Tag Archives | sleep

How to Improve Sleep in Children with Autism

Children are specials. Most especially when they lovable as they are. Children must be treated with equal love, care, support and discipline. The hard thing is, when your child is affected with a disease conditions. One of the conditions that affect children is autism. Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that severely affects children. This is characterized by triad behavioural symptoms. First is impaired social interaction, second is restricted repertoire of activities and interest and lastly is impaired communication. It also includes signs and symptoms like tactile hypersensitivity, tantrums, destructive behaviours, sleep problems and cognitive impairment.

Improve sleep in autistic children

Sleep problems are not usually common in normal children. But with an autistic child, this is common. The common sleep problems they encounter are poor sleep quality, unstable sleep routines, restlessness, snoring, waking during midnight and difficulty sleeping.

Establishing Strategies in Sleeping for children

Establishing good strategies in sleeping for children helps you determined patterns to make your children have a good sleep. These strategies can be the best for you. Try it and you will see.

  • Discuss with your children’s paediatrician some ways and prescribe medicines that can help them have a good night sleep. State all your concerns and collaborate with the paediatrician for establishing the strategies.
  • Avoid your children in any activities before going to bed. In this way, your children can relax and stay calm before sleeping.
  • Have a routine for your child before sleeping at night like taking a bath, having a massage and listening to calm and soothing music.
  • Remove any distractions form your child’s bedroom to avoid any stimulants. Noise and sensory distractions must be controlled. Inform other members of the family about this so that they can also adjust.
  • Take note of the sleep patterns that your child obtain and record it. Show it to your child’s paediatrician for evaluation.
  • If your child did not response to the strategies, obtain immediately a sleep medication like melatonin from your child’s physician as your last option.
  • Encourage optimal activities during the day. In this way your child may feel tired during night time and makes them wanting to sleep more.
  • If making any changes of your child’s routine, kindly introduce it to them slowly so that they will not be overwhelm and stressed out.
  • Introduce simple steps for your child before bedtime so that they would learn. Do not set more than six simple steps for your child.
  • For parents, be consistent about your sleeping time and waking up time.
  • Make sure that your child doesn’t have any snoring problem. Don’t avoid if your child has a snoring problem. But, the question is how to cure snoring? There are so many solutions but some remedies and anti snoring devices will help you stop snoring.
  • Used sleep devices if you need more to help you with your child’s condition.
  • Engage your child in a sense of relaxation so that they would feel stress free and happy thoughts would enter their minds.

I hope these strategies could help you. As parents, you need to have more patience and understanding about your child’s condition. Increasing their integrity of life can make them survive longer. Their survival rates depend on how they were taken care of and expose to activities. Sleep deprivation for autistic children is still unknown but studies now are still continued to be done to discover more treatment modalities for this disorder.






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Our autistic child’s first sleep over

This post was written by my wife, Natalie, and editted by me, Stuart. This is, in her words, how Cameron’s very first sleepover went and how she handled issues when/as they came up.


We autism parents envy other parents for a lot of reasons. One of the biggest reasons can best be demonstrated by… the sleep over.

We all want our children to have them. Autism parents have to wonder if it’ll even be possible though. Depending on where our children are on the spectrum, it might just not be a possibility. For those with children who are ready for social play, sleepovers are possible but they’re still not without their challenges.

As a parent, there are a lot of questions that come up with this subject; Is my child old enough? Will his routine be followed? Will he need me for anything? What if he’s up too late? Should the first sleep over be in our home or at a friends? And the list goes on.

We are very lucky with Cameron. He has friends, he can communicate quite well and can even be social (albeit awkwardly, but still social). This particular friend just loves him and does not see Cameron’s autism as an issue for their friendship. We cannot begin to tell you how blessed we feel to be able to say that!

But with all that being said, a sleepover between a neurotypical child and an autistic child (and let’s not forget the little brother too!) has its challenges.


A sleepover is a time of excitement, yummy foods mommy usually doesn’t allow, staying up late, pillow fights and tons of fun. That can be over stimulating for any child. It can cause a child to become hyper active or even careless. But in the case of an autistic child, well most of you know it can turn ugly, very quickly.

Tantrums, stimming, screaming and hitting are just some of the issues that can come up.

