We think we've figured out why Nathan was waking up early. He has a heater in his room since it's the furthest from the furnace. And that sucker is loud. Lots of irregular metallic clicking and pinging. Our theory is that he's partially waking up around 4:30 and the noise from the heater pulls him the rest of the way out.
Our solution: a timer. (I wanted to buy a quieter heater but this is more cost-effective.) We hooked up the timer to the heater and told it to turn off at 3 am. It takes about an hour for the noise to stop as the heater gradually cools down.
Thus far, it's working. Nathan is sleeping in until almost 7, which is when the alarm goes off anyway. The room doesn't seem to be getting too cold after the heater shuts off. I've stuck a digital thermometer in his room so that I can monitor the temperature.
For now, I'll call it a cautious success.
The other improvement is Alex's behaviour. He is tantruming less frequently and when he does, it's less violent. He's calmer and more affectionate as well. Clearly, going back on the medication has helped him.
We're going to do an updated psychological assessment for him, starting next month. The last time he was assessed was over five years ago, so it's time to go back and make sure we haven't overlooked anything.
We're also considering another round of intensive behavior therapy. It's one of the major impetuses behind the new assessment. From what I've heard and read, just before puberty and the first year or two after puberty is a really good time to target issues. The brain is going through major developments, just as it is when they are under four. Alex is only nine but many boys with autism go through puberty early, probably due to their higher than average testosterone levels.
I think our time of respite is coming to an end and we'll be moving back into a period of flux and demand.