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My 9 year old son has always had a bedtime routine and has never had a problem falling asleep. However, during 3rd grade he began stuttering routinely and also began having problems falling asleep.

We did find out that he was being bullied by another boy (who happened to stutter). His teacher did nothing to help with the bullying until I threatened to go to the principal (after 3 complaints). She also told him to save his tears for something really important. His teacher would reprimand my son if he raised his hand to ask a question when she was working with another reading group.

My son was in an advanced reading group which met once a week while two other groups met every single day. He was expected to "figure it out" instead of asking her a question about the work she required to be done by the next time they met. It was after he told me she hated him that I really noticed a change in his sleep patterns.

The stuttering began about three months after the start of school and by the third nine-week period he was no longer able to fall asleep per his usual schedule. Despite the change in his sleep pattern, my son was able to excel both academically and on standardized testing for which he was identified as AIG.

He is still stuttering, though we have been working on this ourselves as he has requested that I not take him to a doctor. I haven't been as concerned about the sleep pattern as I am a stay-at-home mom and it's summer break.

School starts in three weeks and I don't know what to do about getting him into a better sleep pattern. Often, 5 nights a week at least, I will find him awake at 1:00 a.m. He will then sleep until 11:30 or later in the morning. I recognize that he still needs a certain amount of sleep. What can I do to get him back on the pattern he had before the bully and the bad teacher? I've heard about melatonin but am unsure as to whether I want to start giving my son a pill - even if it is safe. Has anyone had success with that?

I normally try to have him in bed with lights out at 9:00. He is allowed to play quietly and/or read until then. All screen time ends at or before 8:00 p.m. I just don't know what else to do to get him to fall asleep at a reasonable hour. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I would also be grateful for any recommendations regarding the stuttering.

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    Unfortunately I don't have an answer, but I'm a bit concerned about your son's teacher, and any possible role she may have had in this development. – Michael Aug 7 '15 at 16:30
  • Whatever else happens, you should definitely go to the principal about this. If the teacher is aware of bullying going on and refuses to do anything about it, then she's guilty of complicity and the principal needs to be aware of this. Even in today's system, where it's next to impossible to actually get a bad teacher fired, (sometimes even including if they commit a serious crime!), if the teacher knows that the higher-ups are watching her, she'll be more likely to be on her best behavior. – Mason Wheeler Aug 7 '15 at 17:22
  • @mason wheeler - I believe that the teacher and her responses did cause the sleep issues during school. I also became aware that my son was afraid of her and have wondered if that might have led to the stuttering since he had never before had an issue. I did in fact go to the school and brought up the issues with both the principal and assistant principal. I requested a specific teacher for 4th grade and my request was honored due to all the problems during 3rd grade. – DHLCary Aug 7 '15 at 18:15
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    I am a son, not a parent, but immediately after I saw this post, I wanted to reply so badly. I didn't have good memories of my primary school. The teachers were unfair to me and they weren't being good about how they should treat children. One of my teacher told us things like "you won't be able to contribute to the society" and "slow dogs only get to eat bones". Primary teachers who don't treat children well are dangerous, I got light depression when I got till Grade 7 (Form 1) and luckily I saw a doctor before I committed suicide. Please take actions to teachers on unfair matters – Daniel Cheung Aug 8 '15 at 8:12
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You need to have your son assessed by a licensed Speech-Language Pathologist. It is important that your son gets treatment for his stuttering before the age of 11, regardless of the cause. Studies indicate that after 11 years of age it is much harder to remediate. Keep in mind that 11 is just a typical number based on a standard population. You can find an SLP by looking on ASHA's website (www.asha.org). Your insurance will most likely cover an assessment to understand whether your son has an issue that is substantial enough to warrant intervention.

My wife and my sister are Speech Pathologists and my wife owns a ST clinic. So I have learned a lot about stuttering from them. The comment above is directly from my wife.

Regarding the cause for his stuttering and sleep patterns, you should consult with your child's pediatrician. They may recommend a psychologist to help your son deal with the bullying but I have less experience in that area. My kids are still too young to get much bullying yet.

It sounds like this is a difficult issue for your son and you so I hope this helps!

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I stutter. I started when I was 5 or 6, around the time my dad became unemployed and we needed to move across the country. I did speech therapy for all of elementary school and part of middle school, until I was no longer improving. I was never cured, but did learn to communicate in a way where my speech impediment isn't obvious in most situation. I'm able to function in a professional setting with only occasionally explaining that I have a speech impediment. If I had had no therapy, my stuttering would've been a barrier to employment as I was very hard to understand.

