October 31, 2014

Our Autism Journey to a Big Boy Bed

Brandon is three.  He has been in a crib up until about a month after his third brithday.  This is fairly old to still be in a crib.  He's had the ability to climb out of his crib for more than two years before we made the switch.  He loved his crib, and bedtime was easy peasy for me, so we went with it!  He climbed out a couple times, but that was a very rare occurance.  As active, strong, and athletic as he is, he stayed in the crib.  Up until about a month ago...

Brandon takes a long time to fall asleep at night.  He always has.  He just can’t seem to shut his little racing brain off.  When he was in the crib it wasn’t that big of a deal because even though he could climb out, he never did.  All he had to entertain himself was his self and his blanket.  Sometimes I would hear him belly laughing…just cracking up hysterically and I would have no idea why.  It was a little creepy actually!  I knew that transitioning to the big boy bed was going to be a task.  I started week one on my Fall Break at work so that I would have the flexibility for several late nights in a row.  The most important things I (try to) do are…

1.  I do not give up.  No pleading, talking, scolding, reading to him, etc.  He has to lay there until he falls asleep, and that is that.  I just keep laying him back in bed.  No muss no fuss.  No reaction to his antics.

2.  I am consistent.  I don't let him sleep with me one night, or have a toy one hard night, or allow him to put a foot on the floor one night, and then not let him the next night.

I downloaded an audiobook (free from the library) to help me pass the time; especially in that first couple weeks when I spent most of the time in his room.

4.  Nanny cam! Staying in there was boring, frustrating, draining, hard on my body, and not how I wanted to spend my evening after I long day at work.

I installed a light switch guard so that Brandon can’t turn on his bedroom light.  This cuts down his desire to get out of bed tremendously.

I put a doorknob safety cover on the door.  He knows he can’t get out of the room, but more importantly, this is a safety issue.  This prevents him from trying to walk downstairs in the middle of the night, climbing the catwalk rails, or getting into some other sort of trouble!

Week one of the transition I was off work.  I needed to be able to stay up super late to make sure Brandon did not get out of his bed.

Big Boy Bed Journal Entries  
This is how it happened for us...
Night 1:
Brandon did not nap at school today.  So, my first thought is, “Yes!  He is going to pass out at 8 a.m. and sleep in his big boy bed all night long without a fight.  We’re sitting at the table eating dinner, and I am pleased.  He is happily eating his mac ‘n cheese while I am eating a sandwich.  I turn and look at him and he is zonked.  He is passed out…in his high chair, MID-BITE, at 6:30 p.m.!  So I think, “Okay, this is still not so bad…he will be up at the crack of dawn, but at least I don’t have to fight him to stay in his bed the first night.”  He’ll wake up and realize, “Hey!  I sleep in a regular bed now...cool!”  I lay him in bed, still asleep, turn out the light and creep away.  At 8:30 p.m. I hear the pitter patter of his little feet running around his bedroom.  He took a two-hour nap, waking pretty much up right at bedtime.  SIGH….he did not go to sleep until 2 a.m. on night one.  I lay on the floor next to his bed dozing in and out of sleep, waking up every 15 minutes or so to lay him back in his bed.  Night one was a just a bust.

Night 2:
Brandon has realized that he thinks it’s funny not to get out of bed…but to almost get out of bed.  He’s still in bed, but he has one foot on the floor.  Or he’s still in bed, but he’s laying the wrong way.  He’s still in bed, but his legs are hanging over the rail.  Whatever.  If I move him every time he’s not laying down appropriately, I’m just giving in to this “game.”  In fact, I would be losing the game.  Once he realizes he’s getting zero attention from me (positive or negative) his shenanigans are fewer and further between each other.  He got out of bed only twice.  I heard the snoring begin at 11 p.m...music to my ears.  Can I really be this lucky getting him into a big boy bed?

Night 3:
I put him to bed at 9:30 (about 30 minutes later than normal) to make sure he is tired.  I start off sitting next to his bed, facing the door.  He gets out of bed, and without looking at him or talking to him I put him back in bed.  This happens repeatedly.  One time he almost made it to the light switch.  He’s sure messing with me tonight.  He thinks all of this is hilarious.  On roughly the eighth time, I can tell I’m close to losing my cool.  I put him back in bed, and walk out of the room.  I take a deep breath...several deep breaths actually, and count to 10.  I walk back in and of course he’s out of bed, so I put him back in, still not saying a word.  I fade myself out by inching my way to the door every few minutes.  Eventually, I stand just outside the door with it cracked so he knows I’m still there.  He doesn’t get out of bed for 15 minutes, so I shut the door.  I stand outside the door for 30 minutes and he doesn’t move, although I can hear that he is still awake.  I went down to bed and he didn’t get up the rest of the night.  I don’t know what time he actually fell asleep but he did stay in bed.  I am so glad I didn’t give up.

Night 4:
It’s 9 p.m. and he’s asleep in the car on the way home from Nanna and Poppy’s house.  Yes!  That was how night one was supposed to go, but hey…if there’s one thing Brandon has taught me, it’s that life doesn’t work out just how you plan.

Nights 5 through 14 are all about the same.  He lays in bed, and I lay next to the bed.  He makes noise and wiggles around, but for the most part he stays in bed.  It is time to start fading out so that I don’t have to lay on the floor for two hours every night waiting for him to fall asleep.  I start fading out by slowly inching my way to the door, eventually just standing outside the room out of his view.  If he gets up, all I have to do is walk in the room and he’s already darting back to his bed before I can even get to him.

Night 15 and beyond...
Why didn’t I think of this before…nanny cam!  Now I lay Brandon in bed and watch TV in the bonus room with my phone in my lap streaming video of Brandon in his room.  I can be up and laying him back in bed before he even makes it to the light switch.  I couldn’t have used the nanny cam any sooner than this though, because I had to set the foundation for him knowing he has to stay in bed.  

Update, Dec. 19:  I am over the mon about Brandon’s progress in his big boy bed.  It took a lot of time, patience, and late nights, but now I am at the point where I lay Brandon in his bed and he does not get out.  I don’t have to go in his room at all to lay him back down.  It’s been this way for at least a month now.  It is so freeing.  All kids are unique in their progress, but these things worked for us.  I am so proud of my little man!


  1. How did I miss this post? Just now seeing it. :) We're on week 3 of the big boy bed and it's just now starting to get easier. Naps are pretty much non-existent now, though. I'd love to hear how you handle naps on weekends when he is at home! Milo either doesn't nap or accidentally naps (like this afternoon when he fell asleep in front of a Christmas movie on the couch after refusing to nap in his bed). :p
    (December 5, 2014 at 3:46pm)

    1. Heather Cadenhead, weekend naps are a toss up. If Brandon slept until 8 that morning, I will probably not even attempt a nap. If he woke up at 7:30 or earlier, I will try a nap. I give it two hours, and if he still hasn't fallen asleep I let him get up. He has to have been laying in bed to get up though. If I let him get up when he's doing something he shouldn't be, he'll try it again the next time. He doesn't usually nap at school anymore either, but he does lay on his mat. It's really all I can ask for when it comes to nap.
      Knock on wood, every night last week, I have only had to put him back in bed one time, if at all. It has been heavenly!
      (December 8, 2014 at 10:13pm)

    2. Milo took his first nap in his big boy bed this afternoon and it was awesome! Not sure if it was a fluke or if he's just now finally getting comfortable with his new bed. I guess we'll see!
      (December 8, 2014 at 10:44pm)


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