How To Teach An Autistic Child To Point
Children use the pointing gesture as a means to communicate with those around them. In children with autism spectrum disorder/condition , this small gesture can go a long way since they often have trouble with verbal communication, leading to immense frustration. This is where nonverbal communication, like the pointing gesture, comes in it helps them get their point across to another.
Scroll down to learn how to teach an autistic child to point.
Autism And Sleep Problems
If your child wont sleep alone, it can take a toll on your entire family. Applied Behavior Analysis therapy can help individuals with autism gain important new skills, like falling asleep in their own bed. If your child is experiencing sleep issues, they may need an ABA assessment to determine the best solution. However, there are a few things you can try to help your child fall asleep on their own.
Always Gently Return Your Child To Their Own Bed
Its important that your child sleeps in their own bed and falls asleep on their own. If they demonstrate anxiety about falling asleep alone, you can try using a reward system or a certain threshold of free passes where you stay in a chair next to their bed until they drift off .
Otherwise, you can make them feel safe by wrapping them in a weighted blanket or playing soft background music. If your child does wake up in the middle of the night and comes to you, calmly return them back to their bed and then step away. Its important that they get into a habit and associate falling asleep without you present.
Evaluating The Causes Of Insomnia To Improve Sleep In Children With Asd
Whatever the physiological reasons, many children with ASD experience insomnia?a type of sleep disorder that causes the individual to have difficulty with falling and staying asleep8,11.
Dr. Malow’s sleep study recommends screening all children with ASD for insomnia. She also suggests evaluating the child for any underlying medical conditions that may contribute to it, such as seizures, disordered breathing, or gastrointestinal problems. If these conditions exist, the healthcare provider may refer the child to a sub-specialist for treatment1.
Sleep problems could also be a side effect of the medications the child is taking to treat their autism symptoms1. If this is the case, the healthcare provider could work with a sleep specialist to decide if the medications need to be changed or the dosage altered. Dr. Malow adds that stimulating medications could also be taken earlier in the day so that their effects wear off by bedtime.
Sleep Issues And Autism Spectrum Disorders
Did you know that children with autism spectrum disorder have more sleep-related problems than other children? Research shows that about half of school-age children with ASD have trouble sleeping, compared to about one-fourth of typically developing children. Parents of children on the autism spectrum often report sleep problems such as resistance to going to sleep or sleeping alone, waking up often or sleepwalking during the night, and being groggy in the morning.
There are many types of sleep problems, as well as other issues that can disturb sleep. Some children with ASD:
- Have trouble falling asleep at night, but sleep soundly once they fall asleep.
- May fall asleep without any difficulty, but wake often during the night and cant get restful sleep.
- Have trouble both falling and staying asleep.
The most common problem for children on the autism spectrum is refusing to go to sleep at night. Some children may need to be rocked, patted or have someone lie next to them before falling asleep. Others may wake up easily during the night or want to sleep somewhere else other than in bed. It is difficult for the family, because everyone wakes up tired from not sleeping well. Parents are tempted to let their children nap during the day, but this only contributes to more problems at night.
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How To Sleep Better For Autistic Children: Tips
The tips below can help all children, including autistic children, sleep better. They help children develop healthy daytime and bedtime habits that promote sleep.
If your autistic child has particular problems with falling asleep and waking in the night and these tips dont seem to be working after 2-4 weeks, its a good idea to seek help. Talk with your doctor or another health professional about the best strategies for your situation.
Set Up A Safe Comfortable Sleep Environment
Some sleep environments can make it harder for children to get to sleep. Check that your childs sleep space is quiet, dimly lit, and neither too hot nor too cold.
Gradually remove objects that might stop your child from sleeping comfortably. For example, a favourite soft toy in the bed might be OK. But if your child has a whole collection of toy cars in their bed, it might make it hard for your child to get comfortable in bed. You could encourage your child to put one or two cars per night into a box next to their bed.
Rewards can help your child make this change.
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Behavioral Approaches To Sleep
Research indicates that for children with neurodevelopmental disorders, behavioral programs have been successful with suggestions such as:
- bedtime fading .
- positive routines.
- increasing a childs physical activity during the day.
Caregivers will need ongoing follow up to carry out these behavioral approaches.
Set Regular And Appropriate Bedtimes
Regular and appropriate bedtimes can help your autistic child get the sleep they need.
The first thing is to work out the best time for your child to go to bed. You can do this by looking at when your child needs to get up, and how much sleep your child needs to be well and alert during the day.
