Deep in the woods, I was at home. People were roaming around my yard, like it was some type of campground. Tall pines were everywhere. It was sunny. Not too hot or cold.
I was not angry or surprised at all these people. It seemed ‘normal’ somehow. In fact, I spoke with one. I don’t remember now, if it was someone I knew or a stranger. That was not the point.
The point was that this person told me that Madonna used to own my house. When she lived there, she put a message high atop one of the trees. The rumor was that even if you could find the message, you still could not read it. It was much too high up and the tallest of ladders could not reach it. The way the message was written, you had to be in front of it to see it.
Coincidentally, I looked up, simultaneous with the telling of the story, and saw some foreign object at the top of one of the trees. The story itself sounded familiar. I had heard it before, long time ago and I wanted to investigate, but, like many other things I had lofty ideals about, this passed by the wayside and felt into my abyss of lost thought.
At that moment though, it had become my focus, my quest. I was certain I could get to the message and read it. And just as suddenly, I was at the top of this very tall pine tree staring at an ornate picture frame about 24 x 36, sturdily affixed to the tip top of the trunk. On it, in scrolled print, was the message. It was something like this:
I have been given a gift to raise a very special child with special needs. I shall not ever falter. I pledge to always watch out for this child. The secret to raising this child in the best way possible…
As I read the message, I nodded in understanding and enlightenment. I memorized every word.
And now, as I sit here, I cannot remember any of it.
That’s how dreams are. They pull you in with a semblance of reality. They throw in something utterly outrageous and you believe it fully. You are transported from place to place instantly. You can’t remember how you got there. There is some deep message that brings you to nirvana and you swear you will never forget it, and then – poof! It’s gone.
Most of my son’s life, I’ve wondered if and how he dreams. I don’t know if he understands the concept of a dream. For the longest time, I wondered if he dreamt at all.
At first, when he was very little, I assumed he was dreaming because of all the crying, the horrible awakenings that our pediatrician told us were “night terrors”. Because my son did not sleep through the night for the first 2.5 years of his life, I knew something was wrong. I just didn’t know it was seizures at the time. [Because of the important issue of “absence” seizures - seizures without symptoms, during sleep, please read here and here].
Since October of 2008, when treated with Prednisone, my son has slept through the night. (And I know how lucky I am to be able to say that). But he has never “talked” about having a dream. I know of no signs that he was dreaming, except for twitches, which could indicate involuntary movement unassociated with dreaming, or seizure activity.
I never thought about “sleep deprivation” and its effects on my son (or me) when I was going through it, but it is an important thing to keep in mind. For example, take this information for what it’s worth:
“In another series of experiments, the brains of sleep-deprived and rested participants were scanned while the participants performed complex cognitive tasks. … Sleep-deprived participants performed worse on this task, and the fMRI scan confirmed less activity in the prefrontal cortex for these participants. In the second experiment, the task involved verbal learning. Again, those sleep-deprived performed worse, but in this case, only a little, and the prefrontal areas of the brain remained active, while parietal lobe activity actually increased. However, activity in the left temporal lobe (a language-processing area) decreased.”
You can find discussion of this study here. The study also discusses that facial recognition is affected as well as the sleep-deprived person’s belief they are right, especially when they are, in fact, wrong.
That sleep affects language processing is an important fact to keep in mind for our language challenged ASD children.
But this post is about the dreams. Science does not know, for certain why we dream. There are theories that are discussed here. One theory is that dreams help us sort through the millions of inputs we get to our senses each day. Some researchers believe dreams play a role in our brain processing all that input during sleep.
Another theory is that dreams are used to form memories, or move memories from short to long term. Another is that, during sleep, our brains make loose connections between the things we think about. If we are worried about losing a job, we might dream we are shrunken people living in a world of giants, for example.
The only things I had noted about my son’s sleep were breathing, grinding teeth and twitches. But then something started happening. Since just before his 6th birthday, my son has begun talking in his sleep. Most recently, he has become quite enamored with Kai-Lan, a Chinese cartoon character from Nickelodeon. He asks, “Does Kai-Lan love you?” (meaning me instead of you).
The other night he was fast asleep. In his loudest, clear, calm voice he called out, “Kai-Lan is a baby.” His eyes were closed and he was fast asleep. Before that, on different nights, he has been laughing, moaning and mumbling in his sleep. It’s amazing to see these differences in him. It is only now, with their appearance, that I have noted their absence, in the past.
It makes me wonder. It seems to be correlating with a burst of language and interaction he has been having with everyone around him. It seems as if dreaming is helping him process language and increasing his function during the day. But what do I know? I’m just a mom trying to climb a tree…