Resolving Sleep Issues with Children on the Autism Spectrum

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sleeping soundly is a virtue that we all wish we could claim but many struggle with sleep, some every night. Parents know all too well that sleep problems are not just an individual problem; when a child has trouble sleeping, it affects the entire family causing stress and anxiety.

Unfortunately, prevalence of sleep problems in children with autism is high with estimates reaching 80%1. Research conducted by the Weisskopf Center for the Evaluation of Children2 indicates that parents of children with autism deal with a range of sleep issues, including difficulty falling asleep (53%), restless sleep (40%), unwillingness to fall asleep in own bed (40%) and frequent wakenings (34%).

Dr. Mary Barbera went through the ordeal of sleep issues with her child on the autism spectrum. With her experience, education, and research, she has authored a new e-book, Stop Playing Musical Beds: Solving Sleep Problems in Children With and Without Special Needs, with step-by-step guidelines on developing a tailored intervention to effectively resolve sleep issues.

Dr. Barbera recommends that clients start with a two-part assessment – one of the parents and another assessment of the child that includes a start-to-finish documentation of the bedtime routine. Then you move on to creating the customized intervention plan where she discusses safety, supplements, routines, reinforcement, and the importance of establishing a “leader.” The plan should outline activities for parents and for the child. This then translates into a task sheet and documentation of each day’s sleep-related activities. Then you can review the data and identify opportunities for adjustments.

If you have clients suffering from sleep deprivation, this is a valuable resource to help determine the appropriate plan for each client. Furthermore, while the strategies covered in this book were created specifically for children with autism, they also work well for children without special needs.

Below are additional resources and information on sleep issues and ASD:

 

About the Author of Stop Playing Musical Beds
Dr. Mary Barbera, PhD, RN, BCBA-D “fell” into the autism world in 1999 when her first-born son, Lucas, was diagnosed with autism one day before his 3rd birthday. She quickly transformed from overwhelmed parent to Lucas’ advocate and therapist. Fast forward to today, and she is not only a BCBA but also a best-selling author with “The Verbal Behavior Approach: How to Teach Children with Autism and Related Disorders.” Her book is endorsed by many professionals in the field as well as parents. In 2015, she launched Autism ABA Help: An Online Program for Professionals and “Gung-Ho” Parents, which has already reached participants from over 20 different countries.

In addition to the new ebook on solving sleep issues, the CentralReach Marketplace offers fun and engaging CEU courses, staff trainings and pre-built curriculum. Follow us on Facebook for updates on new courses and special offers.


  1. https://www.autismspeaks.org/family-services/health-and-wellness/sleep
  2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2869.2004.00405.x/full