Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Making Scents

with 17 comments

Miniature perfume dispensers

Image by williamcho via Flickr

You have to excuse the bad pun titles, I just can’t help myself.  Now, do you remember a few weeks ago I talked about Pudding’s sleep habits?  You don’t remember?  Okay, go back and read it, I’ll be right here. Check out the comments too, while you’re there.  I’m not the only one, see.

Okay, hello again.  Yes, sleep.  Ask my friend Alysia about it.  It is a rare commodity indeed.  Solving this issue would mean big business, I’m sure.  Cubby, being our last and final child gets the benefit of our exhaustive attempts at dealing with this.  We know that we can’t train him to sleep, so instead we just gave him what he wanted.  For a long time that was to sleep next to me, and nurse whenever he chose.  Then he weaned himself (I know, I didn’t think kids did that either!) at 14 months, and he sleeps by himself, as long as a few conditions are met.  Those conditions being that he is not expected to go to sleep by himself, it is your job to do that.  He also is not expected to sleep in a crib (cot).  I suppose those are for babies.  He doesn’t care what all the books/articles/doctors/well-intentioned but deeply annoying advice-givers say.  There shall be a bath, a story, and cuddles/hair-pulling until he is snoozing.  Not drowsy, not on the verge of sleep.  Actually gone.  If you try to leave before this, he will be up before you make your move, and you will have to start all over again.  Your call.  Personally, I’m okay with his rules.

Now Cubby is 18 months old.  Do you remember what I said happened to Pudding’s naps at this age?  They stopped.  They wouldn’t return, those glory days of yore were gone.  Cubby not only suffers from not being the first-born, but he is also sibling to a spectrummy child who has to be schlepped to speech and occupational therapy sessions all the time.  And he has special needs too.  Needs that don’t have a name yet, but look very familiar to my eye.  I also have to add in playgroups, and play dates, and doctors appointments.  I just can’t create a consistent schedule for him.  A couple of days a week, he just has to nap in the car.  Those other days though, when we have the luxury of time, I was still struggling to get him to take a nap for longer than 20 minutes.  He’d wake up, be mad at me for not being there, then require me to get him to sleep again.  Or to take him downstairs, where he’d be miserable and demanding for the rest of the afternoon.

I’d be miserable too.  Because that time he should have been napping is the only time I get to write on my blog, or read other blogs, reply to emails, or catch-up on Facebook.  Oh, and I suppose there is housework to be done too, but I’m not a huge fan of doing that anyway.  Sadly, nobody in my household is.  I could see the naps getting shorter and shorter, and then just ending, like Pudding’s did.

One day last week I was particularly tired.  Pudding had been having bad nights, and her crying had woken him up too.  Everybody in the house was exhausted.  I decided I needed a nap too, and instead of going to his room, I took Cubby into my bed.  He was asleep within minutes, and I fell asleep not long after.  I woke up over an hour later, and Cubby was still asleep.  I crept downstairs, and he stayed there for a further 2 hours.  I got things done!  A lot of things done.  I marveled at how easy life must be as a stay at home mother to regular kids who take naps.

When he woke up, it was like a whole new child.  He was happy and smiley.  Instead of having to engage him in interactive pursuits, he was coming to me for play.  He is a pretty good (but atypical) talker for his age, but he was busting out new words.  It was incredible.  If only we could have this every day, was my wistful thought.  Spectrummy Daddy noticed the change too.  And here is another weird thing- he went to sleep just as easily as usual.  The extra time napping didn’t affect his night sleep at all.  I don’t mean to imply that with enough sleep our kids would be off the spectrum, but I do think that being sleep-deprived makes it way harder to cope in this world if you have sensory processing difficulties.  Just like how I find it harder to cope when I don’t have enough sleep.  It isn’t a pleasant luxury, it is absolutely essential to both children and their caregivers.

The next day we were back to Pudding on a half-day of school and driving to appointments.  We were also back to crabby Cubby.  When I was next able to put him down for a nap, I took him into our bed again.  Same thing- 2 hours this time.  I’m convinced that my scent on the sheets tricks him into thinking I’m still there with him.  Or it calms the part of the brain that is primed for flight or fight.  Smell is the only piece of the sensory puzzle we’ve never really tried with our kids, but I’m now convinced of its worth.  Over the course of this week, I’m going to let him nap in our bed whenever possible.  I’m also going to try to sleep with a blanket or pillowcase to make a mummy-scented item to keep in his bed.  And if that works, I’ll do it for Pudding too.  And if that works, well, perhaps I’ll have made sense of one of the things that has most puzzled and eluded me these past 2 years.  Expect eau de Spectrummy Mummy to be selling in all good retail stores this holiday season!

Written by Spectrummy Mummy

October 4, 2010 at 7:13 am

17 Responses

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  1. Brillaint title and post~
    I absolutely agree with the diiference that a good sleep makes to both myself and my kids.
    When they are well rested – they are less autisticy ( I made up another word! ) and I cope better with what they throw at me. (literally AND figurativly).

    I used to throw the shirt I was wearing or my nightie/pyjamas into the cot to get my kids to sleep but I had never connected the autism/sensory issues to it before!

    I wrote this post a few months ago when Harley asked me to put my shirt on his teddy http://fiona2107.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/sleep-tight-little-boy/


    October 4, 2010 at 7:52 am

    • Oh, I love that post Fi, so sweet! You know, it reminds me that Temple Grandin once said something about our kids instinctively knowing what they need in terms of sensory input. Sounds like Harley knew just what he needed to get soothed for sleep- smart boy! I never tried the smell part before, which is weird, because I felt like I’d tried everything. There is always something else though, isn’t there?


