What can I do about my child’s sleep problems?
Research has demonstrated that anywhere between 44-83% of children with autism have problems with sleep (Couturier et al., 2005; Krakowiak, Goodlin-Jones, Hertz-Picciotto, Croen, & Hansen, 2008). Families who have a child with autism may experience problems with their child falling asleep, staying asleep through the night, waking up too early, and challenges around the bedtime routine, among other things.
Poor sleep in children with autism has been linked to detrimental behaviour patterns, such as:
- Higher rates of repetitive behaviour
- Negative emotional behaviour
- Increase in challenging behaviour (Abel, Schwichtenberg, Brodhead, and Christ, 2018; Hirata et al., 2016)
Because a child’s sleep rarely only impacts them, these challenges can also cause sleep deprivation, stress, and additional problems for parents and for the entire family. Therefore, it is important for parents to work with their behaviour consultant to set up a plan for success.
How Can Your Behavioural Consultant Help?
Your team at FCPG will help create a plan to target the sleep challenges that your child is having. Your consultant will assess the sleep challenges and may ask you questions about your child’s sleep routine and daily routines and activities. Together, a positive behaviour support (PBS) plan can be developed, which will outline specific strategies, and a plan for training and implementation support around your child’s sleep. Below is a list of sleep strategies that your consultant may suggest as part of their PBS plan.
Lifestyle and preventative strategies
- Eliminate naps
- Create consistency in sleep and wake-up times
- Provide clear and consistent expectations
- Schedule physical activities throughout the day
- Use a visual schedule to create predictability
- Provide calming activities within the bedtime routine
- Take possible distractions (toys, activities, etc.) out of the bedroom
- Your consultant can work with you to fade prompts in order to increase your child’s independence with the bedtime routine
- Your consultant may outline extinction or other behaviour procedures, dependent on the type of sleep challenge
- Provide reinforcement when your child follows through with the bedtime routine
- In the morning, reinforce your child’s appropriate sleep behaviour with preferred toys, edibles, or activities
- Based on your consultant’s analysis, they will create a plan for what to do if your child gets up in the night, such as putting the child back in bed
Research has shown that treating sleep problems in children with autism has led to significant improvements in challenging behaviour (Hirata et al., 2016; Murata et al., 2017). Furthermore, sleep problems are tough on the whole family, and at FCPG we look at the big picture to help both your child and your entire family get a good night’s rest. If your child is having sleep challenges, discuss these with your consultant to set up a positive behaviour support plan.
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Family Centred Practices Group designs and monitors intervention programs for families with young children who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder or related disability. Family Centred Practices Group is delighted to announce we are Canada’s first and only Behavioural Health Center of Excellence (BHCOE).
The BHCOE is a reputable, international accrediting body in the field of behaviour analysis. Their assessments are developed by experts in the field to distinguish exceptional behavioural health providers. This accreditation certifies a continued demonstration of exceptional international clinical and administrative standards deemed by an independent third-party evaluator.
The quality of work performed by our staff, the effectiveness of our clinical applications, and the attentiveness to each child’s individual needs is at the highest standard. To maximize a child’s opportunity to reach his or her full potential, we emphasize a proactive approach to teaching and learning. We accomplish this by capitalizing on naturally occurring motivational conditions and the principles of positive reinforcement. Through the use of these and other behaviour analytic practices, a child’s ability to experience success across environments is enhanced.
We gratefully serve families all across the Lower Mainland.This includes families living in the regional districts of Greater Vancouver and the Fraser Valley.
Tina Linton, M.Ed., BCBA – Clinical Director
Tina Linton received her Bachelor of Arts Degree from the University of Guelph in Ontario and her Masters degree in Special Education with a concentration in Autism and Developmental Disabilities at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. She is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA™) with over 20 years of experience working with children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in home, school, and community based programs. Tina began her career in Ontario working as a Behavioural Interventionist. She moved to Victoria, BC where she continued supporting families of children with ASD and assisted with the start up of the Autism Early Intervention Program at the Queen Alexandra Center for Children’s Health in her role as an Autism Interventionist. When she moved to Vancouver, Tina began working with the Family Centred Practices Group and, after completing her Masters, was promoted to the role of Senior Behavioural Consultant. Tina also worked with Douglas College in their Behavioural Interventionist Citation Program and is a founding partner of the “Behavioural Interventionist Training Partnership”. Tina assumed the role of Clinical Director in November of 2008 and began managing the business.