Is sleep deprivation making me see things that aren't there? — The Bump
Special Needs

Is sleep deprivation making me see things that aren't there?

I am currently living in a different state with my son while he is undergoing cancer treatment.  So, although my husband visits as often as he can, it's just me and my 14 month old in our temporary household.

My son has never been a good sleeper.  He currently wakes 4 to 6 times a night and, each time, cannot go back to sleep without being rocked - sometimes for an hour.  I am exhausted (and in my first trimester).  One night at 2 am I couldn't take it anymore and just left him in his crib to cry himself to sleep.  Except that he didn't.  After 3 hours, he was still crying and standing up.  Previous attempts at crying it out have gone the same way.  

Aspergers runs in my extended family, and in my immediate family.  I am starting to wonder if my son might have something that is making it difficult for him to self soothe.  I have read the FAQs and the other behaviors he has that I have noticed are:

-shakes his head no frequently while playing, walking

-doesn't necessarily fixate on one part of a toy, but doesn't play with them as they are intended.  For example, we have a ball drop toy and he will play with the balls, but never roll them down the ramp.  he will never imitate the things I do with his toys.

- when he hears an airplane, he stops everything to try and locate it.  The other kids around him don't even hear the airplane

-shrieks when he sees familiar things that he likes, like a picture on the wall or a certain flowerpot.  

-he only has one word and mostly communicates by shrieking.  He doesn't point at things, but will look if I point at something.  He does make eye contact, but doesn't always answer to his name.

I can't make an appointment for an evaluation until we return home in a few months.  What are your thoughts: is it possible there is some developmental issue impeding his ability to self soothe?  Or, is my lack of sleep making me dream up issues?  Dealing with cancer is hard enough; I'm afraid to think that there may be more rocky times ahead.

Re: Is sleep deprivation making me see things that aren't there?

  • Yes, to answer your question sleep deprivation could be making you see things. However, your son is young and under going cancer treatment. His communication will most likely improve once you guys are out of the traetment cycle. My youngest sister had numerous health issues (2 transplants, strokes, 100 blood transfusions before age 2). Her developement was slowed down by being in the hospital all the time. She didn't have the energy to just be a kid.

    Yes, your son could have ASD, or AS but I wouldn't make a diagnosis your priority right now. Just focus on getting through the treatments. Nothing seems like a huge red flag.

    I have never been in your shoes but wanted to say growing up with my sisters medical issues I know how stressful it can be. Take some time to just enjoy your DS. My mom developed severe anxiety and still sees things in my sister no-one else does. It's part of being mom to a child with an illness. Nothing will change that.

    You sound like a brave strong woman. Follow your gut. Good luck.

    [IMG]http://i50.tinypic.com/30xit04.jpg[/IMG]
    Olivia Kate is almost 4!
    Diagnosed with autism this year and doing great!
  • imagepastalady:

    Yes, to answer your question sleep deprivation could be making you see things. However, your son is young and under going cancer treatment. His communication will most likely improve once you guys are out of the traetment cycle. My youngest sister had numerous health issues (2 transplants, strokes, 100 blood transfusions before age 2). Her developement was slowed down by being in the hospital all the time. She didn't have the energy to just be a kid.

    Yes, your son could have ASD, or AS but I wouldn't make a diagnosis your priority right now. Just focus on getting through the treatments. Nothing seems like a huge red flag.

    I have never been in your shoes but wanted to say growing up with my sisters medical issues I know how stressful it can be. Take some time to just enjoy your DS. My mom developed severe anxiety and still sees things in my sister no-one else does. It's part of being mom to a child with an illness. Nothing will change that.

    You sound like a brave strong woman. Follow your gut. Good luck.

    Thanks for putting things in perspective.  The continuous lack of sleep is really making things difficult for me.  On the really bad nights I am at a complete loss of knowing what to do to get him to sleep.  Even though he has rough nights, he is always wide eyed, smiling, and ready to go at 100 mph each morning.  It is cute, but I am a zombie for the first half of the day and can barely keep up with him.  I don't know where he gets the energy.

    You are right, he has spent so much time in the hospital and keeping away from others that he rarely ever gets to be around other kids.  

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  • image-auntie-:
    imageapril262011:

    I am currently living in a different state with my son while he is undergoing cancer treatment.  So, although my husband visits as often as he can, it's just me and my 14 month old in our temporary household.

    Are you in a Ronald McDonald House or staying with family? Is there anyone who can give you a break?

    Thanks, Auntie, for your detailed response.  We are in a Ronald McDonald type house, but there is no babysitting program.  There are other single moms here, but no one I've met with a child as young as mine.  I also have to keep him away from people when his counts are low, which is frequent.  When he takes his nap I am able to get a couple hours to myself, which is nice.  When we are inpatient, the nurses will watch him so I can take little breaks.

