Sleeping with a child past the time considered normal is part of life for some families of children with disabilities – for a number of medical, behavioural and developmental reasons – although it’s rarely talked about.
Maybe your child has seizures or another life-threatening condition. Maybe your child has a sleep disorder or muscle spasms that jolt her awake repeatedly. Or maybe, like me, your child has physical and developmental disabilities, and chronic pain, and you find it difficult to be hard-nosed about who sleeps where when he slips into your bed in the middle of the night.
My son is 15 and the size of a five-year-old. He has frequent joint pain and can’t speak, and his ability to use sign language doesn’t match what goes on in his head. He can’t fully express what he’s feeling. He can’t tell me everything that’s going on.
So when he brings a book to my bed to fall asleep at bedtime (and is later carried to his bed by his Dad), or slips into our king-size bed after sleeping a few hours in his room, my first instinct is that I want to provide comfort to a boy whose everyday life is hard.
At the back of my mind, critical thoughts may jostle for attention: “He’s 15-years-old. It’s not appropriate that he sleep in your bed. Your job as a parent is to create independence. What will you do when he’s an adult?”
But they usually fall away quickly because my primary goal is that he feel safe, secure and sufficiently relaxed to sleep.
It’s not every night that this happens. But it can be a few times each week. Or sometimes it goes in spells, where he’ll sleep well in his own bed for weeks at a time.
Am I wrong?