      October 4, 2010 at 9:22 am

  2. thanks for the link! my motto is – whatever work. Howie used to take all of his naps in our bed. for the first several months that he did that, I stayed in bed w/him because I didn’t trust that he won’t fall off the bed (his spatial skills weren’t/aren’t great). I didn’t get anything done, but I caught up on “America’s Top Model”. That only worked because my oldest was in school at the time. Then I learned I could leave him there. He still sleeps better and longer in our bed.
    You do whatever you have to do to get peace in your house. Good job solving this piece for him!


    October 4, 2010 at 7:56 am

    • Whatever gets you through the night….or the day. We have bed rails up, but he doesn’t thrash around too much, and can get out of bed by himself now. I just function better on more sleep. I don’t count on this to fix things, but it can’t hurt, can it?


      October 4, 2010 at 9:26 am

  3. My oldest, on the spectrum, stopped taking naps at nine months old. She screamed through every attempt at naptime, no matter what expert advice we followed. She screamed and cried her way through every night too (still does at six). She could stay awake for days at time. We tried every single thing from every single book, magazine, expert, random mother advice, etc and nothing worked – it only added stuff to our nighttime routine with each new thing we tried we had to do with her or she would have a meltdown (and still not sleep). My younger son managed sleep better and didn’t give up naps until 2.5 years old. But both of them sleep significantly better and longer in our bed. Not with us of course – if we’re there, then there’s someone keeping them alert somehow just by our presence, but they slept (and still do) much better if they’re left alone in our bed. I always thought it was because our bed was more comfortable than those little baby crib/toddler bed mattresses. We recently graduated them to “big” beds and they have twin beds that are almost more comfortable than our bed now and their sleep is still terrible without medication (for the oldest).

    I’ve never connected it to sensory stuff before – being in our bed might be comforting by “smelling” us near but not having the actual presence of us there helps them to sleep well. I just realized too that my daughter’s favorite place in our living room is the part of the couch is where my husband sits at night to rest after work. I wonder if it’s because of his smell and her being comforted by it. I’ll have to tell him about this tonight – he’ll appreciate that there’s possibly connection between them going on in spite of the visible lack of it.

    Great post!!


    October 4, 2010 at 9:44 am

    • I never think of smell either. My kids don’t go around sniffing things, which is said to be a spectrummy behavior, and I don’t have a very strong sense of smell, so it never occurred to me before. If their sense of smell is stronger though, imagine how offensive freshly washed sheets might be. We use the “pure” stuff, but it still has a smell. I’m thinking I might need to rewash with no detergent to see if that is helpful. How come all my brainwaves always give me more work to do? 🙂


      October 4, 2010 at 11:16 am

      • That’s the thing – my daughter DOES go around, and always has, sniffing every thing. She hates most stuff, but loves the candle aisle at any store. She can smell something from miles away and I think it’s one of the reasons she refuses to eat many, many foods before even seeing them, let alone looking at them and then tasting it and feeling the texture. Anyway, before I started rambling, my point was: I never put it together – the smell of our bed/sheets and her comfort. It’s like being near us, without us touching her or talking to her (which she mostly hates).

        This is why I love this community of bloggers and forums that share what they learn regarding what works and what doesn’t work. YOU are so valuable to me! Thanks for sharing!


        October 4, 2010 at 11:30 am

        • Ooh, in that case I’m very excited to see what will happen when you try it. I wonder if aromatherapy would be beneficial to her, if she has strong likes and dislikes about smells? It would be fascinating to find out. Please stop back and let me know if you have any success, or even if it turns out to be another dead end. Fingers crossed for you- and hope you get some sleep!


          October 4, 2010 at 11:44 am

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Blue Hijab Day and Spectrummy Mummy, Spectrummy Mummy. Spectrummy Mummy said: Making Scents: http://wp.me/pZNhv-aG […]

  5. my favorite line in this is: ‘Oh, and I suppose there is housework to be done too, but I’m not a huge fan of doing that anyway.’

    amen, sista.


    October 4, 2010 at 9:16 pm

  6. omg…you are awesome! that’s a very interesting notion, and one I think we may have to try with Niall – he falls asleep much easier when my husband lays down with him at night (that used to be with me, but I work nights while my husband works days).

    Kathy Murray

    October 5, 2010 at 1:19 am

  7. Very interesting and pleasing result! And I am not surprised, because as I mentioned in my comments on Alysia’s post about sleep (or not sleeping) when Perky was a very young baby, he contracted bronchiolitis and from then on required settling by being cuddled and then would only stay asleep if he was tucked into my armpit!! Pinky (my very sensory driven older boy) is very smell-oriented, and can detect all sorts of smells I can only wonder at (and I have an acute sense of smell myself!). I am glad you found something that helps, as you say, sleep deprivation affects everyone involved. Long may it continue. Perky totally dropped his day sleep just beyond the age of 2 years but he began skipping them when he was 18 months old, so I really do know some of what you have been going through.


    October 5, 2010 at 3:30 am

    • I don’t know if it will work, but it won’t hurt, so it is worth a try. I’m also trying to capture Daddy’s scent before he goes- it wouldn’t do if it was his smell that was comforting and not mine!


      October 5, 2010 at 12:28 pm

  8. […] a while ago when I had a sleep-related epiphany?  You don’t?  Well then go back here and catch up.  My challenge was to tame the monster of sleep with my very own pheromones.  So how […]

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