As summer comes to an end and the new school year rings, it’s time to get children ready for a bedtime routine that enhances a full night of rest so they can perform better in school. However, doing so isn’t always a simple task, especially for children on the spectrum. Research shows that 67-86 percent of children with autism have sleeping difficulties.
In general, the two main areas of difficulty are the ability to fall asleep and waking up and staying up during the night. The good news is that there are several behavioral interventions that are effective in helping children learn new sleep behaviors.
From scheduled awakenings to establishing routines, Touchstone ABA offers some information about different bedtime strategies that may be used to improve bedtime difficulties.
1. Establish a Bedtime Routine – Identify the steps for going to bed and practice it with
consistency. Children may learn a routine faster when it is written out or pictures are displayed
that show the steps.
2. The Bedtime Pass– A pass is made that allows the child a one-time chance to leave the bedroom
each night. A pass may be helpful for children who repeatedly leave or ask to get out of bed.
Giving a child a pass to leave one brief time for any reason (bathroom, water, etc.) may help a
child learn to limit requests to leave the bed.
3. Scheduled Awakenings – For children that have a hard time falling back asleep during the night,
lightly waking them just before an expected awakening and letting him or her fall back asleep
may help them learn how to fall asleep on their own.
4. Behavior Contracts– An agreement is developed with the child. The agreement shows what is
expected from the child at bedtime and during the night. Contracts can be written or with
pictures to show what the expectations are and what the rewards will be when the child is
successful with the contract.
5. Bedtime Fading – A process is created to teach a child to fall asleep at a desired bedtime. The
process increases motivation to fall asleep by initially going to bed at a time close to when the
child currently falls asleep. Once the child is falling asleep at a consistent time, the bedtime is
slowly changed so that the child is eventually falling asleep at the desired time.
These are just a few strategies a behavior analyst might use to help a family struggling to get enough sleep. Sleep strategies are most effective when they are individualized for the needs of the child. Professional expertise may be required to effectively change sleep patterns and behaviors.
For more information about Touchstone ABA, please visit https://touchstoneaba.com/
The information provided in this blog is for educational purposes only and does not substitute for guidance from a behavior analyst or other qualified health care provider.