Autism Advocate

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Autism Specialist Consultant and Trainer

Autism & Sleep

Sleeping and all the difficulties around can be challenging for new parents. Sleep for an autistic child can be even more challenging for the child, parents and indeed, whole family. All advice for parents who want to instil good sleeping patterns with their children say that a good routine is key. This holds true as well for autistic children and, in fact, is probably the most important aspect. 

A good routine for bedtime can benefit autistic children and young adults in various ways including assisting in executive function and sensory issues as well as developmental ways. Routine can avoid the anxiety and confusion that is often felt by autistic children/young people when they do not know what to expect.  A good routine for bedtime can encourage relaxation, "down- time" and  in time the child or young person can understand and acknowledge their feeling of being tired and in need of sleep. 

Understanding your child/young person and what they use to calm themselves as well as what you know can calm them is a great starting place.  Using the  preferred fabric in a blanket, combined with a loved  ( all be it relaxing) book being read can happen before or after a bath, depending on the child.  A bath with bubbles can be a great way to get out that still "unused energy" or a way to calm and relax.  Being comfortable in their bed and in their room is of vital importance and can be the reason behind a child or young person not settling and ending up in yours.  The room environment needs to be considered, things like the temperature, the lighting, toys and art on the wall as well as what the environment looks like from the child's view at night from their bed. 

Sensory issues need to be considered. Hygiene is part of a bedtime routine, so does the child prefer a bath or shower? If the child reacts to a shower, it could be because, like many, the shower water physically hurts them, so a bath may prove a better and more relaxing experience for the child and you. brushing teeth can be challenging for many and many find using an electronic toothbrush  much easier once they have become accustomed to it.  if music relaxes, use that in the routine. 

A PECS ( Picture Exchange Communication Symbol) chart or photo chart of the routine for bedtime can be extremely helpful to prompt and communicate to the child or young person the time has come for bed and assist them to understand what to expect. As the routine continues, changes very little and can be adapted the child or young person gains independence in the routine and doing the tasks by themselves. 

Sleep can be a very involved and difficult experience for autistic children and their families. I have put some advice here that I have collated over the years and I hope will be useful. 

Please do feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss any questions, difficulties your child or young person may be experiencing with sleep HERE

Sleep information

Autism and Sleep