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Teaching Sleep Tips to Parents Helps Kids With Autism

Update Date: Sep 30, 2013 09:43 AM EDT

Sleep education for parents of children suffering from autism helps improve the child’s behavior, a new study has found. In addition, the youngster’s quality of life is also improved.

Children with autism face difficulties with social interactions and communication. Austim spectrum disorder encompasses a wide range of symptoms, from mild to severe.

Parents of 80 children were chosen for the study. The children were between the ages of two and 10. During the study, parents were taught daytime and evening habits that can promote sleep. This included being aware of the importance of increasing exercise and also limiting caffeine intake.

“We found that one hour of one-on-one sleep education or four hours of group sleep education delivered to parents, combined with two brief follow-up phone calls, improved sleep as well as anxiety, attention, repetitive behavior and quality of life in children with autism spectrum disorders who had difficulty falling asleep,” study author Dr. Beth Malow, a professor of neurology and pediatrics, and a professor of cognitive childhood development at Vanderbilt University, said in a university news release.

“The parents also benefited. They reported a higher level of parenting competence after completing the education sessions,” Malow later added. “The one-on-one and group sessions showed similar levels of success. In contrast, an earlier study that simply gave parents a pamphlet without guidance on how to use it did not provide the same level of improvement in child sleep.”

In addition the parents were also taught how to get their children to go back to sleep if they woke up in the middle of the night.

The study is published in Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

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