Thirty-one years ago I gave birth to my first son. It was twelve years until he was diagnosed with autism. He is high functioning and for most of the time it’s hard to tell he is on the Spectrum. I noticed very early on that he was not a good sleeper. 

I’m sure most Mother’s get that shock with their first baby, you give birth and you think everything is going to be wonderful and sweet, until your baby doesn’t sleep. Then, tired and stressed each day blends into the next and you wonder if you will ever sleep again. But, it passes, some babies sleep better than others, and most babies eventually reach a routine. The night time feed gets dropped and you can relax and begin feeling normal again. The baby days are precious but can be so tiring.

My son is 31 years old and has never slept through the night, not once. Thankfully, since the age of about nine he hasn’t bothered waking me. Well, not often. Even now he will still come in my bedroom at 3am and wake me to tell me that we are out of toilet paper or he has a headache. He doesn’t expect me to get up and do anything, but feels the need to tell me. 

Moving on to his bedroom, he’s always had his own room and he’s always been a little obsessed with it. I guess when you spend so many hours awake in your room it has to be just right. His room is spotless clean, he will even vacuum it himself and change his own bedclothes. Everything is orderly and he has things on display in cabinets. Collectable things that he has gathered over the years and mean a lot to him. He has boxes of computer games and videos he has had since he was a small child, all neat and orderly. He has a computer and a television in his room and he can spend days in there, only appearing for food or emerging for bathroom visits.

When my son was 17 years old I had a new partner and we were expecting a baby together. Star (her nickname) was born and again she was a clingy crying baby who barely slept a wink. She’s thirteen years old now and was diagnosed with autism at the age of six. She has things in common with her older brother, they will play computer games together and he has shared some of his Manga (Comic books) with her.  They do understand each other and if she’s upset, then he’s the one she’ll turn to for comfort and cheering up. 

Star is different in other ways though. She started sleeping through the night by the time she was a toddler, and although she likes to wake up very early, she has rarely woken during the night unless she has been ill. She has a younger sister who she shares her bedroom with and I know they talk before going to sleep, but her sister likes to stay in bed a little longer in the morning. 

The biggest difference, though, is Star’s bedroom. You’d think two girls would keep their bedroom clean but it is a tip! Honestly, they have so many cuddly toys it looks like a furry zoo in there. Clothes are taken off and dropped on the floor and toys are left everywhere. They have loads of storage but everything is thrown in so it’s overflowing. I have a rule of no food in the bedrooms but they often sneak up packets of crisps or bananas and just leave the wrappers and skins on the bedside table or even the floor. I send them up to clean up their mess and after an hour they may have moved a few things around, but it’s barely touched. 

This summer I am planning on getting them new bunk beds and they are excited about that. But they will have to purge their room and clean it up before I buy them. I’m hoping that will be inspiration enough.

So, although I have two autistic children, and they share similarities, they couldn’t be more different when it comes to their bedrooms. 

By Anne Sweet, a new Family Fund Blogger at www.raisiebay.com