Category Archives: Parenting & Families
A new report about children with Asperger’s Syndrome has confirmed that they often have difficulty getting the quality and amount of sleep they need. The study was conduction by Oliviero Bruni, M.D. from the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders. This Center is located at the University La Sapienza in Italy. The study included eight children with Asperger’s, ten with autism, and 12 children with no developmental delays.
The parents of the children involved in the study completed a questionnaire about their children’s sleep patterns. They were also asked to fill out what is known as the Pediatric Daytime Sleepiness Scale. This is used to determine if daytime drowsiness is related to school performance. They also provided information for the Autism Diagnosis Observations Schedule, and then were asked to fill out a Child Behavior Checklist. The children in the study then took the Wechsler Intelligence Scale For Children evaluation and participated in a sleep study.
Researchers involved in the study were looking for some very specific elements in order to determine if there was any difference in the sleep quality for those with Asperger’s as compared with other children. They monitored the number of times the children awoke per hour, how much actual time was spent in bed, and how much of that time was spent sleeping. They also monitored the sleep cycles of the children that include deep sleep, REM sleep, and the changing cycles that comes between those periods.
When all of the information was compiled, the results showed that there were differences in sleep patterns in those with Asperger’s. Half were reluctant to go to bed, and three fourths wanted some sort of distraction like a night light or television to go with sleep with. As many as 87% had a problem falling asleep and three quarters were sweating when they finally did go to sleep. Half did not feel as if they had rested much when they woke the next day, and over three-quarters had problems getting out of bed and staying awake for the duration of the day.
The research concluded that children with Asperger’s are suffering from not getting the sleep they need. It is recommended that all children of preschool age get no less than 11 hours of sleep a night, and as much as 13 hours in some cases. Those who have reached school age need at least ten hours a night to function properly and teenagers are in need of at least nine.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine offers suggestions for allowing children to get the recommended sleep they need. Those suggestions include:
- Having a routine that is the same each and every night that involves interaction with parents
- Making sure the setting for sleep is always relaxing and non stressful
- Avoid having the television on or letting your child play computer games before bedtime
- Ensure that all the programs they watch or computer games they play are age appropriate
- Cutting back on caffeine items during the day – these include sodas, many of which are caffeinated.
- Don’t allow children to go to sleep while being held or fed (bottle or nursing)
Reference: American Academy of Sleep Medicine (2007, November 1). Children With Asperger Syndrome More Likely To Have Sleep Problems. ScienceDaily.
Other suggestions include:
- Keep the room well ventilated
- For children who like sensory input you could try massaging their arms, legs, trunk, hands, and feet or use a weighted blanket
- Playing white noise or soothing music at a low volume
- Be aware of any sensory issues that may be disrupting their sleep such as sounds, smells and light. Even how the sheets feel can be an issue for some children. You could try black out lining in your child’s bedroom curtains or blinds to ensure outside light isn’t getting in.
- Keeping your child active during the day and discouraging daytime napping can help them feel tired at night and settle more readily.
- Make their bedroom as sleep friendly as possible – that may mean moving any distracting toys etc. Although if they have a particular toy or blanket they are attached to you could put that on the bed for them.
- Avoid letting your child oversleep – get them up at the same time each day to help regulate their sleep patterns.
- If they do get up at night you could try practicing some of their treatment routines to see if the thought of ‘work’ might send them back to be willingly.
- Speak to your doctor about a possible melatonin deficiency. Melatonin is the hormone that regulates our sleep patterns.
- As with most things – some trial and error may be required to find the right bedtime and sleep routine for your child.
One of the most often asked questions from parents is to have an explanation of the difference between Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.
So here’s a brief explanation of the two conditions and what the main differences are.
Autism is a spectrum disorder – which basically means that the signs and the severity of symptoms can vary significantly in each person. It usually begins at an early age (before 3) and causes delays to the normal development of skills.
The main areas in which autism symptoms can be seen are:
Communication - both verbal and non-verbal, such as eye contact, facial expressions and body language.
Social Behaviors - people with autism struggle with expressing emotions, relating to other peoples emotions and holding conversations. They have a tendency to withdraw from social interaction and can over-react to what we would consider a normal situation.
General Behaviors - repetition of actions, phrases and routines are common as are following strict organization patterns.
People with autism can also display abnormal sensory perception. For example, a normal volume noise may seem extremely loud and even painful to an autistic.
Physical interaction can also cause problems for an autistic child, they may dislike the feeling of being touched or will only allow themselves to be hugged in a certain way.
Autistic children also tend to favor rigid objects and toys such as metal cars rather than soft toys like teddy bears, some even show pain from touching a stuffed animal.
Smells may also cause problems with scents that are pleasant to you and I causing those with autism to gag.
It is not true that all individuals who develop autism show retardation.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome display autistic characteristics like obsessive behaviors or lack of social and communication skills. And like autism, the level and severity of these signs will vary from person to person.
They do not show delayed skills. In fact, one of the symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome is having a normal IQ. As a result, those with Asperger’s are sometimes called “higher-functioning” autistics.
Asperger’s is also usually noticed at a later age, with social and communication problems less severe than with autism. Verbal IQ tends to be higher than physical IQ and clumsiness is more common.
People with Asperger’s Syndrome usually have good language skills – However, their use of language can be awkward and speech patterns can be unusual, without inflection or changes in pitch or tone.
The subtleties of language, such as irony and humor can be lost on someone with Asperger’s and they may struggle to understand how a conversation should flow.
It is hard to generalize ASD ’s, but two main differences between Autism and Asperger’s seem to be:
1. People with Aspergers tend to have a normal or sometimes a high IQ.
2. There is no speech delay in people with Asperger’s.