40-70% of child with Autism Spectrum Disorder have sleep disturbances that negatively affect their functioning and the functioning of their families. If the child with ASD is sleep deprived, one or both of their parents are also sleep deprived.
- Most child care centres expect children who attend the centre to sleep for 1-1/2 to 2 hours each day after lunch. This is also the time that staff breaks are often scheduled so a child who does not sleep creates a scheduling problem.
- The expectations for sleep vary considerably from centre to centre.
- Some centres expect children to sleep with shoes on; others expect children to sleep with shoes off.
- Some centres expect children to sleep on their stomachs; other centres allow children to sleep on either stomach or back.
- Some centres play loud music to act as a sound filter; other centres insist upon total quiet.
- In some centres the expectations meet the needs of the child with ASD; in other centres the expectations do not meet the needs of the child with ASD.
- Consult a physician to rule out any physical problems that can interfere with sleep including ear infections, gastroesophageal reflux, sleep apnea, allergies, etc.
- Try to provide a consistent and structured sleep time routine.
- Provide visual cues and/or a visual schedule which explains the sleep routine or expectation.
- Take into account sensory sensitivities: is the child too hot/cold, is it too noisy or quiet, are the blankets itchy or scratchy, is the bedding to light, is the clothing too tight, too itchy, to new, etc?
- It may be unrealistic to expect a child with ASD to sleep during the day. For some children with ASD, a daytime nap will replace their nighttime sleep.
- Explore alternative activities that provide quiet stimulation such as books, puzzles, books on tape, music with headphones, etc.
- For the child who cannot stay quiet, explore alternative activities away from the sleep area such as a walk or playtime in the playground
Geneva Centre for Autism
112 Merton Street, Toronto, Ontario, M4S 2Z8
Tel: (416) 322-7877 – Toll Free: 1-866-Geneva-9 – Fax: (416) 322-5894