Family Dog Makes Boy Suffer with Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome
A mother whose child was so badly behaved she convinced herself he was autistic has found the real reason is in fact the family dog.
Three-year-old Billy was prone to violent temper tantrums and even hurled a bike at his mother Robyn on one occasion.
After growing up with an autistic brother, Aaron, she suspected the same condition was behind her son’s behaviour.
The 21-year-old described some of the worst moments with her son, saying “he’s thrown his quad bike at me, he’s split my lip open”.
But after monitoring his sleep, the real cause of his difficult behaviour was found to be the plucky family dog stealing his pillow each night.
Robyn, from Monmouthshire, explained that Billy was addicted to watching cartoons, loved lining up his toys and struggled to sleep at night because he couldn’t wind down. To her, these seemed to be signs of autism. She believed Billy could not sleep because his “brain is constantly going”.
“Billy will finally give in about 11, 12 o’clock but he will just keep getting up God knows how many times in the night,” she said.
Fearing her child would be branded the ‘naughty child’ at school, Robyn agreed to appear on Channel 4 series Born Naughty? in the hope of a diagnosis.
In the series, family GP Dr Dawn Harper and consultant paediatrician Dr Ravi Jayaram observe children with behavioural problems and reaches a diagnosis with a team of experts.
Imagine Robyn’s surprise when she discovered that the family dog was the real culprit.
Dr Ravi said what struck her was Billy’s aptitude for language. “His imagination was just tremendous and that doesn’t really tie in with typical autism,” she said. “They’re very literal and that’s that.”
Sleep expert Debs Sugden observed the footage which showed the family dog and cat kicking Billy out of his own bed.
She explained that his broken sleep had led to him suffering from ‘delayed sleep phase syndrome’ – a disorder where sleep is delayed two or more hours past the conventional bedtime.
The syndrome also causes concentration and behavioural problems.
Debs said: “It’s no wonder with his behaviour that sometimes he just erupts like a volcano. Sleep is key for small children.”
After changing their routine – and the pets’ sleeping arrangements – Robyn said the transformation in Billy has been remarkable.
“He’s a lot happier,” she said. “We don’t have so many outbursts these days.”