So how do we, as parents, prepare for an event like this while still keeping it as normal as possible? I need to pause here and explain what I mean by “normal“.

Cameron will read books, watch tv and hear stories about holidays or things like sleepovers and based on those, he will have a concrete set of rules for how these holidays and events should be.

Before we even broach the subject of a sleepover, he already has a list ready of things that need to happen from what he’s seen and read. So changing out something, like popcorn for a fruit snack, would be completely out of the question.

The sleepover: Before bed

We decided the best approach would be to have the friend stay with us for the sleepover, rather than have Cameron sleep out. Special diet, routines and techniques to ease Cameron’s anxiety are too much to throw at another parent for one night.

When Cameron’s friend showed up, Cameron (and Tyler) greeted him happily at the door. They watched a movie, played games and with toys, had time for a video game (Mario Party 9 was a big hit) and enjoyed some yummy snacks (popcorn).

So far, so good! No meltdowns and everyone was getting along and playing nicely. A huge success all around.

The sleepover: Time for bed

We set the boys up so that all 3 could sleep in one room. Cameron was in his bed, his friend was in Tyler’s bed and Tyler was on the floor, using couch cushions. All of the boys were tucked in for the night and going well.

We got that wonderful feeling of relief when we were able to put our feet up and call it a success.

However, that feeling did not last long.

His friend kept calling us into the bedroom saying things like “Cameron is too noisy!” and “Cameron won’t stop talking!” I knew what the problem was, but I wasn’t quite sure how to address it.

You see, Cameron has to “stim” before going to sleep each night. We’re not sure why exactly, he just needs it. Either it settles his mind, or he just needs to get it out of his system… we don’t see the harm in it so long as he sleeps.

If I took Cameron out of the room would the friend be upset? Would Cameron be upset? Would they sleep?

I asked Cameron to come out of the room and talk to me. I talked to him about falling asleep in our bed and then later having Daddy put him back into his bed. That way he can still wake up with his friend in the morning. I also asked the friend if it would be ok for him to fall asleep with Tyler and not Cameron.

Everyone agreed! (a miracle right?)

I explained to Cameron that stimming before bed (which he does every night, no exceptions) was ok, but it was keeping the friend awake. If he sleeps in our room he can stim as long as he needs to.

We’re lucky to have Tyler. He often acts as a buffer for Cameron, helping him in ways I’m not even sure they notice yet.

Going forward

In our case we were able to reason with Cameron, talk out the situation and come to a solution together. We’re very lucky to be able to do this with a 6yr old, especially one who is autistic

We now know what issues may arise if Cameron were to ever be asked to sleep out of the home. We’ll know what to expect and how to prepare the parents.

Don’t be afraid to let your child try new things. Sometimes it may not go so well while other times they may surprise you! But you won’t know what your child is capable of if you never let them try.

We were pleasantly surprised and will now be even more prepared for the next sleepover.

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Sleeping with autism

By the title, you’d probably be expecting a post on how some children with autism struggle to sleep through the night or what techniques people use to get more consistent sleeping patterns… actually, this post isn’t about that.

Actually, what I do want to write about is something a bit unexpected, not a huge surprise but certainly wonderful. See, if you were to check in on my boys right now (at night), you’d see that they’re both crammed into one single little bed, asleep together.

Don’t want to sleep alone

My boys have always slept in the dark, in the quiet and on their own. We’ve never used night lights or anything and so they’ve never had any issues with needs or fears. They just go to bed at bed time and that’s that.

However, recently, my little one (Tyler, 4) has been asking that he have someone sleep with him. Usually me but sometimes my wife. It’s not because he’s scared… he just wants us with him.

Now, these are small beds… I don’t fit in one when I’m by myself, much less with a child beside me.

So there has been a couple of times that I’ve laid with him, usually I can’t because I have other things to do and then some other times I just won’t because I don’t want him becoming dependent on that sort of thing happening every night.

Autism and Empathy

Cameron and Tyler

Cameron and Tyler

This is where his big brother, Cameron (6 with autism) comes in.

The other night, I went to check on them and they were both crammed into Tyler’s bed. It wasn’t pretty. Neither one of them stays still for long in their sleep.

The next day, I asked him why he was in Tyler’s bed and he said “I just wanted to make Tyler happy.”

