Helping your autistic child be an independent sleeper

One of the reasons why parents and carers have difficulties with their child’s sleeping is because their child has never learnt how to fall asleep alone.

This is something many families deal with not just parents and carers with ASD children.

If you’ve always rubbed their back to help them sleep, sat and read them heaps of stories or lied with your child. The chances are, they’ve got into a pattern of becoming reliant on you to help them to drift off to sleep.

If you want to work on this and teach your child to fall asleep alone or ‘self-soothe’, then you’ll need to make some big changes to undo this pattern.

With typical developing children, it may be a case of having a conversation with them, setting up a reward chart perhaps or making some changes to their bedroom or routine to help them feel safe and relaxed.

Depending on your child’s level of understanding, you could try some of these techniques also. But generally, children with autism are more complex and will probably need more support with this process.

I think communication is really important. Talking through why we “go to bed” and what exactly it means to “go to bed.” This can be done through a simple social story. Explain in the story that “Time for bed” actually means… time to get into their bed, lie down and go to sleep.

Think about if there’s anything you could adjust in their bedroom to help make bed time more appealing for them. For example, extra bedding, cushions, black out blinds, seamless pyjamas and so on.

On the first night of working on this, start by making sure you’ve gone through your pre bed time routine with your child. Whether that be a bath, massage, relaxation music, quiet/wind-down time.

By this point, your child should be drowsy. That way when then go to their bedroom to sleep they’re tired BUT still awake and will be learning to fall asleep without you.

Now fade back the normal things you do to help them sleep. For example, if you usually lie on their bed with them – sit next to the bed instead. If you usually rub their back – try just resting your hand there for a while then remove it before you leave.

If your child relies on you being with them in their room before they fully fall asleep, then you may want to follow a stricter ‘sleep training’ type of approach.

This type of strategy will involve you gradually moving away from them and closer to the door each night (or for a few nights at a time) until you’ve eventually completely removed yourself. These type of methods have been found to be really effective for many different families.

Next week in the ‘Unlimited Autism Success Inner Circle’ I will be releasing a new module purely on sleep where I will be talking in a lot more detail about how to follow the strategies I’ve shared this week with your child. To join click the link below…

Click here for more information and to join

Speak with you soon until then,

Live every moment, Love beyond words and make a difference today

Emma Ottaway

The Ambitious Autism Ambassador