-- Robert Preidt
FRIDAY, Sept. 27 (HealthDay News) -- Sleep education for parents
of children with autism helps improve the youngsters' behavior and
quality of life, according to a new study.
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder marked by difficulties
in social interactions and communications. Autism spectrum
disorders encompass a wide range from mild to severe.
For the study, researchers provided sleep education for the
parents of 80 children, aged 2 to 10, with an autism spectrum
disorder. During the sessions, the parents learned about daytime
and evening habits that promote sleep, including the importance of
increasing exercise, limiting caffeine, and lessening the use of
video games and computers close to bedtime.
In addition, sleep educators helped the parents create a visual
schedule for their children to help them establish a bedtime
routine and talked about ways to help kids get back to sleep if
they woke up at night.
"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 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."
The study was published in a recent issue of the
Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.
Future research is needed to determine the best methods for
providing sleep education to families, including telemedicine- and
Internet-based approaches, Malow said. She and her colleagues
within the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network are also building
partnerships with local pediatric practices to offer training on
The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
has more about
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