You should see if your school can qualify him for speech therapy if he doesn't want to go to a doctor to get a referral. It will help. It won't be fun for him at first (learning a new way of talking never is), but it will help him for his whole life. I understand your desire to respect all of his wishes, since he had such a rough year, but ignoring a speech issue will hurt him more in the long term than he's able to fully appreciate at his young age.

I don't have any advice about sleeping, other than you should talk to your child's doctor before using melatonin. This article indicates it may not be safe for all children (http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/melatonin).

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About the stuttering, like John Yost's comment, you should help your son stop it as soon as possible before he get used to speak like that - then it hard to change, especially when he get older.

About the sleep patterns, maybe get him sleep at 9pm (or a bit later depend on his old bedtime routine) and wake him up at 7am (or a bit later, again depend on his old wake up routine) no matter when he start fall asleep last night. First he may sleepy all day because his lack of sleep, but you can give him quick nap at noon (about an hour then wake him up no matter he want to sleep even "just a bit more time"). Do it about a week and i hope this will change your son sleep routine again because now he sleep late then wake up late (you say 11:30 or later so it hard for him to fall asleep at 9pm or 10pm - just about 10 hours after his wake up at noon); and maybe some activity make him a bit more tired than quiet play alone or reading book before bedtime?

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Actually you may be asking two separate questions, I will only address the sleep issue.

Cause

Try to look at the situation like this:

  1. Your child needs to get X hours of sleep on an average night
  2. You let your child sleep till 11:30

Now suppose that your child appears to need 10 hours of sleep every day, given his average wakeup time you would expect him to fall asleep around 1:30.

Of course this is probably not how it feels to you (the child cant sleep, so fals asleep later, and you then let it wake up later to ensure that it gets enough hours in), but unfortunately this is happening.

Solution

It sounds a bit harsh, but you are currently in a cycle that needs to be broken. Find a good wakeup time and consistently wake up your child around this time. Eventually he will be sufficiently tired to fall asleep at a more normal time.

It may not be comfortable, but my experience is that (based on vacation jetlags of many adults and some children) the process will not take very long, and it is best to make the switch in 1 step rather than gradually.


If you did this, and after a few weeks note that your child is structurally lacking sleep further action may be required, but either way you should put your child in a normal rythem as soon as possible. After all, pushing his sleep pattern back a few hours as you are currently is NOT a solution.

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    "Eventually he will be sufficiently tired to fall asleep at a more normal time." I suffer from DSPS and the only thing that makes me particularly tired at 10pm is receiving comments like that! "Just wake up earlier" "Just do more exercise" "Wait until you have such-and-such responsibility in the early mornings" as if that'll magically fix my sleep cycle. It doesn't always work that way. For whatever reason, my body clock is hardwired to settle about five hours after everybody else's. It causes me substantial difficulties with weekday work. (cont.) – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 12:31
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    (cont.) It's worth considering whether this is going on before trying the brute force approach. – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 12:31
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit body clocks arn't hardwired to a time or else jetlag wouldn't go away (otherwise you could deal with your condition simply by moving to the right timezone). Whatever cues the body uses simply take longer or happen later in your life. If you can work out what those are then you can wind down earlier/trick the body back into the cycle you want. That might not be easy but denying it is possible makes it impossible. – JamesRyan Aug 7 '15 at 15:30
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    @JamesRyan: You misunderstood me. Circadian rhythms do naturally fall into a sun-driven pattern. That's why your jetlag fades after a few days. But for some people, that natural target pattern is not the same as the "norm" and waking up at, say, 8am on a regular basis is exceedingly difficult. You might say it is effectively a form of permanent jetlag. Just because you say "you can trick the body" doesn't magically make it so. Indeed, your attitude is precisely the insulting and frustrating one I am talking about! – Lightness Races with Monica Aug 7 '15 at 15:38
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit Nothing to do with magic, it is science. Your body gets inputs of light, temperature, mealtimes etc. if you move those forward by changing location your bodyclock moves so you know it is biologically possible. Its just a case of how effectively you can manage your environment and to what extent you are prepared to change your lifestyle to fake those. Its easy to give up and say this is inevitably happening to you but no, it is just hard. You might not like the truth, that doesn't make it insulting. – JamesRyan Aug 7 '15 at 16:10

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