Sleep difficulties are commonly experienced by all children. In fact, up to 50% of neurotypically developing children experience sleep difficulties.1 However, the prevalence of sleep issues is significantly higher amongst neurodivergent children, with up to 80% of Autistic children experiencing poor sleep.2
Although sleep difficulties are therefore common, this does not mean poor sleep is healthy. Poor sleep has a systemic impact on our quality of life, negatively affecting our mood, information processing, memory and even our safety. Research indicates that sleep difficulties do not resolve on their own as the child gets older. Instead, for Autistic children, sleep difficulties may continue from their early childhood and into young adolescence.3
So how can we help children experiencing poor sleep sleep better?
“Autism is not a life sentence of poor sleep and tired days”
– Dr Gregory Hanley, PhD, BCBA-D
What is Behavioural Sleep Intervention?
Sleep is both biological and behavioural. While we sleep, our bodies rest and recover. However, following a bedtime routine and laying quietly before sleep are behavioural skills that can be taught. Behavioural Sleep Intervention is teaching a child skills to support a better night’s sleep.
What skills may be addressed in Behavioural Sleep Intervention?
Skills to support a better night’s sleep may include:
These are just a few of the important skills which can be taught in Behavioural Sleep Intervention!
How are these skills taught in Behavioural Sleep Intervention?
To help children learn these skills, the consultant will work together with the family to identify what methods are most suitable for the family and their values. Autistic children may require further individualised behavioural supports to acquire these new sleep habits efficiently and effectively. Effective Behavioural Sleep Intervention methods include:
This is just the first in a series of articles on Behavioural Sleep Intervention. At Super Kids, we practice Behavioural Sleep Intervention to support neurodivergent children, including Autistic children or those with intellectual disabilities, sleep better. We believe healthy sleep habits can be taught and consistent sleep is achievable!
Disclaimer: The advice in this article is general in nature. If your child experiences sleep difficulties, reach out to a trusted professional for further individualised advice and support.
Super Kids acknowledges each individual’s personal preference to use identity-first or person-first language to describe themselves or their loved one. We interchangeably use both language conventions and therefore refer to both autistic children and children with autism.