Sticking very closely to a routine is a very common trait among kids with autism. In fact, they are well known to even experience breakdown if certain things in that routine are disrupted.
This may appear to be a disadvantage because it means they are not flexible. However, this is actually something you can use to help them develop stronger habits.
Bedtime habits are particularly crucial for development because normalising their sleeping hours goes a long way for their physical and mental health. Here is a handy list of the best ones you can cultivate and supplement all the measures you have taken to help them sleep more soundly at night.
#1. Avoid intense activities right before bedtime.
Activities like doing homework or physically intense exercises should be avoided. You want your child to use as little energy as possible to reduce stimulation before bedtime. Oftentimes, a good deal of that stimulation comes from those activities.
Likewise, parents should know that this may even include bathtime and changing clothes. If a child finds either of these two activities excitable, consider doing them some other time of the day instead of right before bed.
#2. Layout the schedule for your child to habitually check.
Children with ASD may seem like they have difficulty following instructions, but you can effectively reinforce a new habit by also training them the habit to check a visual guide for their routine.
Consider having pre-bedtime rituals visually laid out somewhere in the house where your child can constantly be reminded to stay on track.
#3. Never use the bed for anything other than sleep.
Autism is a condition known to create very rigid and powerful associations within the brain. Therefore, if the child’s brain associates the bed with any other activity besides sleep, then it will be difficult for them to get some rest.
Keeping the bed strictly for sleeping creates a mental connection that can really plant itself firmly in the child’s mind and prompt them to keep sleep as a necessary part of their daily routine.
#4. Keep the routines short, simple but efficient.
It is important to have a large gap between bedtime and other intense activities because it will allow you to keep bedtime routines short, simple and efficient.
This works very well for those with ASD because too much information is always lost on them. A bedtime routine that quickly gets them to bed and into sleeping mode will work better when they have fewer instructions to regularly memorise.
#5. Minimise technology and other sources of stimulation.
Lastly, toys, gadgets, and games can be another source of stimulation so it is best to have these all kept away at least an hour before the bedtime routine begins.
Remember, screens are a source of blue light and can disrupt the sleeping rhythm of a child’s body even if you are using apps intended to lull them into sleep. That is why keeping bedtime tech-free is the better route. This also extends to other rules like avoiding cuddling, excessive skin contact and all other sources of sensory triggers that excite brains with ASD.
Overall, sticking to a routine is probably one of the most distinguishing challenges parents face when their child has ASD. Whereas other children might be trained to adapt to sudden changes in routine, it is actually more beneficial if parents stick to the routine their child is most accustomed to.
On the other hand, training them in the right bedtime habits can actually be less stress in the long run. For example, the child might respond more obediently whenever you go to wake them up at a specific time in the morning. The same goes when they start doing more of their bedtime routines on their own. It can really go to show that the shortcomings of autism can still have a unique set of perks.
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