Help Your Child Sleep through the Night Using these Simple ABA Techniques

by Crislyn Ogawa

We’ve posted our tips on tackling toilet troubles. Another common issue for parents and caretakers of children with developmental disabilities is their child’s interrupted or irregular sleep pattern. Below, Dr. Joyce Tu, Ed.D, BCBA-D shares systematic shaping and fading strategies, designed to help regulate your child’s bedtime routine.

This program is best suited to children with chronic sleeping issues (such as sleeping only 2-4 hours daily for a prolonged period). It is not intended for children who may have experienced only a few sleepless nights.

 

 

Before You Begin

Limit your child’s sugar and caffeine intake before bedtime. Your child should not eat foods that contain sugar or caffeine at least four hours before bedtime.  Implement at least ½ hour of daily exercise in conjunction with this sleeping program.

Program

On the first night, begin with a 12:00 a.m. bedtime. Prompt your child to perform “getting ready for bed” tasks such as brushing her teeth, using the restroom, changing into pajamas, getting into her own bed, and listening to a bedtime story.

Keeping your child awake until 12:00 a.m. might be the most difficult part of the program. Parents who complete this program successfully often report that they engage their children with activities such as taking walks, playing games, etc., to keep the children awake during the first few weeks.

If your child gets up between 12:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., prompt her to return to bed with no additional verbal interactions. In other words, do not scold or acknowledge the behavior excessively.

Next Steps

When your child can stay in bed from 12:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. for one week:

Move her bedtime to 11:30 p.m. the next night. Then, when she can stay in bed from this time, move bedtime to 11:00 p.m., then to 10:30 p.m., then 9:00 p.m.

Following these procedures, gradually shape your child’s bedtime to suit your household schedule.

Disclaimer: The recommendations provided are general. For specific recommendations for you and/or your child please consult with a behavior analyst.