Autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, is more than a diagnosis, it’s a lifestyle. Once you hear that your child is affected by ASD, your entire world shifts in order to focus on creating the best environment for your child and their needs.
Children diagnosed with autism typically require a very structured schedule in order to feel safe in their environment. This includes their bedtime routine. Although statistically children with ASD do not require as much sleep, what they do require should be peaceful and rejuvenating. In order to set your child up for nightly success, it is vital to create a consistent and easily achievable routine that promotes relaxation.
When determining what a good schedule looks like for your child, make sure that everyone involved in parenting your child is onboard in order for this approach to be successful. When you are first implementing a new schedule, don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t immediately take effect, or if part of your routine needs to be adjusted. It can take up to two weeks for the change to become effective.
Keep it simple; don’t make the routine too long. For younger children you will want it take approximately 15 minutes, and gradually take a little longer as they get older, but never exceeding one hour. You will want their routine to consist of calm activities that are easy to complete. Do these activities in the same order at the same time, every night so the routine becomes second nature to your child and it gives them a sense of security.
You want to make their environment a replica of your desired outcome. At night, make sure the room is dark and set to a temperature that is most comfortable for your child. Do not keep televisions or radios on as this can cause interrupted sleep, and be aware of household noise that could also cause wakefulness.
You will want to avoid having your child rough house, play video games, or watch any overly stimulating television in the hour leading up to bedtime. If you find your child is still struggling to fall asleep, try pushing back bedtime 30-60 minutes until you find that time that your child falls asleep.
Other things to consider to promote better sleep that should be done throughout the day start at the beginning of each day. Wake time is also important as it sets the tone and pace for the day. During the day make sure that your child is exerting energy by encouraging physical activity.
Avoid having your child eat or drink anything that is caffeinated as this can last in their system up to 12 hours. Keep meal times the same and avoid late night eating. For younger children who still require a nap, make sure that naps are finished by 4pm.
Implementing a routine not only helps improve your child’s night, it also empowers you in your parenting abilities by setting your child up for success.