Welcome to the February edition of Ask Dr. Emily! We often receive questions that we want to share with all our readers. To help with this, Dr. Emily Rastall, a clinical psychologist at Seattle Children’s Autism Center, will share insights here, on the last Friday of each month, in a question and answer format. We welcome you to send us your questions and Dr. Rastall will do her best to answer them each month. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: My son [who has autism] can be awake for long periods of time His explanation [for staying up late] is that he “loves the world when the NT (neurotypical) people go to sleep.” Does this seem right?
A: If we think about the “autism brain” and its sensitivities to the world, it makes sense that being asked to conform to “NT” norms and keep up with “NT” demands all day can put stress on the system. The world can be an overwhelming place, with the social demands, sensory input, and expectations from adults and peers. Being awake while others are asleep, seems like it might be his way to seek respite from an overwhelming day. This may be how your son “recharges” at the end of a day spent interacting with the world. If you have concerns that he is not getting enough sleep, it would be a good idea to check with his primary care provider.