Having a bedtime routine is important and will benefit everyone.
This is an example of a bedtime routine for an 8 year old but timings would be different depending on your child’s age.
Work backwards from the time your child wakes up to find the ideal bedtime.
For example, a 2 year old needs about 11 to 14 hours of sleep including a daytime nap of 1 to 2 hours.
If they wake at 7am in the morning, then they should be put to bed about 7pm.
This means the bedtime routine should start around 4.30 to 5.00pm.
A bedtime routine needs to be planned well in advance. And consistency and firmness is key.
Evening meal –
Strong evidence demonstrates that moderate-to-vigorous physical activity improves sleep quality by decreasing the time it takes to fall asleep; it can also increase deep-sleep time and decrease daytime sleepiness.
Try to include some exercise into your day such as a walk, run or yoga.
Baths are relaxing….. If however they are fearful of them or get over excited during baths this may not be something you want part of the bedtime routine.
Ideally a bath should take place 30 minutes before the child gets into bed as this is something that helps increase the body temperature. It is the slow decrease in the body temperature that helps us feel more relaxed and to nod of more easily.
Pyjamas, teeth cleaned and into bed -
Sleepwear can cause a lot of issues for some children. Pyjamas can be tight and compressing, which can benefit some children. However, some children can find too much pressure may impact sleep. Here are some things to consider about sensory issues and pajamas.
Is it too tight, too loose, too hot, too cold, too scratchy, or too silky? Is the texture of the material such as fleece, silk, nylon, cotton, spandex, etc. cause irritation or does the sound of it against the bed sheets cause sensitivity?
if wearing p.j. bottoms, do the legs of the pants ride up the leg while moving in bed causing bunching and sensitivity? Do the shirt sleeves shift up the arm when sleeping making them uncomfortable causing bunching and creases that rub or mark the skin?
if buttons cause discomfort when lying on the stomach. Do collars or tags irritate? Do ribbed cuffs or seams cause irritation?
Investigate the fabric and other issues of the bed sheets and covers. Explore the sounds, feel, temperature, fuzz balls on the fabric due to washing, smell of detergent, softener, dryer sheets, static cling, etc.
When you’re the parent of a child with autism there’s a lot of tasks that you find more difficult. Other parents may not understand how stressful those ‘little’ everyday tasks can be.
Individuals with autism are more likely to be hypersensitive. They will feel things differently to those of your typical non-autistic child. This can include the sensation of having their teeth brushed.
Use a social story to help your child actually see and read/listen to what is happening on the pages. It will help them understand what happens during the process of brushing your teeth. Along with what can happen if you don’t brush your teeth.
There are many different types of toothbrushes you could try – such as an electric toothbrush, fuzzy brush etc
Provide a calm environment for when tooth brushing takes places.
Use visuals. e.g. find toothbrush, squeeze toothpaste on toothbursh etc
Use a timer - Many individuals with autism do find situations less stressful if they are able to see how long is left.
Lots of positive reinforcement/praise for when they are able to complete any of the task. Even if it’s not brushing but just holding the toothbrush. It could be for putting the brush near their mouth. Or even just holding the brush inside their mouth. This is a great way to build up to brushing their teeth. And also getting them used to the feel and taste of the toothpaste and toothbrush.
Dentists say that it’s beneficial for your child to walk around chewing a toothbrush, with nothing on it. This is better than not brushing their teeth at all. And, this can be a great way to work your way up to introducing toothpaste.
Different toothpastes have different smells and taste. It could be this causing the issues, rather than the toothbrush. Look for ones with little or no taste- or ones with a taste that they do like.
Electric toothbrushes can be great if your child can tolerate the sensation/noise/feel. It means they don’t have to work as hard to clean different areas – the electric toothbrush will help them do this. You can have them feel the toothbrush by placing it on their arm/face etc. first so they get used to it. Many children may actually enjoy the sensation of the electric toothbrush.
Use songs. There’s a great Elmer brushing teeth song on Youtube. Our children love to listen to it when they are brushing their teeth. It also prepares them for what’s about to happen.
Have someone act as a good role model and brush their teeth the same time as the individual. They can see what’s happening, what to do and have someone to go through it with together.
There are some great apps available on tablets. They can help children brushing their teeth and come with a variety of aides/prompts.
Give the individual a reward system. You can have a weekly sticker chart. Then, they get a sticker for each day they brush their teeth. So many stickers = a treat. This could be a trip to their favourite park etc.
Try using warm water out of the tap instead of cold, as sometimes cold water can cause sensory issues
Bedtime story -