Now, there are strange rumours and beliefs by some people that people with autism, especially children, lack empathy. Meaning that they can’t understand how others feels, don’t identify with them and most absurdly… don’t care. This is obviously not true. I mean, not always… there certainly can be times that they won’t understand or even care, just like anyone, but when you add it all up, it’s not true that autistics are completely incapable of it.

This was certainly a great testament to that… Cameron, wanting to make his little brother happy, got out of bed and climbed in with Tyler so that he could have someone to sleep with.

They don’t do it often, thankfully, but when Tyler is really upset about it, Cameron goes on over and hops into Tyler’s bed. How can I get upset about that?

It’s awesome!

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The simple request my son made that I’ll never forget

My son had a really rough night last night, and tough day today as well with the flu. I’ll spare you the gory details, let’s just say that we didn’t get much sleep and he didn’t eat anything today.

As the day unfolded, I continually went over in my head the next blog post that I would make about how he has never been the “sucky” type when sick, quite the contrary. He tends to just shut down, get mellow and do nothing all day. Sometimes we don’t even know he’s sick except that he’s not doing anything.

But as I prepared my boys for bed, something trumped all of that. The hours and hours I had been writing and rewriting in my head were gone in an instant and replaced with what I am writing right now. I was that surprised by it.

I am one of the very fortunate parents that does get regular hugs and kisses from his children, even though one of them has Autism. Rather than what you would call a “regular” hug and kiss though, I get them in patterns. I wrote about it here. This has become a part of our nightly routine… get them a small glass of chocolate soy milk, read a story or watch a later episode of Cat in the Hat and then off to bed, hugs, kisses and goodnight.

Tonight, because Cameron has the flu, I had to say no. Cameron stood up in his bed and said “don’t forget hugs and kisses!” and I had to say no.. not tonight. It’s most likely that he’s shared it with the family already but it’s still not wise to take the chance so I had to tell him that being sick means getting no hugs and kisses.

His arms dropped to his sides and he said “can I touch you? please? hold my hand?”

At that moment, anything else I had planned to write faded away. I had to write about this. But I never did come up with adequate words to express exactly how hearing those words made me feel.

Honestly… I had no idea just how important that was to him. For all the parents out there that seldom or even never get that kind of physical contact, here was my son pleading with me to not be denied it.

I took his hand, told him make sure he doesn’t breath on me… and pulled him up for a giant sized bear hug.

Flu or not. I’ll never deny him a hug again.

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Sleeping in shifts

Sleep is always an elusive beast for parents as it is, but when you throw in details such as Autism, the fact that there’s more than one child sharing the bedroom, a really crazy big work load and a wife with Fibromyalgia… sleep can be near impossible to come by.

My boys are 5 and 2, my 5 year old (Cameron) being the one with Autism. For the most part, neither of them really have much difficulty sleeping, it’s just the getting to sleep part that can be a little rough. If either of them isn’t sleepy, or has something on their mind (which is a very definite possibility with Autism), they’ll just stay awake and keep the other one awake with them. And if one of them should have bad dreams or just wake up randomly in the middle of the night, they both wake up… and I have to get up.

Then there’s Natalie (my wife) who has Fibromyalgia and is very much unable to sleep most nights… either due to pain or simple discomfort that keeps her limbs moving all night long. I am usually able to sleep through it myself but I don’t get as restful of a sleep as I would otherwise.

I work way to much as it is, but for the last month, I had worked 17 hours per day for 3 weeks straight, including week-ends. This meant that I was usually going to bed around 3am and then getting up at 6 or 7 with my boys.

The only way that myself and even my wife can handle this sort of thing is to sleep in shifts. I tend to be up with my boys early in the morning but she has to get up as well to help get everything ready for school.  Most of the time though, she’ll go to bed at 8am and sleep until 9:30, when I go to work. Then I work until 3am.

Come the week-end however, I get up with the boys still while Natalie can sleep in until what ever time she chooses. But when she gets up, I go back to bed to catch up on what I missed through the week.

It’s certainly not ideal, and I would love a full 8 hours sleep but after a few years, I’m not entirely sure I could keep myself knocked out for that long anyhow. So it is what it is… we sleep in shifts.

With Autism, Fibromyalgia, a crazy work load and 2 boys waking or keeping each other awake… it’s the system we’ve had to become accustomed to.

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