isn’t letting you sleep. That’s a lot for a little person to deal with. We will try new things tomorrow. Some will work. Some won’t. He is worth the effort and time.
Right now, I’m so happy he’s resting.