For example, you might notice your child generally needs 11 hours of sleep. You also know you wont make it to school on time unless your child is up by 7 am. This means that 8 pm is the ideal bedtime for your child. Your evening activities dinner time, pre-bedtime and bedtime routines need to take this ideal bedtime into account.
The next step is to move your childs sleepy time towards their ideal bedtime. To start with, put your child to bed when theyre sleepy. This might mean that your child stays up later and starts their bedtime routine a bit later initially.
Once your child is falling asleep quickly, move the start time for the routine back by 15 minutes every two days. It might take a few weeks, but your child should start to feel sleepy earlier until theyre going to bed at the desired time.
Until your child is good at settling to sleep, try to keep the same bedtime at weekends and holidays.
Its best to introduce new bedtimes, bedtime routines and sleep habits gradually. Its also important to encourage, praise and reward your child as you make any changes.
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Articles On Autism Diet & Lifestyle
During the first few months of life, babies ease into a normal cycle of sleep and wakefulness. They gradually reduce the number of daytime naps they need and start sleeping for longer periods of time at night. But some children continue to have difficulty falling asleep or sleeping through the night, and the problem can persist long after children start school.
Sleep disorders may be even more common in children with autism spectrum disorders. Researchers estimate that between 40% and 80% of children with ASD have difficulty sleeping. The biggest sleep problems among these children include:
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Restlessness or poor sleep quality
- Waking early and waking frequently
A lack of a good night’s sleep can affect not only the child but everyone in their family. If you’re bleary-eyed from night after night of waking up with your child, there are a number of lifestyle interventions and sleep aids that can help.
An Imbalance In Melatonin Secretion
Another theory about what causes sleep disorders in autistic children relates to the production of the hormone melatonin. Usually, melatonin helps us fall asleep and regulate our sleep and wake cycles. To produce melatonin, the body needs an amino acid called tryptophan, which has been observed in low or high quantities in an autistic child.;
This demonstrates a clear connection between autism and sleep problems. Usually, melatonin levels rise in the evening and decrease in the morning. Studies show that some children with autism dont secrete melatonin at the right time of day, with high levels during the day and low levels at night.
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Sleep And Daytime Behavior
Sleep is essential. It helps regulate mood and movement. It even enables learning4 and helps us turn our experiences into long-term memories. When we don’t get enough sleep, a whole range of problems can result.
“Look at how we feel when we do not get a good night’s sleep,” Dr. Beth Malow, director of the Vanderbilt Sleep Division and the Vanderbilt Sleep Research Core, says. “Children with ASD are going to have a harder time with attention, ability to focus, ability to stay calm in emotional situations– all of these things could be affected.”
Studies show that certain types of sleep problems are associated with deficits in specific skills in children with autism. For example, one study found that children who woke up during the night experienced more speech problems than children who did not. In addition, children who did not get enough sleep had motor deficits that hindered daily activities like eating and grooming5. Those who experienced sleep problems also showed more hyperactivity6,7, aggression5, and repetitive behaviors6.
Have Good Daytime Habits Too
Its crucial to create a peaceful and comfortable environment not only before your child falls asleep, but also during the day. Clean and fresh air helps anyone sleep well. Make sure the room is ventilated. If your child has allergies, avoid placing dust-collecting objects in the room. Flowers, perfumes, soapsthey have no place in a baby or toddlers sleeping space. In fact, sensitivity to smell may be one of the reasons your autistic child wakes up too early.
If the child has spent their day indoors, its a good idea to take a short walk in the fresh air in the evening.
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Create Bedtime Passes & Rewards
Your child may need some motivation to sleep in their own room. To encourage this and ease their anxiety, create bedtime passes. Your child can use the pass when they need an extra visit from you. Reassure your child that theyll get a new pass each night, but if they can get through the night without using the pass, theyll earn a reward, like a special activity.
Top 10 Strategies To Help Your Autistic Child Sleep
I say these are the top 10 strategies to help your Autistic child sleep; however, in actuality there are way way more than 10 strategies in this episode!;
In this episode, I will talk about why sleep is so important, why your child might be struggling with sleep, and strategies to support your child and their sleep
This episode is planned to come out right after Christmas and that is definitely on purpose!; The holiday season can be a very difficult time for so many Autistic children.; Which in turn, means it can be difficult for lots of parents.;
Being wound up and having a harder time sleeping can affect the whole family.; Lack of sleep doesnt just happen around the holidays though, it is often a constant area of difficulty for so many families that have Autistic children.; Now that the holidays are coming to an end, I thought that it would be a great time to try to get to a better place with our childs ability to get a good nights sleep and in turn for us to get to a better place with our sleep!
