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How Does Your Child Sleep?

Try this Guide for Frazzled Families

(c) g215
Source: (c) g215

Terry Katz, Ph.D. and Beth Malow, M.D., M.S. have written the most comprehensive and practical book I've seen yet on how to handle children's sleep problems. Because their particular focus is on children with autism, their book Solving Sleep Problems in Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders offers suggestions that are effective enough to help even the children who most struggle with getting and staying asleep. A child who doesn't sleep is not getting an essential ingredient for health. A child's sleep problems also can create irritability in everyone, yielding marriage problems, which is the last thing that parents or their challenging children need.

Effective treatment almost always begins with effective diagnosis. I love Katz and Malow's checklist called Family Inventory of Sleep Habits. When children are not behaving in the evenings as their parents would like, parents can easy feel lost in a cloud of distress. Checklists can do wonders for clarifying the specific sleep-related behaviors that need upgrades.

Checklists also can help children to remember what they need to do in their pre-bedtime preparations. Atul Gawande, in his book The Checkbook Manifesto, describes how checklists enable surgeons and the nurses who work with them to radically reduce the number of mistakes made in complex surgeries. Bedtimes for young children who resist bedtime routines can go far more smoothly when children have a clear checklist to guide them through the routines they need to accomplish.

What however if the children do not read, so posting a list will do no good?

Katz and Malow's book provides what they refer to as "Visual Supports" for guiding bedtime routines. These are pictures of children doing each of the activities of bedtime preparation. Copy them and post them as a list for these children and your problem is solved.

In sum, if falling asleep and/or staying asleep is a natural phenomenon that your child, on the spectrum or not, resists or finds unnatural, this book is for you.


Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in Denver, has authored four books: David Decides About Thumbsucking, The Power of Two: Secrets to a Strong and Loving Marriage; The Power of Two Workbook; and, for therapists, From Conflict to Resolution.

Dr. Heitler's fun interactive website called teaches the communication and conflict resolution, the skills that enable couples to enjoy a successful marriage.

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