    My son has never been a good sleeper.  He currently wakes 4 to 6 times a night and, each time, cannot go back to sleep without being rocked - sometimes for an hour.  I am exhausted (and in my first trimester).  One night at 2 am I couldn't take it anymore and just left him in his crib to cry himself to sleep.  Except that he didn't.  After 3 hours, he was still crying and standing up.  Previous attempts at crying it out have gone the same way.  

    CIO or Ferber are harder the older a child is. DS who did get an Aspergers dx at 6, was a horrible sleeper initially. Bad enough that I had to do serious sleep training to help him learn to sleep independently. If he could see me, he would not sleep. Those books that said he'd sleep 20 hours a day at first? NFW. Fiction at my house. One thing I noticed at my house was that if DS could see me, he could fight sleep very effectively for hours. We did classic Ferber, but you need separate sleeping quarters for this to work.

    The thing is, you have to fade your involvement in falling asleep to end the night wakings. All kids wake in the night, but if they can't settle themselves, you become the solution. If you are sharing a room, maybe this needs to wait until you don't have to.

    That sounds exactly like my son.  If he can see me, he fights sleep.  On the other hand, leaving him in the room by himself results in hours and hours of crying.  I am able to sleep on the couch when he is in the room so he cannot see me, but I don't have the heart to let him cry for as long as he will (3 hrs was the longest I have let him go, and that was because I was about to have a breakdown).  Hopefully, we will go home in a few months as planned and my husband will be able to help with sleep training.

    Aspergers runs in my extended family, and in my immediate family.  I am starting to wonder if my son might have something that is making it difficult for him to self soothe.  I have read the FAQs and the other behaviors he has that I have noticed are:

    -shakes his head no frequently while playing, walking

    -doesn't necessarily fixate on one part of a toy, but doesn't play with them as they are intended.  For example, we have a ball drop toy and he will play with the balls, but never roll them down the ramp.  he will never imitate the things I do with his toys.

    - when he hears an airplane, he stops everything to try and locate it.  The other kids around him don't even hear the airplane

    -shrieks when he sees familiar things that he likes, like a picture on the wall or a certain flowerpot.  

    -he only has one word and mostly communicates by shrieking.  He doesn't point at things, but will look if I point at something.  He does make eye contact, but doesn't always answer to his name.

    Some of those are concerns, the head shaking is likely just a quirky toddler thing. Even well developing kids this age experiemnt with different sensations related to sight and hearing. Sometimes they look at thing from an upside down position, out of the sides of their eyes, squinting, etc. Most outgrow it.

    Not sure which ball drop toy you have, but often these are beyond the cognition of a young toddler. If it's for kids 4+ and he can't play with it, that could be part of the reason. It is a concern that he's not imitating play, like pretending to talk on the cell.

    The airplane thing is something mine did. I think a part of this, for mine, was his sharp eyesight and interest in vehicles of all kinds. So it was only partly an Asperger thing. People with AS tend to have issues with central coherence- seeing trees not forest. DS tended to focus on parts that interested him rather than on the whole. This was more pronounced when he was younger.

    The flower pot thing is odd. This is the one Aspergerish thing that strikes me. Kids with AS often have fixations on odd household objects. Sometimes these morph into an actual special interest around things like water heaters or ceiling fans. Noy diagnostic, but common.

    The communication deficits could be worrisome or just a function of being 14 months old. Pointing is about shared reference- he points and references you to be certain you are seeing what he is. The key is that he would be aware that you hold different information in your head than he has in his- Theory of Mind. If you were looking at an AS dx, he'd probably have a good sized vocabulary by this age. Kids with AS have speech that is advanced rather than delayed.

    The ball drop toy was for ages 9 months + which is why it worried me.  He does not imitate play, like talking on the phone as you said.  He does not point.  He does not answer to his name 80% of the time. 

    I can't make an appointment for an evaluation until we return home in a few months.  What are your thoughts: is it possible there is some developmental issue impeding his ability to self soothe?  Or, is my lack of sleep making me dream up issues?  Dealing with cancer is hard enough; I'm afraid to think that there may be more rocky times ahead.

    It's really hard to get a feel for what is going on developmentally under this set of circumstances. Being out of his routine at home, having only half his family available to him, having a mom that's stressed out and undergoing cancer tx would all delay a child's development to some degree. If you could get some help so you could rest, that would be great. Otherwise, see what things look like when you get home and back into your routine.

    I really could use a break!  But I'm just going to keep on trucking through the next few months.  It is a constant worry in my head and, Id like to get him help as soon as possible if he needs it.  I have noticed, from reading this board, that an appointment with a developmental pediatrician takes months to get.  Perhaps I should call now in hopes that he will be seen shortly after we return.  Thank you again, Auntie.  I tried to embed my responses in the text body above.  I hope it worked! 

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