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How To Help Your Child With Autism Get To Sleep
With the start of another school year around the corner, theres no better time to look at ways to optimize your childs sleep. Sleep is essential to good health, and a lack of sleep can result in problematic behaviors, an inability to concentrate, fatigue, and poor academic performance.
Sleep issues in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder are common and affect between 40 percent and 80 percent. In many cases, problems with the sleep hormone melatonin may play a role. Lifestyle factors, such as medication use, stress, and a poor bedtime routine, may also be contributors.
Tips For Changing Routine
Once you establish a good routine for bedtime, it seems that life will throw change at you. Family vacation, adding a new sibling, or even just moving to a new home can hurt your childs sleep routines. Change is difficult for all children, but it can derail an autistic childs routines and impact all the progress you have made for sleep. Here are some tips to help manage the changes that life inevitably brings:
Making changes to your childs sleep environment and routine can be challenging. If you are having difficulty making these changes, it might be beneficial to consult with a pediatric behavioral sleep medicine specialist. A list of certified providers can be found here, says Dr. Jessee Dietch, an assistant professor of psychology at Oregon State University.
For more help with changes in routine and a child with autism, visit:
- Indiana University Bloomington: Change Is Good! Supporting Students on the Autism Spectrum when Introducing Novelty
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References And Continued Reading
The websites and studies found below were used in the creation of this article, and are a wealth of information about sleep issues and autism.
Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of people with autism spectrum disorder;;and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder;and related conditions.
Help Your Child Make The Transition
Comfort is especially important if you want to help;your child to relax enough to participate in naptime.;Include your naptime routine on the list of instructions;you provide to your childs caregivers.
Yes! Lists are;important.;
Making a comprehensive list can be daunting,;but it can give your childs caregivers more confidence;when it comes to caring for your special;needs;child.;When writing instructions on helping your child to sleep;at daycare, be sure to include details of your at-home;naptime routine. As you write your list, think about the;steps you take to put your child down for a nap. If;possible, take these steps into a numbered list for the;daycare providers to follow.
For example, if you rock;your child first while reading a short story, be sure to;include this information for the daycare workers. If your;child still has trouble falling asleep, consider using a;sensory weighted blanket to reduce anxiety.
Bring your childs comfort items to the daycare;facility. Go to daycare with your child and spend time;together. Play and make friends! Participate in the;daycare daily routine with your child including naptime.;If your child is unable to spend a whole day at the;facility at first, ease into it. If the environment is;too loud, consider noise-canceling headphones.;
You can;create one or even buy a ready-made visual schedule.
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Causes And Possible Solutions For Common Sleep Problems
Change in routine. Autistic children and adolescents often have intense, focused interests and can be very fixated on daily routines. Any disruptions to a daily routine can be jarring and may cause enough anxiety to affect their ability to fall and stay asleep.;
What Parents Can Do: Ensure that you have a calming bedtime routine that you stick to every night. Of course, there are going to be times where you cant stick to it and thats okay! Just be consistent with the routine as much as possible, so that your child feels comfortable and relaxed at the end of the day.
Sleep apnea. Some studies have shown that children with autism may be prone to sleep apnea, which is a condition in which a person stops breathing several times while sleeping. Sleep apnea causes less oxygen to be delivered to the brain, which can, in turn, cause less restful sleep, fatigue, headaches, and can hinder brain development. In addition to physical damage, the effects of sleep apnea can contribute to worsening behavioral symptoms of autism-like irritability and excitability during the day.;
What Parents Can Do: Talk to your childs pediatrician about their sleep apnea and possible treatments. Recent studies have shown an improvement in sleep quality and daytime behavior in children with autism after surgical removal of tonsils and adenoids. This procedure is not right for every child, but your pediatrician will be able to discuss your concerns and determine if this is the best course of treatment.
Less Time In Rem Sleep Cycles
Research has also indicated that children with autism spend less time in the critically-important REM sleep cycle than other peers . Since this is the restorative phase of sleep where the days information, experiences, and memories are consolidated, researchers are examining the role this lack of REM-sleep plays in the learning difficulties associated with autism.
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