TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TONIGHT TO HELP YOUR CHILD WITH AUTISM OR ASPERGER'S SLEEP.
You know the drill well. It's been a long day. You're tired. They're tired. You give them a bath, put them in the bed, read a bedtime story and turn out the lights. You're done. Finally. You can take the next hour and relax. Maybe catch up with the latest happenings on Facebook. Read some of that book you've been dying to dive into. Eat uninterrupted. But then you hear a sound coming from their room. Someone is jumping on the bed. You go in, give a firm warning and head down the hallway again. Silence. But it's short lived. They're back up again. This time they're playing with the faucet in the bathroom sink. You give a pleading speech and they reluctantly head into their room. A few minutes later though, the loud crash of something breaking assaults the fragile silence. You stomp back into the room to find that the lamp is in pieces on the floor as well as the new toy you bought just the other day. Why won't this kid go to sleep, you ask? Exhausted, you grab the broom and dust pan. Just a typical night. You know it's going to be at least two hours before they get to sleep.
Sound familiar? Don't worry, you're not alone. Many children with Autism and Asberger's deal with insomnia. Sometimes it's caused by the absence of a consistent bedtime routine, fear of the dark, or long napping during the day time. Or maybe your child is unable to remain asleep. Maybe he or she is easily awakened by the slightest noise. Or maybe he or she just gets hungry in the middle of the night. Don't despair. We've adapted ten suggestions from the book, "1001 Great Ideas for Teaching and Raising Children with Autism and Asperger's," by Ellen Notbohm and Veronica Zysk on how to get your little one to fall asleep better and stay that way.
1. Document, document, document. Keep a journal and write down when and how often sleeping issues occur.
2. Look for physical issues that may be hindering sleep
3. Look for behavioral issues that may be hindering sleep
4. Set up a regular bedtime and STICK TO IT! No if, ands or buts. This one will be difficult at first but will get easier as you become more firm with your expectations.
5. Don't over-stimulate your little one right before bed. This means no sugar or chocolate. And please don't introduce any electronics (TV, computer, or games) within one hour of bedtime.
6. Allow your child to ONLY fall asleep in his bed. Make it the only location meant for sleep.
7. Create an environment that encourages sleep. The room should be dark, quiet and at a comfortable temperature
8. Try your best not to let your child wander. Install a Dutch door with the top open and the bottom locked.
9. Look around the room and try to eliminate any sensory-disturbing items such as ticking clocks, tree branches that scratch the window(s), or humming appliances such as heating or cooling units.
10. Try to make sure that the environment your child goes to sleep in remains that way for the duration of his sleep.
We welcome your comments on this subject and can't wait to hear your thoughts!