When my little red head boy with autism was just a baby, I didn't know what challenges he would face in the next following years. I would try to sing him to sleep just like my mom did with me. I enjoyed singing. I had a rocking chair and I thought that rocking my baby and singing him to sleep was the very picture of happy home life. The trouble was, he never did fall asleep when I did this. It never worked. When he got big enough, about 8 months, he started reaching up and whacking me in the mouth when I sat and rocked and sang to him. I didn't sing around the house much after that.
Fast forward about 2 years later, my son is now newly diagnosed with autism and in an early intervention program with the local school district. They were offering a series of lectures put on by a local woman who is a DIR autism therapy specialist. She explained the nervous system abnormalities that lead to serious sensitivities to stimuli. Her example she used was of her own son who has autism. When he was very young, he was always insisting on wearing hats. He also wanted to wear sunglasses everywhere. This was a big frustration to her, and eventually she just took away all his hats and sunglasses because her son had no language to tell her why he needed them, and she was at wits end and didn't know what else to do.
Fast forward five years later, her son is having a hard time in the class he spends part of the day in for inclusion time. (Although he had an IEP, he still spent acouple of hours each day in a regular classroom.) While they sat at breakfast at a local restaurant, she asked him what was troubling him about the class. He said, (and I wish you could have seen how cute it was how she mimicked her son's unique voice patterns,) "Yeah, I have an allergy to light." She asked him what kind of light, and he pointed straight to a florescent light bulb on the sign of a neighboring shop. She later went to the classroom to discover that a bright florescent bulb was right above his desk. She also discovered why he had his attachment to hats and sunglasses as a tot; her son was sensitive to light to the point where too much was painful to him.
This was a huge eye opener to me. What I discovered is that Eli's sensitivity is sound. Shaking a new garbage bag open around him as a baby led to the saddest display of tears; as well as hearing other children cry. It was not sympathy, it was just that their cries pained him so much to hear. The vacuum always caused an unheard of display of fits, even when he was in the opposite end of the apartment, shut in a room with his father. And this is why he would whack my mouth as an 8 month old.
Although I have been mostly out of the habit of singing for years now, I decided to give it another go. Tonight I sat on the foot of Eli's bed and sang him to sleep. It was the sweetest thing in the world, just as if I were rocking a newborn. There was a bustle going on in the apartment upstairs while he was trying to go to sleep. In such cases he usually listens to a quiet CD, but the CD player was having troubles. Eli's autism symptoms are not what they once were, so I tried singing. I sang him a song from "Signing Time," "I'm Trying to be Like Jesus," and "Little One." And off he drifted to sleep. I could not be a happier mom tonight! Singing my five year old to sleep is like filling in a gap that has long wanted to be filled.