Victoria Dawson is a sleep practitioner and special educational needs teacher. She is the founder of the Children’s Sleep Charity and has written sleep-training materials for Scope. She writes in the national press and presents at conferences across the UK.
Sleep and Your Special Needs Child, co-written by Dawson and Antonia Chitty, is out this month. Here, Dawson discusses her top tips for a better bedtime for your children and yourself.
If bedtimes are a battle it can leave you exhausted every evening. When your children have special needs it can seem difficult to build a good bedtime routine. Here are five tips to help you from sleep practitioner Victoria Dawson.
1. Start by writing your routine down so you know exactly what’s going to happen when. The act of writing can make you look at what you do at bedtime, and which parts of it are working and which are not.
2. Consider using a visual timetable so that your child knows what is coming next. Take photos or find drawings of your bedtime activities: a meal, bath time, teeth brushing, story time etc.
3. Fine motor skill activities are a great way of promoting calm in the run up to bedtime. Take time to help your child complete a jigsaw, for example. This is a great alternative to watching television and helps the brain wind down.
4. Try using music in the bedtime routine to promote calmness. Using the same calming tune every night can provide an auditory cue that it is bedtime. There are sound recordings specifically designed for children’s bedtime, some with just music, other with guided relaxation exercises and stories.
5. Seek advice from your child’s therapists. Your OT can provide sensory advice, the physio can help you with information on positioning and the speech therapist on promoting understanding around bedtime.