New Here & Have Questions About Grandson's Nightmares

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by illinoisgranny, Aug 28, 2010.

  1. I'm a newbie here so I'll give a little background before I ask my question.

    My kids are all grown and on their own, but in November 2008, I got a call from the hospital to pick up my grandson Wildchild....he had bruising over both eyes and Child Protective Services took him from difficult child 3, daughter AR, and placed him with me as a relative foster placement.

    I've had him 22 months now and he was in early intervention until he turned 3. He was only diagnosed with sensory processing disorder and developmental delays, some of which were caused by multiple ear infections. He couldn't hear out of his left ear when I got him and had a tube put in. Afterward his speech improved, but he still is behind.

    He is now in our school system's early childhood program in a behaviorally disordered class. He also goes to Head Start in the afternoons.

    CPS is working toward permanent placement with me, either through terminating parental rights and having me adopt him, or making me a subsidized guardian. difficult child 3 is with a boyfriend who won't quit using drugs and was told she must leave, get an apartment of her own and find a job if she wants any chance of having him returned. She also has a 2nd child who just turned 1 year old. He is in another foster home. I tried to take care of him but couldn't with the issues I face taking care of Wildchild.

    When Wildchild first came to my home I was still married and my son still lived with us. Wildchild slept in our room in a toddler bed, but rarely made it through the night in his own bed because he had so many nightmares and he would just crawl into our bed.

    When my son moved away, I turned his room into a bedroom for Wildchild. Shortly afterward my infant grandson was born and was placed with us, too. My DEX and I were still married, but the placement of my infant grandson with us did us in.

    He couldn't handle all the stress we were dealing with. My difficult child 3 blames us for all her problems and accused us of stealing her children, was constantly badmouthing us and making life miserable. In February DEX decided he had to make a change and we divorced. He has his own place now. We are still friends and he visits often.

    My question is about the continued nightmares Wildchild experiences. He has a nightmare almost EVERY night. Sometimes he wakes up 2 or 3 times a night. I used to let him crawl in bed with me to sleep for the rest of the night, but my caseworker found out and said he must sleep in his own room.

    I'm bleary-eyed and nearly at my wits' end trying to figure out what to do about his nightmares.

    He used to have a therapist referred by our caseworker but she was USELESS. I have found another agency here who will work with him, but the first appointment isn't until the end of September.

    Nightmares aren't his only problem. He has significant sensory processing disorders and is always bouncing off the walls, literally. Sometimes he hits me in a rage when I try to correct his behaviors. I've used 1-2-3 magic which works sometimes, but is less and less effective.

    I know that he's been through a lot, but I'm so tired. I don't know how much longer I can continue to care for him unless we can both get a good night's sleep. I think a lot of his other issues may be related to sleep deprivation.

    Any comments and suggestions/ideas would be very welcome!
    Lasted edited by : Aug 29, 2010
  2. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    Hi illinoisgranny, I'm glad that you found us. Your grandson is fortunate to have a caring person step into his life.

    What kinds of specialists has your grandson been seen by? I'm seeing speech issues, sensory processing, behavioral issues, hyperactivity, and sleep problems. Has any main specialist such as developmental pediatrician seen him to see if there's an underlying cause? That's what I'd like to see happen for him. Sometimes when kids have a medical issue like ear infections, it is a natural tendency to blame the speech problems on the ears but if there's an actual speech problem due to neurological issues it's easy to chalk it up to the ears.

    How is his eye contact? What about play habits--does he like regular toys or prefer other kinds of things? Any random hand flapping or waving?

    Here's some information on nightmares vs. night terrors that you might want to check out.

    A lot of parents have had good success for sleeping with Melatonin. It's a natural product that doesn't have many side effects for most kids. Also, you might look to the sensory processing and try giving him a weighted blanket or mummy sleeping bag. I have a very tactile daughter who didn't sleep well on her own until I happened to give her my sleeping bag when she had the chills from a fever. It made a huge difference for her.
  3. So far my grandson has seen an occupational therapist, a developmental therapist, a behavioral therapist and speech therapist, all through early intervention; and a clinical psychologist.

    He has only been to a typical pediatrician for everything else. I'm waiting for the appointment in late September when he will see an intake coordinator at our local mental health clinic. Hopefully I will get some referrals for the testing and specialists he'll need to see from them.

    Because he is a foster child I have to get approval for any appointments beyond basic health care.

    One thing I didn't mention in my first post is that I notice he does fairly well behaviorally when I'm the only person available to interact with. If my DEX comes by, or any other person comes to the house, for whatever reason, including his caseworker, his behaviors go through the roof. So I'm wondering if some of his issues are attachment issues????
  4. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    Did your daughter use drugs or drink while she was pregnant? I can't diagnose, but he has a lot of symptoms of autistic spectrum disorder.
  5. tictoc

    tictoc New Member

    Welcom, illinoisgranny. Wildchild is fortunate to have you. You have already done a lot to help him. I don't have any answers or advice, but wanted to tell you to keep posting here. We'll do what we can to support you.
  6. Her boyfriend told me that she did smoke crack cocaine early on before she knew she was pregnant.
  7. JJJ

    JJJ Active Member

    I would try to get him seen by a developmental pediatrician or someone who specializes in Autism. Most of the therapists you listed are not qualified to diagnosis a complicated child like Wildchild. With such a heavy family background of bipolar/schitz, you are likely going to be taken down that road with diagnosis but I think a solid Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)/Autism evaluation is also in order.

