How To Make a Bedtime Routine for an Autistic Child

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Did you know that more than half of children with autism have chronic sleep problems? If all medical reasons have been ruled out, a solid bedtime routine can be a game changer for better sleep for autistic children.

For parents, bedtime is often a struggle. Fortunately, there are things you can do to help bedtime be an easier process. One of those things is creating a bedtime routine for your autistic child. How do you create a bedtime routine that works? Keep reading to learn more about autism and sleep. 

Creating a Bedtime Routine for an Autistic Child: Promoting Restful Sleep

Establishing a consistent bedtime routine is important for both children and adults, including those on the autism spectrum. A structured routine can help promote healthy sleep patterns that have long-term benefits. By developing good sleeping habits, you increase the likelihood of falling asleep quickly and enjoying restful nights. This sets the stage for waking up refreshed and prepared for the day ahead.

Read more: Autism Meltdowns at Night or Bed Time

Bedtime routines create familiar patterns to help your child establish positive sleeping patterns. As part of your child’s sleep routine, you can include activities that help soothe them and remove sensory triggers that prevent sleep. 

How To Make a Bedtime Routine for an Autistic Child: Step-by-Step

How do you make a bedtime routine for your child with autism? One thing you want to consider is using Goally to help you with creating routines and reminding your child of when it’s time to complete the different steps. 

Read more: Best Sleep app for kids

When it comes to your child’s bedtime routine, it’s important to begin 30-60 minutes before they hit the hay. This routine should consist of all the necessary steps your child needs to take to prepare for bed. However, before you start putting together a routine, there are a few key steps to establish first. Check them out below:

Bedtime routine for autistic child this image shows a father reading a bedtime story to his son
Read More: Alarm Clock App for Kids

1. Define What’s Already Working in Other Routines for Your Kiddo

What other routines have you already implemented with your child? Consider what has worked with those routines and how you can use that in a bedtime routine. 

For example, if you use pictures as reminders, does your child respond better to a picture of themselves or to a cartoon picture? 

You should also look at what might not be working. If it’s not working, don’t be afraid to try something new that will work. For example, maybe a written reminder isn’t working, will a voice reminder work better? 

2. Create Consistency With a Visual Schedule or Checklist

One thing you definitely want to do is create a visual schedule or checklist to help your child know what they need to do. This can include different parts of the routine and how long they should last. 

By creating a visual schedule and checklist, you also allow your child to begin building independence. They’re able to brush their teeth and go through parts of their routine independently because their visual schedule or checklist is telling them what they should be doing and when. 

If you’re using Goally, we will send reminders to your child through customizable sounds. In addition, Goally has visual timers. You don’t need to worry about timing your child brushing their teeth because Goally will do it for you. 

Things you can include in your bedtime routine visual schedule:

  • Using the bathroom
  • Brushing teeth
  • Putting on pajamas
  • Bathtime
  • Storytime
  • Time to be tucked in

However, your list doesn’t need to be limited to this. If your child needs help calming down before bedtime, you can include quiet downtime in a sensory-free zone, or whatever works for them. Make your child’s routine as unique as them so that you can create something that works for your family. 

Read more: How to Create an Autism Daily Routine

3. Create Rewards and Involve Your Child in Growing Their Independence Skills

You can define what does or doesn’t work in other routines and create a visual checklist; however, beyond that, how do you motivate your child to engage in their routine? A great way to encourage kids is by rewarding positive behavior. 

You can do this by creating a token system that allows your child to earn rewards as they earn enough tokens. It’s important that as you consider rewards, you make them appropriate for your child’s age. 

For example, while being able to watch Baby Shark might be rewarding for a two-year-old, a ten-year-old might not appreciate that as much. You should also consider where your child is developmentally as you consider rewards. 

One great thing to do is to involve your child in choosing their own rewards. Some rewards could include things like:

  • Ice cream
  • A trip to the park
  • TV time
  • Screen time
  • Playtime
  • A new item from the dollar store 

Rewards don’t have to break your budget; however, they should be items that help to motivate your child. You can also give your child extra points for completing their routine more quickly than they normally would. If you’re using Goally, this all happens automatically. 

Bedtime routine for autistic child this image shows a child eating ice cream

How to Help an Autistic Child Sleep: Building an Effective Bedtime Routine

Building a successful bedtime routine for your autistic child is crucial for promoting restful sleep. Here are some practical tips to get started:

  • Create a Visual Schedule: Introduce a visual schedule to your child, using pictures or icons, to help them understand and follow the bedtime routine.
  • Start with Fun Routines: Begin by incorporating enjoyable activities into the visual schedule to engage your child and make the routine more appealing.
  • Gradually Add Tasks: As your child becomes familiar with the visual schedule, gradually introduce tasks associated with bedtime, such as brushing teeth or changing into pajamas.
  • Offer Choices: Provide your child with choices within the routine, such as selecting a bedtime story or a preferred stuffed animal, to give them a sense of control and ownership.
  • Minimize Stress: Avoid adding unnecessary stress to the routine. Keep the atmosphere calm and provide ample transition time between activities to help your child relax.
"Works well for us. I can edit routines on the fly, award extra points for doing something special and start those unscheduled routines when I need them. " — Melissa
Learn more →

Goally | For Kids Who Hate Bedtime 😴😡

Make bedtime & morning routines easy. Upload your own videos for each step. Motivate with rewards! Get Goally’s Life Skills Package at $249.

Bedtime routine for kids is best on Goally. The tablet walks kids through every step. Displayed is text that reads "Nix the stress at bedtime."

Create Your Bedtime Routine With Goally

Are you ready to start creating a bedtime routine for your autistic child? Make sure that you follow the steps above to create a routine that works for your family. 

In addition, consider using Goally for your child’s routine. This handheld device will support your child’s independence and do the “nagging” for you. Check it out today.  

FAQs About Bedtime Routine for Autistic Child

Why is a bedtime routine important for autistic children?
A bedtime routine can help autistic children feel more secure and comfortable, which can lead to better sleep and improved behavior.
What should a bedtime routine for an autistic child include?
A bedtime routine for an autistic child should include calming activities such as a warm bath, reading a book, and low sensory activities that can help the child wind down and relax.
How can parents establish a successful bedtime routine for their autistic child?
Parents can establish a successful bedtime routine for their autistic child by creating a consistent and predictable routine, using visual aids to help the child understand the routine, and incorporating sensory activities that the child enjoys.
What are some common challenges that autistic children may face with bedtime routines?
Autistic children may face challenges with transitions, sensory issues, and anxiety surrounding bedtime routines. Parents should work with their child's therapist or healthcare provider to develop strategies to address these challenges.
Can a bedtime routine improve the overall sleep of an autistic child?
Yes, a consistent bedtime routine can help improve the overall sleep of an autistic child, which can lead to improved behavior, cognitive function, and overall well-being.

This post was originally published on 02/04/2022. It was updated on 05/30/23.

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Goally
We help parents teach their kids life skills, like doing bedtime and morning independently. Backed by science, we incorporate evidence-based practices and expert-informed designs in all of our apps.
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