If you are like 80% of families that have a child with autism, you are experiencing sleep problems at home. While we can’t speak to the possible medical side of these issues, we can help with the behavioral side. Below is a template of common sleep protocol we would have a family begin when sleep issues become problematic.
6:30-6:45 Snack if needed and electronics turned off. Feel free to play light music but the goal is winding down without stimulation of Ipads or T.V. Try and create a calming environment BEFORE we begin sleep to ready the mind and body.
7:00-7:30- Bath, brush teeth and get jammies on. This sequence is the trifecta of triggering the body to prepare for sleep. You may not see the effects but the mind is preparing for bedtime with this routine.
7:30-8:00- Prepare the room if needed. Some kiddos like a night light (make it very dim) or possibly a white noise machine. We like the Marpac Dohm Sound Machine, it can be found at Pottery Barn, Bed, Bath and Beyond, or Amazon. Having the room ready when it’s time to lay down is very helpful. It is good practice to sing a song or read a book after your child lays down. Quiet your voice to continue triggering the body for sleep. Kiss your child goodnight, tell them you love them and leave the room.
WHAT DO I DO WHEN/IF THEY GET UP?
If your child gets out of bed, give them a quick cuddle and tell them it is time for bed, put them in bed and leave the room. If/when they get up again, DO NOT TALK to them just gently put them back to bed. Continue repeating this. More than likely, you are in for a long few nights. BE READY! Have support of spouse or grandparent. It is difficult to hear them cry and continue to come get you. Again, BE READY! Remember, you are setting a new pattern of behavior and it is going to take time and routine. Try your hardest to keep to the plan as close as possible in these beginning stages.
Setting a healthy bedtime routine many times is all you need to push through challenging sleep patterns. For more information about sleep issues please contact your BCBA at Creating Brighter Futures. Sleep is so important for brain development and wellness for the entire family.