    Would DEX be willing to come and sleep on the floor of Wildchild's room once a week so that you can get a good night's sleep? I'd say send Wildchild to him one night/week but your caseworker would probably have a fit as (since the divorce) he is an unrelated person -- unless of course he can get cleared as a respite caregiver for you.
  8. SRL

    SRL Active Member

    It's possible, but with the symptoms you're seeing and the family mental health history, it's important to check out all possibilities. Those behaviors are common with transition problems, and also because the primary caregiver tends to automatically adjust to their needs. Are you seeing problems when he makes other transitions, such as leaving the house or when you direct him from one activity to another. I know he's young and some of that it normal.

    I agree with getting a referal from his pediatrician to see a developmental pediatrician. With this many issues and the family history, it would be best to have one primary medical professional overseeing his care and making recommendations.
  9. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    If he behaves for you but not when the others are present, I don't think it's attachment. More likely he's not coping when more than one other adult is there to have to deal with.

    Certainly check out Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD). The Sensory Integration Disorder (SID) stuff is also a problem with nightmares, because sensory input also happens in sleep. Also his day will be really loading up his subconscious with so much to deal with, and nightmares are partly the brain processing all the information from the day. Whether they're nightmares or not, is not necessarily because his experiences were bad. Just a lot of it, very emotionally exhausting, a lot of hard work for him.

    I used to have really bad nightmares as a kid. I developed my own coping strategies. My mother would allow me to come visit her in her bed, but often I was too paralysed to move or even call out. Then if I went to my mother, I had to find my way there in the dark and only stay briefly before having to find my way back again; I found that even more upsetting sometimes. What I know would have helped me a lot, and reduced the strain on my family, was being allowed to have either a nightlight, or a bedside lamp that I could switch on if I needed to. A low wattage bulb in the lamp would still have a bright enough light to dispel nightmares - he just has to wake enough to switch it on.

    Other things that helped me - I learned that the sensory input from the environment that can be the last little brick in what makes a dream go down a particular path, can be so easily changed simply by changing body position. So when I had nightmares as a kid, I learned to roll over onto my other side. WHatever dream I had next, was different.
    So when my kids had nightmares, I let them come in to me if they felt they needed to. They could climb in beside me for a little while, usually until I felt them relax. I asked them about their nightmare, to tell me about it in as much detail as I could recall. I might even try to explain its meaning to them if I could. Then when they were quieter and seeming calmer, I would say, "Are you ready to go back to your own bed now?"

    If they said they weren't ready but I thought they were, I would walk them back to their beds. A night light can be left on. A low wattage bedside light can also be left on all night if the child needs it to get through this stage; trust me, it won't last life-long.

    Then the final 'magic' trick - tell your child that when he goes back to bed, roll over and lie on the other side. Anything left of that nightmare will trickle out of the ear that previously was facing up; now it's facing down into the pillow. So the previous bad dream will trickle out of the ear and away form the brain. Any dreams now will be different ones. SAnd if one of those is bad; just roll over again and the same thing happens.
    It's the easiest and most effective explanation for a young child. The truth is that the change in position changes the input which changes the dream. But the story is a lot more effective for a young child.

    After some time (and practice) you will find the child able to short-circuit nightmares by himself, using a number of techniques you have taught him plus ones he works out for himself. Empowering a kid to take back control, is the best thing you can do.

    Nightmares and night terrors can be crippling and really interfere with life. I had them into my teens and beyond. Nobody really seemed to understand, until husband. As I got older, the nightmares actually became more sophisticated and psychologically nastier. It is possible to be too afraid to go to sleep. Working out how to understand and interpret my own dreams, helped me a great deal in my life.

  10. When Wildchild first came to live with me, he wouldn't maintain eye contact, but now he will look me in the eye. Sometimes he will make his eyes bulge or cross them on purpose. He doesn't flap or wave his hands, though.

    He has an appointment September 1 to see our family practice doctor and I'll see if I can get him referred to a developmental pediatrician. I haven't heard of that specialty, but I hope we have one nearby. We are close to St. Louis and there are many good physicians there.
  11. nvts

    nvts Active Member

    Hi! Sorry I'm running behind the others...I've got a house full of Aspies that are getting ready for the "greatest transition of all..." which means going back to school. Can we say "meltdown times 3"?

    I have to agree with the others - it's probably in his best interest to go to a developmental pediatrician - it may make a world of difference for him. I don't know if anyone mentioned Melatonin in their posts (I only had a chance to glimpse) - but it makes a real different in our lives here for the sleeplessness. It's in the vitamin/supplement section and may help.

    Welcome aboard!

  12. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Melatonin didn't help us, but it is still very much worth a try. You need to work with it, though.

  13. Ivy

    Ivy Guest

    Hi illinoisgranny, I am as new here as you are so I don't have much advice to offer. I just wanted to say how much I admire you for stepping in and taking care of your grandson like this. Your compassion for him really comes through in your posts. He is so lucky to have you. Hang in there.
  14. Thank you, Ivy! It's very hard being a relative placement and dealing with all the drama from my daughter, but he's such a sweet child and he needs me. I love him to pieces and would do anything for him.