Autistic stepdaughter hates staying

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  • #58705 Report

    Hi All looking for some advice

    My partner has 2 children from a previous relationship one 9 and one 6. The 9 year Old loves coming to stay with us. We also have a 6 year old and a 2 year old who live with us. We live in a small 2 bed property and over nights with our autistic step daughter have never been easy as she gets really distressed and has to share a room with my child who lives here as there is no where else for her to stay.

    She cries for her mum is up most of the night and it’s heartbreaking seeing her like this.

    We don’t like forcing her to stay however her mum insists on it and we really are not sure what to do anymore. We’ve tried everything to make her comfortable for when she stays she enjoys being here for the day but when it comes to night time and getting in pajamas she instantly gets herself worked up repeating go home and mummys house as she not fully verbal.

    Has anyone else has similar or any advice as to what we can do

    #58706 Report



    I have worked with people who have autism and various needs, the one thing I have learnt is that they (if I can use that word, sorry if it offends anyone) are all very unique 😊,  but one similarity I noticed is that the individuals I worked with LOVE routine.

    It’s really good that she loves staying during the day, the one thing I can think of is trying to establish what exactly it is that she misses at night from her own home? I know you outlined that she cries for her Mother but with saying that she seems perfectly fine given the information you have shared without her Mother during the day.

    So is it possibly some sort of routine her Mother does in order to get her settled into bed? Does her Mother still sleep with her? Does she have any sort of comfort items that she sleeps with at home?

    I know you said you have tried many things and I’m sorry if I have mentioned things you have already tried!

    I can only assume her Mother insists on her staying the night to give herself some respite as although it’s VERY rewarding to support someone with additional needs it doesn’t come without its challenges. So in that instance would it be at all feasible for your step daughter and her Dad to go and sleep the night at the Mothers home? I mean while she goes out to family, friends or sleeps in her room (assuming they are amicable), as that way she still gets the respite and your step daughter gets to spend the full time with her Father.

    #58713 Report

    Hii thanks ever so much for your response I was worried I wasn’t going to get any. I’m relieved to have someone to speak about it with!! We’ve tried the same routines her mother provides her at home and unfortunately her mother wouldn’t let father stay at her home overnight. we’ve tried the now and next boards in hope to calm her but nothing at all seems to work. She had music that worked at home and a tacpac but neither work at ours either. She says things like ‘my room’ and ‘mytoys’ even though she brings toys she choose to bring to ours with her.

    We’ve even tried laying with her to calm her. I know she doesn’t fully understand it all but it’s still heartbreaking that she doesn’t want to stay and doesn’t feel comfortable

    #58714 Report


    No worries 😊

    Well one thing I can say is that your a fantastic step mum for trying to identify ways to make your step daughter comfortable.

    Given what you have said and it seems as you have well and truly tried to address all avenues. The one thing I know from my work in care is that you have to put the needs of the individual at the forefront and I think now is the case to speak to the Mother and explain that it’s best she comes back to her home at nights, despite her wanting and more than likely needing respite her daughters needs should come first.

    I mean no disrespect to her as I don’t know her side of the story in all this but at the same time if you have both tried to get her settled at nights and it’s not worked then she really needs to just go back home at nights, there’s no use in her being that unsettled and not being able to sleep.

    If it’s a case of the Mother won’t believe you guys try and evidence it somehow.

    #58717 Report


    Hi attempting to balance life,

    Sorry to hear things have been tough!

    Sounds like you’ve been doing a lot of good stuff if the 9 year old loves to stay & the days with the 6 year old are fine.

    As I’m sure you’d know bedtimes with 6 year olds can be tough at the best of times. – & ofc any child or person with a sensory processing diversity can have additional needs to process & adapt to a new environment, which can be a lot of work & Tough to understand. But don’t give up or take it personally that she doesn’t want to stay, if she didn’t like you, she wouldn’t be happy at all…it can be harder to find the right method, the breakthroughs can take longer, but it’s worth it 🙂

    It’s easy to feel like we’ve tried everything when we’ve run out of ideas or don’t have the right support to unpack these diversities to understand what each child’s needs are… But I don’t think this can’t be overcome with time & maybe some actual professional advice!

    – highly recommend autism uk; who have an abundance of understanding for kids across the spectrum & parents! – they’ll always have a new idea to try 🙂

    Not sure insisting the 6 year-old stays with mum would really help in the long run, mum likely needs the break for her wellbeing. If it gets to a point of burn out or if she can’t cope – the kid will be spending more time with you. Persevering with the right support will likely help you all overcome the difficulties with these types of diversities.

    Is it possible to try to put her to sleep before the other kids so she have space to settle on her own if being crowded is overwhelming? – could work as film night for the kids when she stays & dad spends that time settling?

    Sometimes having a voice recording of a story or song from mum to play with headphones can help overcome the separation anxiety too.

    Also maybe her having a t-shirt mum has worn & with her scent can be very reassuring for the sensory processing.

    Appreciate it must be tough, but it’s only one night. The benefits will out weigh the struggles if you can adapt to the her needs & help her overcome these difficulties.

    It can be exasperating & exhausting, but real support is out there!

    Please do check out;

    So many things can make a difference from special diets, sensory tools & tactics to therapies.

    Well done for trying everything you can think of so far… But these orgs exist to support you all – there will be an expert out there who can help.

    Best of luck

    #58726 Report

    Honestly it’s not something we want to stop. We would like to have her but I also understand on the point of her needs coming first and we are hoping to try any other options possible before having to make that tough decision.

    We’ve tried mums voice and it only made her more upset but I’ll try the shirt thing and see if that helps at all. we always put her to bed before the others go into the room so she doesn’t have that distraction. Due to us having a small property though it doesn’t work too well we just make what we have work

    I’m going to look into those websites thank you so much for your help

    #58734 Report


    Glad to read you don’t want to stop & hope you are able to get support from Autism uk. Another great place is child autism uk… have heard great things about their helpline & have seen their ABA courses can really help overcome issues.  Support, advice and services for children with autism – Child Autism UK – releasing potential

    Do appreciate you are trying your best with what you have. Things will get easier with the right support xx

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