The Message in the Tree.

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…


About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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21 Responses to The Message in the Tree.

  1. Lizbeth says:

    And a pretty smart mom at that. I would have to say I wouldn’t be too worried about what Madonna wrote up there, I have a feeling it wasn’t earth shattering or anything….

  2. Lisa says:

    You know a lot, actually. I often feel like dreams are practice for the times when I’m awake…so maybe T is practicing his speech and social connections with Kai-lan and then carries them through in awake life. 🙂

  3. Melissa says:

    I don’t know when or if my daughter dreams. I do know that sleep is an important part of my daughter’s daily functioning. I know that when she doesn’t get enough, it gets harder for her to sleep and in fact she’s more prone to early waking and night waking. That “hyper”, “happy”, “out of control” behavior? Yeah… warning signs. Because my daughter at that point is coming really close to meltdowns like we haven’t seen in a while. Until she naps. And sleeps. And maybe dreams. And then I do too.

    • solodialogue says:

      I’m glad to know I’m not alone if wondering whether my son is dreaming! But yes, sleep and dreaming are both very important parts of how our kids function and at what level they function. Those tired meltdowns are the tough ones. Thanks, Melissa.

      • Melissa says:

        No, thank you. And for the record… We get a lot, and I mean A LOT of those tired ones… In the summer, when the growth spurt (both physical and developmental) seem to be happening as well.

  4. Allie says:

    Yesterday I was holding a 10 week old baby and as she lay sleeping peacefully in my arms her eyes begin to flutter under their lids, her lips went into a smile, and her legs moved like she was running. It’s a really cool thing to me to think that we all have this secret dream hideaway we go to, even as young as 10 weeks old. I bet Tootle’s special dream place is full of light and happiness, and of course Kai-Lan. =)

  5. wow, that’s an interesting thought the correlation between the language burst and the sleep talking/dreaming.

  6. Flannery says:

    I used to wonder a lot about dreams too, because Connor would say he had a bad dream, but would not elaborate. We couldn’t tell if it was a ploy to come to our room, or sincere. Lately, when we wake him to potty before we go to bed, sometimes he walks and mumbles things, “no, I said it’s right there” or “I don’t want to go, YOU go”…so I’m beginning to think there may be some dreaming going on.

    Connor grinds his teeth intermittantly too. Interesting.

    Please let us know if you ever do decipher Madonna’s message.

    • solodialogue says:

      Definitely sounds like he is dreaming with that mumbling. Our neuro is trying to move the meds around so he has more “relaxing” muscle meds when he goes to bed for the night to decrease the grinding.

      If I decipher Madonna’s message, I’m writing a book… 😉

  7. Mary says:

    Just to update you…Freckles has a 30-minute EEG on Wednesday. They want her sleep-deprived. Not the 24-hour EEG we were hoping for, but it’s a start. She has also been referred (but not scheduled yet) for a sleep study. And a psychiatrist (but I don’t count on that helping much ). The neurologist thinks she just has anxiety and only wanted to send her to a psychiatrist, but she gave me the 3 options. I asked for all 3 please. 🙂 IDK does anxiety wake kids up at 3am?

    Trust me. He dreams. He just might not be able to share it or remember it yet.

    My little brother had those night terrors. It was scary. I feel for you.

    Was it Madonna or the Madonna?

    • solodialogue says:

      I’m glad you are getting any EEG – I don’t know how reasonable it is to have her “sleep deprived” but, like you say, a start. 🙂 I like how you think! All three sounds reasonable to me! You may be right about the communication of the dreams or the memory. It’s difficult for him to communicate what he had for snack an hour before I pick him up at school.

      It was definitely (sorry to say) the one I put the photo of… 😉

  8. savvyadvocatemom says:

    We are alike in having guest stars in our dreams. I have a whole cast ready to take a role, Arnold Swartzenegger, Jennifer Gardener, Ben Affleck, (but not Matt Damon,) Cher, Joan Collins,Liam Neeson, the list goes on. I thought I would have less guest stars when I stopped reading People and Perez Hilton, nope, they are still there.
    I am so glad Toots is doing better sleeping and that the meds are doing their job. Random Guy only started to tell me about his dreams in detail when he was 7 or so, and he doesn’t have a language delay. He still says most nights that he doesn’t dream, I told him I think he does, he just doesn’t remember them. Great post!

    • solodialogue says:

      I don’t usually have the celebs join me in dreams. I think it was because somehow, “Desperately Seeking Susan” was on my mind a couple weeks ago. Something brought to mind a scene from that old movie and apparently that morphed into Madonna previously owning my current home…which we built and has had no other owners. Lol!

      I wonder how much of this is guys versus girls. I’ve always thought that women remember their dreams better than men. 😉 And thanks!

  9. This post really got me thinking. I love the topic of dreams and have wondered about what Joel’s dreams are like, how he interprets them and what he thinks of them. It’s funny you mentioned celebrities in dreams. I had a dream just last night that I was Jodie Foster making another movie with Mel Gibson. It was pretty weird. 🙂

  10. I always say I never dream but then I heard that everyone dreams, we just don’t remember them in the morning. I guess I’m just so tired that I don’t even know I’m dreaming. My husband on the other hand, always has dreams – especially ones where he’s playing basketball and realizes he can actually fly. I think those are carry-over dreams from childhood. 🙂

  11. I love that T is dreaming about Kai Lan — Little Miss loves her too and some of her first pretend play scenarios involved imitating parts of the “Kai Lan – Princess of Friends” movie. I totally want to show her that picture of T snuggled up with Kai Lan!

    For Little Miss, the biggest language processing always came out when she was in the tub. She would be silent all day, but plunk her in the tub — and WOW! I wonder if sleeping can have some of the same effect on the body? Random thoughts… hmmm.

  12. Very cool post and interesting….Of course!!! I’m thinking, wow, her house must be really nice if Madonna lived there! Wow…what was Madonna doing living there (in your city…as I know where you live). LOL! I am soooo clueless….I finally figured out maybe it wasn’t real when you said how you got the message….. I love how you explore the dream aspect…makes me wonder about my own children and my sleep. I think dreaming is our brains way of not going crazy, and how we process so much that we may not have known was happening through the day. Hugs to you friend. 🙂 Sam

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