Sleep? We all need it, most of us relish it and if you are a mum to a special needs child, the chances are you don’t get anywhere near enough of it!

Five nights ago, weighing heavily in my arms and my hopes, I gently laid a beautiful, hand-crafted, personalised weighted blanket over my beautiful girl.

I tried not to get my hopes up, but I knew I was pinning a great deal on this simple idea of weight to calm her nervous system enough to help her sleep.

Rosy often has trouble falling asleep, then staying asleep and will also wake really early. Not great for any of us as she literally bounces out of bed any time of the night and is WIDE awake… really, really wide awake.

Weighted blankets like the one we have for Rosy, are in widespread use therapeutically for children with sensory processing disorders and autism. They give proprioceptive feedback creating increased body awareness and calming benefits for many children with special needs. This can help improve attention, focus and concentration and in many cases can be effective in helping calm overly stimulated children with sensory needs.

Weighted sensory items, with the supervision of a qualified Occupational Therapist, have been shown to help meet the needs of children with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD),  Sensory Integration Disorder, Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Angelman syndrome, Aspergers, Cerebral Palsy, Down syndrome, Dyslexia, Hypotonia, Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD-NOS) and more…

Scope.org.uk suggests that statistics show sleep problems can be more common in disabled children. Children with additional needs also seem to have greater difficulty staying asleep. Children with severe learning disability are more susceptible to sleep difficulties with over 80 per cent of children up to the age of 11 years demonstrating sleep problems. Research also suggests that children who have autism are more likely to have sleep difficulties. It has been suggested that sleep problems last an average of just over seven years and are unlikely to disappear without intervention. Scope have a lots of useful tips on sleep, medical information and a simple Sleep Diary to help work out  some practical solutions.

Checking for medical issues and environmental variables and then as consistently as possible, following a bedtime routine and a sleep training method can improve the quality of life for the whole family. It can take time to establish positive sleeping patterns particularly if trying to change a long-standing problem. It is worth all the effort though!

We have finally, with a combination of a sleep routine, restful music and now her weighted blanket, had our first five consecutive nights undisturbed sleep in a row, ever! It has taken almost seven years…

As you can imagine, we all love her weighted blanket, even our cat Pudding.