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August 24, 2001


Question from San Antonio, Texas, USA:

My two and a half year old son, diagnosed less than four months ago, has been having nightmares, and even though he is speech delayed, I can tell from his body language and the screams of “No” that he thinks that he is getting a shot. I have checked his blood sugars during these times and he is never low.

When I do give him a shot I do my best to prepare him — I don’t ever make it a surprise. These nightmares sometimes happen as often as twice a day, and he has five or more a week.

He also used to be very good about checking his sugar. He would stick out his hand for me. Now he is more moody about that too. He hides his hands and complains about the pain.

Is this normal for his age? What can I do to help him conquer these nightmares?


From: DTeam Staff

Nightmares are not uncommon for children your son’s age. The content may be diabetes-specific tasks since this is the newest issue for him, but it may also be about the typical preschool fears such as monsters or other fantasy creatures. His language delay is likely a part of this difficulty, as his inability to tell you what he is thinking and feeling means he can’t get you to understand exactly what is going on with him, and therefore cannot engage you in helping him solve things. He may feel stuck trying to work things out on his own.

Try to keep the diabetes-specific aspects of your day as routine and as short as possible. The less time your son spends focusing on the diabetes-specific aspects of his day, the more he will be able to focus on just being a two year old boy.

Nightmares can often be helped by developing really consistent bed-time routines. Reading stories and taking calming baths before bed are often helpful. If your son has a favorite stuffed animal, have him hold it while he falls asleep. There are also many wonderful children’s books about nightmares that are fun to read. Ask your librarian for some recommendations. I love Mercer Mayer’s book, There’s a Nightmare In My Closet.

Finally, and the most important thing you can do, is to have your son formally evaluated for a speech delay and get him into a speech therapy program. The sooner he is able to express his thoughts and feelings to you the sooner his mood and behaviors will improve.