What are some examples of how a routine might be changed for my child with autism or other developmental needs?
In general, we recommend a similar approach for children who are typically developing and those with special needs: a regular bedtime and a consistent, calming, short (20-30 minutes) sequence of activities all leading toward the bedroom. In neurodiverse children, activities that are calming might be different than what we would recommend for other children. For example, using an iPad/tablet or television might be calming. Additionally, if your child with special needs has a different sleep pattern (such as being awake for hours late in the evening or during the night), the focus may be on independence and safety during the night. It may be helpful to have routines not only for bedtime but also for early wakings. For example, setting a good morning light (see tips and tricks) for a time your child typically wakes (though this may be earlier than you would like!) and having a good morning basket of activities they can do independently while keeping safe and not disrupting the family. It may be helpful to work with your behavioral team or a sleep specialist to tailor this to your child.
About Dr. Melisa Moore