Suzanne E. Goldman
The primary goal of this study was to characterize the sleep habits of older children and adolescents with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) as compared with younger age groups and to identify areas parents find problematic in nature.
Methods - Sample, Procedure, Study Measures, Analysis
Parental surveys were used to determine sleep behaviors of 1,859 children (84.5 % male, 15.5% female) with ASD aged 3 to 18 years. Additionally, parents completed a questionnaire that focused on their perception of their child’s sleep problem or general behavior during the previous months. The study population was broken up into four groups: < 5 years, 5 to < 7 years, 7 to < 11 years, and 11 years or older; results from each group were compared.
Results – Main Finding(s)
For all age groups, the children in this sample reported more sleep problems than their neurotypically developing peers. Total sleep problems did not vary among the age groups; however, the types of sleep problems did vary with age. Parents of the younger children reported a higher prevalence of bedtime resistance and sleep anxiety. Parents of the older children indicated daytime sleepiness and troubles falling asleep as more problematic.
Conclusion – Summary Statement
Findings from this study show that sleep problems in ASD are not just restricted to early and middle childhood but extend through adolescence. This has important clinical implications, as it points to the need for clinicians to address sleep behaviors not only in young children with ASD but throughout the age span. It is important to note that while the total amount of sleep problems does not seem to change with age, the types of problems faced by the different age groups do vary.