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Monday, April 7, 2014

Seems There's a Need for Autism Awareness After All.

Have a read of this before I go on --

That ^^^ article enraged me to the point of providing a twitter rebuff to the author.  I have to get pretty cross about something to bother getting so confrontational these days. The author is a very popular 'expert' in baby sleep and feeding issues, who appears to make a living off the insecurities of new parents. I could walk past that alone given I'm sure she provides some measure of comfort and information to the average family dealing with the typical early hurdles around feeding and sleep. But based on the above article she is waaayyyy out of her depth when it comes to more complex presentations.

The child in the article struggled with sleep from birth, usual sleep 'training' techniques produced no change. As he aged other difficulties emerged such as anxiety, OCD like behaviours (aka repetitive behaviours?) and problems that apparently are creating stress for the whole family….sound familiar? Maybe it doesn't ring bells for many families but it sure does for me and many others in the autism community. Harri was very similar sleep wise to that child. I know now it was probably related to his difficulties processing all the sensory stimulation in tandem with a naturally overactive brain. It meant from the moment he was born he couldn't sleep well. He needed movement, as in someone rocking or swinging him to drift off, and even then sleep lasted only a short time. He was my third kid, I knew all the sleep teaching tricks, but they wouldn't work for him.  Just like the above story.

I can't know for sure what's going on for the child Pinky describes, but there's some pretty strong indicators that an assessment for ADHD, ASD or sensory processing issues would be in order.  I think it's far more likely his problems are related to a neurogical issue rather than psychological trauma because they left him to cry for a few weeks.

Just as infuriating is the guilt trip in the implication of harm the parents caused, albeit inadvertently. Anyone who's lived with a child who doesn't sleep well for a long period despite all methods, including medications, being tried knows leaving a child to cry is not always the worst option. It can be the only choice that keeps the baby safe and family members sane as they take a break from the relentless toll of broken sleep.  Crying it out finally worked for us once Harri was old enough to understand the routines and expectations, when he was around eighteen months. My personal opinon is that not responding to my son's crying at night thereby not reinforcing his waking was the only way he learnt to put himself back to sleep. It was agonising at the time, but so was the lack of sleep.

For me the worst aspect of this shitty article is that someone professing expertise in the area of babyhood and sleep techniques knows so little about children who have genuine neurological challenges that make good sleep next to impossible. If she does know anything about this topic she's careful to stay on message about her own brand of sleep management to the possible detriment of those parents who should be seeking help elsewhere, starting with a developmental paediatrician. 


  1. Hard to say which is worse, the parent-blaming or the inexpert "experts" ...And this piece sure won't help people like you and me who had similar struggles with our children, and little help or hope at the time, and now know the neurological bases...

  2. I have always followed my "DRABC" that I learned when I did the Red Cross First Aid course. If a family is in danger (the D) of breakdown then you do what it takes to get calm. So I have spent many a night with Grace out in the car, in the driveway with me sitting at the front window watching her. Anything else like going for drives or sitting with her was reinforcing so it was the next best thing to having a sound proof room. She is safe, she is contained and visible and she can cry until she cools off (In Ireland this can be literal so I put her in a long puffa jacket and ugg boots to bring her out to the car)
    The rest of the house gets to enjoy some REM cycles and I get to chat to the internets while I watch her, thanks to wifi and a social network of people on different time zones.

    We also got professional help. Psychiatric help in the long run which resulted in her sleeping for 8 hours in a row for the first time at the age of 6 1/2.

    These "experts" need to be diagnosed with the God Complex they so clearly have and told to STFU.


    1. I could have written the entire post above using that last sentence Lisamaree :)