Ike has finally gone to sleep, getting some much-needed rest. Source: Tonya Heath
Ike has finally gone to sleep, getting some much-needed rest. Source: Tonya Heath

Non-verbal boy with autism battles bipolar

In the dark hallway outside her son's room, Tonya wills herself to stay awake, her ears straining to hear the sound of Ike jumping from his dresser to his bed.

It's nearly 2am - and the American mum had been sitting there for six hours, waiting for her five-year-old boy to tire himself out.

But the little boy was still going, rattling the locked door every few minutes before slamming his body into it, his giggles echoing through the otherwise silent house.

"His body is beyond exhausted and he can't sleep," Tonya first wrote on Love What Matters.

"I sit here waiting for him to finally wear himself out. I feel like the worst mum in the world.

"Bipolar disorder sucks. It sucks even worse when it's your 'nonverbal' five-year-old who has it."

Ike started losing his words at 10 months old, going from an advanced talker to silent in a matter of weeks.

By age four, doctors told Tonya he would never speak again.

Ike has been diagnosed with autism, severe speech delay, Tourette's, OCD, anxiety, SPD, heart defect and bipolar - which make it hard for Tonya to know if he understands why she needs to lock him into his bedroom during manic episodes.

"Nine out of 10 times, he could care less his door is locked. He knows it is and it doesn't bother him," she said.

"But that one time gets me, the one time he slumps to the floor and starts sobbing on the other side where just a door separates him from my arms.

"I feel like the most despicable human on earth."

But Ike's room is the safest place for him when he is in a manic episode.

It has been carefully designed to relax the little boy with most of the furniture and toys removed long ago.

As much as this may sound excessive - it's for Ike's own safety.

During a manic episode, his body doesn't process pain in the way it usually does.

"He can bang his head on the wall until he puts a hole in it," Tonya said.

"He runs nonstop through the house until he just misses a corner wall and gets hurt, oblivious to the pain.

"What, on any other day, would hurt and cause tears have no effect on him in these manic days."

Although kids are rarely diagnosed with bipolar - their actions are often exactly the same as adults who suffer from the mental illness.

"If they sleep, it's less than a few hours. They often eat very little or will eat nonstop," Tonya said.

"Their minds go at warp speed. Their bodies struggle to keep up. They are physically exhausted, but their mind keeps rapid-firing commands.

"Just as suddenly as it began, they crash.

"They go from maniacally laughing to sobbing out of the blue, without any reason.

"All you can do is hold them and comfort them, let them cry it out until they have no tears left.

"You stay by their side because they won't let you out of their sight."

To make matters worse, as kids aren't typically diagnosed with bipolar, there isn't a clear treatment plan, especially when it comes to prescribing medication.

Tonya has lost count of the number of doctors who have told her that they can't medicate Ike due to his age.

Even the medication they can provide isn't always successful.

When Ike is an a manic episode, Tonya has found that "no amount of medication can stop it or help him sleep".

"But you have to try. Gone are the days when you said you would only feed your kid healthy, organic foods and 'never resort to using medications'," she said.

"You roll with the punches. You fight to keep him safe from himself and fight to keep him healthy.

"You put your own health and emotions aside and suffer because of it."

But as Tonya waits on the floor outside Ike's room, she knows that she must continue to fight for her son.

For now, the house is silent, Ike finally passed out on his pillow, a half-smile on his exhausted face.

"His body still twitches from the brain trying to command action and getting little response," Tonya said.

"His breathing is still fast, like a runner at the end of a race, out of breath. I tuck more covers around him, kiss his sweet cheek.

"I stay up another half hour, talking myself down off the ledge. I make sure he is in bed for the rest of the night as I sit in the silence of the house. It is dark.

"Everyone else is asleep and I'm still trying to lower my adrenaline.

"It's almost 3am and he will be up in three or four hours to do it all over again."

This originally appeared on Kidspot and has been republished with permission.