Image is a black and white photo of a bed, with the text: Dear Autism Expert, I Wonder If You Know... - Xeniphia -FB/RespectfullyConnected

Guest Post: Dear Autism Expert

The following is a guest post submitted by Xeniphia.

Dear Autism Expert who thinks I’m coddling my likely autistic children by still lying down with them each night until they fall asleep,

I know that look that you get on your face, and the irritation in your eyes, and what it means when you look away when I mention this.  I know what the ‘subtle’ “oh you *still* lay down with them?” question you ask me really means.  And I can *feel* the emotions of judgement, confusion, impatience, and more in your poorly disguised tone of voice.  But I wonder … I wonder if you know …

I wonder if you know how it feels to be a small child with big emotions, bigger senses, and a small ability to manage them.  I wonder if you know how it feels to lie down in the evenings after a normal ‘uneventful’ day with a brain so overstrained that it hurts but can’t turn off.

I wonder if you know how it feels to climb under blankets that feel like bugs invading your every pore, but it’s winter and your parents can only afford to keep the heat up so high, so you have to stay under the blankets.  I wonder if you know how it feels to have arms and legs that ache, not just from running, but from the feel of your shirt sleeves, and your pants, your socks and your coat, and to have to ignore those feelings because it is bedtime.

I wonder if you know how it feels to be able to hear the cat walking in the next room, the dog barking 3 blocks away, and the cars, not just a dull hum but an uneven rhythm of individual cars as they drive by on the streets around you.  I wonder if you know what it’s like when the process necessary to shut off your brain to sleep first shuts off all the cognitive tools you have built up over the years to process these overwhelming sensations in your life.

So those moments between that cognitive shut down and actually being asleep are the ones in which you are the most vulnerable to all the things.

I wonder if then you may understand how it feels to have a big loving set of arms wrap around you, separating you from the blankets and applying gentle pressure to your aches.  I wonder if you might understand how it feels to have the steady rhythm of your parent’s breathing and heartbeat replace the unorganized sounds of the cats, dogs, and cars.I wonder if then you might understand what it’s like to have such a need for this feeling that you miss your favorite movie of all time by pretending to fall asleep just so your parent will carry you to bed, knowing somehow in the back of your 7 year old mind that this will be the last time, ever.  And I wonder if you might understand then why, when your child is brain tired but it won’t turn off, is squirming under blankets and unable to wear pajamas because they don’t feel right, and is asking you at night “what’s that sound” when things go bump far enough away that they shouldn’t be heard … you react by wrapping your arms around them and just BEING THERE until the sweet release of sleep takes over.

Because the pain of wanting to sleep, and not being able to, is enough reason to need my mommy; and for my babies to need theirs … even if they’re not babies anymore.

5 replies
  1. Lucy Moore
    Lucy Moore says:

    Apparently it never crossed the mind of many an autism expert that cuddling with one's children could be an effective – and humanizing – social intervention. My mom did that with me mainly to help me become more social, and, while I don't know if it worked, it certainly didn't hurt.
    For some reason, only social interventions that treat kids as pets, emphasizing things like eye contact, ignoring sensory distress, not stimming, and hugging on command, are legitimate in the eyes of these "experts". Even the Early Start Denver model emphasizes eye contact and imitation of adults, not cuddling.

    • Lucy Moore
      Lucy Moore says:

      And, as the article suggests, not only is cuddling a helpful social intervention (especially since it is used on preemies, puppies, and kittens), it also provides a refuge and fosters real human connection. The key is to not do it when someone is actively resisting, only when they want it and (if they are very young, like babies or possibly toddlers) when they are not showing signs of obvious distress. Of course, this type of connection is one that is best started with one’s children when they are indeed very young, with no undue pressure.

  2. FlutistPride
    FlutistPride says:

    I feel like this “cuddle therapy” would be very beneficial to sanguines. Sanguines tend to have more “skin hunger” than people of other temperaments and tend to be very sensory-oriented.

  3. Becky Thomas
    Becky Thomas says:

    Love this! We still sit with our 8 year old, and our 5 year old holds my hand to fall asleep. At times, the 5 year old still falls asleep in my lap. I rocked them until I quite literally couldn’t hold them. I don’t care. Nighttime is scary. It’s dark. All the noises are different, and everyone who makes you feel safe is asleep.


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