Angel is a funny girl. Routines aren’t very important to her until bedtime. Bedtime is when routines are crucial; if she forgets to brush her teeth, or we don’t sing a song, it will lead to a meltdown.
Angel used to have a hard time settling down to sleep. Our Occupational Therapist had us try putting a heavy blanket on Angel as she was falling asleep to help her settle down. We were supposed to leave it on for only a half an hour and then take it off her. Let me ask, have you ever tried to take a blanket off a child who has just fallen asleep? More often than not, we ended up waking her up. On the nights we did get the blanket off, we’d go in later to check on her and find that she had pulled it back on. Back to the drawing board.
As we learned about making a sensory diet, we were adding more heavy input activities into Angel’s day. We made sure to give her the chance to move. We gave her lots of big tight hugs, making sure to hold her close. And that is what led to our new bed time routine.
Angel changes into her jammies, brushes her teeth and takes care of toileting. Then it’s time to be tucked in. After she gets her hug and kiss from her big sister, it’s time to be layered under the blankets. Summer and winter, Angel likes to have lots of blankets piled on her. We sing a lullaby (usually it’s “The Water Buffalo Song” from Veggie Tales), then she gets a hug and a kiss. The next part may seem unorthodox, but it works for Angel–whichever parent is tucking her in will give her a squish. Squishing was something that really happened as a last resort one night to help Angel settle down. Once we realized that it worked, we incorporated it into our bedtime routine.
We always ask her if she’d like a squish. If she needs the input (and she almost always does), she says yes. On the odd occasion, she may say no. A squish is an extra big hug, with lots of pressure. It’s a great way to help her get the input she needs to help her fall asleep. Now that she can talk more, Angel tells us when she needs a bigger squish “more” or less of a squish, “no more”.
What I’ve learned is that there’s a lot of trial and error when it comes to finding the right sensory inputs for Angel. Just because one thing doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean that something else won’t work. Something might work one day and might not work the next, but it’s just a matter of trying different solutions. Now that she is better able to communicate verbally, Angel is part of the process as well. She’s able to tell us if she does or doesn’t like something or if she wants to try something new. The whole family becomes involved in finding solutions, and we learn a lot about Angel’s needs as we go.