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Winter 2010 Table of Contents
Versión Español de este artículo (Spanish Version)

By Leslie Fansler, Tired Mother of the Famous Flying Fanslers, Amarillo, TX

Abstract: One parent shares her personal wisdom and humor on the importance of making sure individuals with deafblindness get plenty of sleep and exercise.

Keywords: , deafblind, behavior, sleep, exercise, adolescence

Editor’s Note: There is great opportunity to learn when families have the chance to get together and share their experiences with each other! Even when we’re not able to be physically present in the same room, virtual communities such as listservs and Facebook can be just as effective (see TAPVI article). This truth was brought home recently as a discussion unfolded on the listserv for members of the Deaf-Blind Multihandicapped Association of Texas (DBMAT). Through sharing personal experiences and lessons learned, a community reached out to one family and helped them think about options to address their child’s behavioral issues. Following is the advice that Leslie Fansler, a parent of a young adult with deafblindness, shared with the deafblind community. Her advice is relevant for everyone.


ALL teenage boys are challenges to parents! We speak from experience, being the parents of one son with deafblindness and one without. Socially, they tend to be half crazy. For instance, they like girls but have little idea how to express that in a way that any girl would appreciate. Maturity flips back and forth between secretly wanting to play with transformers and Tonka trucks and trying to be “grown-up” and cool. Hygiene is a big contest. Their feet stink, and they will NOT take a bath or use a deodorant unless you force them. (Their gym clothes have to be exterminated by the end of middle school.) Sleep? They want to sleep about 20 hours out of every 24! Oh…and the four hours they actually stay awake just happen to be between midnight and 4:00 a.m. Those wakeful hours, by the way, are usually spent lifting weights and listening to horrible music. Get the picture?

Both of our sons are now in their early 20’s. We all survived, so here’s my two cents on what got us through the teens. First, teenage boys need tons of SLEEP. Second, teenage boys need tons of EXERCISE. I can’t overstate how badly they need both from about age 12 to age 22. I don’t discount other supports teenagers with deafblindness need, but have found sleep and exercise vital needs that are easy to overlook.


Without enough rest, things get extremely difficult during those preteen-teen years. Often, in middle school, my oldest would come home from school on Friday and go straight to bed (at : 0 pm) and sleep until 2:00 pm on Saturday. This really freaked me out. I took him to the doctor, who impressed upon me that teen boys have really crazy things going on physically, emotionally, and socially. “Let him sleep!” he said. So make sure your guys with deafblindness sleep a LOT, because for them life is all the more confusing and more tiring!


It is not a coincidence that middle schools and high schools are full of want-to-be jocks (excuse me, “athletes”). They have so much going on in their bodies that they have to MOVE a lot, and it has to be physically taxing movement. For our guys with deafblindness this is hard. They tend not to be in motion significantly on their own. You MUST find things they can do that are equal to running track, playing football, lifting weights, chasing girls, etc. They HAVE TO HAVE THIS. If your guy is not sweating several times a week, you will have MAJOR behavior problems, even with great meds and fabulous interveners. Use treadmills, stationary bikes, and the local gym (swimming pools are so great). Pre-teens and teen guys who do not sweat every week will do things like hit, pinch, punch walls, and throw things.

Preston works out, with support, at the gym four nights a week, for about two hours each time. It makes him sweat; he gets out of the house; he meets and greets people from our community; and he can do his best to flirt with girls. But best of all, he can SHOWER there!

In summary, as your guy with deafblindness reaches 12, my advice is to check with your doctor about medication options; make sure he has a communication system he can access and use; get a good intervener at school AND at home, and make sure—no matter what—that he gets lots of sleep and exercise. He’ll sweat more often, but he’ll also act nicer and sleep better afterward. It’s a great trade-off for occasionally stinking. Trust me!

By the way, did I say we’ve have recently adopted another little girl? Yes, the Fansler Clan now has two little girls (ages 6 and ). I did not realize how old and tired we were until the year old arrived. Pray for us!