Help, My Toddler is Waking Up at Night! And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Issues in Autism


Trouble sleeping can be quite common for children with autism. I am frequently asked sleep questions in our online community. This week, Kelsey General is back for another episode to discuss FAQ all about sleep and what you can do to help your child sleep in their own beds and through the night! 

Baby or Toddler Won’t Sleep Alone

Depending on what sleep has always looked like for a young baby or child, they may have become dependent on sleeping with the parent, a pacifier, a bottle, feeding to sleep etc. The first step when working on any sleep changes is assessing the child and asking specific questions about them in relation to sleep.

  • Is your child having problems falling asleep?
  • Are they taking naps? How many naps?
  • Are they having frequent wake ups?
  • How old is the child?
  • How much sleep are they getting vs how much they should be getting?
  • How many times should a baby feed through the day or night?
  • How long should their awake time be?
  • How long are they napping? Where are they napping?
  • What does their bedtime routine look like?
  • Is their room safe?

All of these answers will vary for each child, their age, and their routines. But once you understand the answers to these questions, you can begin weaning processes from items like pacifiers and bottles or other sleep dependencies. You can find the sleep assessment in the chapter on sleep, Chapter 11 of the Turn Autism Around book. Additionally, we discuss Taking Cara Babies, an Instagram resource with helpful guides for fixing sleep issues from a Pediatric Nurse.

Toddler Waking Up at Night or Too Early in the Morning

You’ve gotten your child to bed, but the middle of the night comes and they are knocking on your door, crying out from their room, or in my case with Lucas they are jumping in your bed. It can be easy to let your child get in bed with you during night wakings, especially when you need to get sleep too. I share about Lucas’s sleeping issues from 1-10 where we played musical beds nearly every night. I was able to stop that in three nights with a consistent and firm plan. The bottom line is nighttime is time for bed, in their bed. As long as you have a safe environment in the home and a plan with what works for your child and your family, do not let them into your room or into the bed. Remind the child it’s bedtime and guide them back to their room over and over again. With positive reinforcement (a reward in the morning for staying in their bed or going back to bed) and a constituent approach, the hard and frustrating transition will end.

If your child finds themselves waking up early before 6am or a time you consider a reasonable morning wake up, teach them to stay in their room or what safe quiet activities they can do instead. For some children, an alarm clock with a color changing light of green or red may help let them know when to stay in bed and when to get up. You may consider a safe activity box for the child to play with in their room in early mornings. For older, more independent children, you might consider teaching them morning self-care skills such as getting ready, and making a bowl of cereal and watching TV. This change is about deciding what your boundary is and what you’re comfortable with your child doing to meet that boundary.

Autism and Night Terrors

Night terrors can be extremely common for children with autism. They can happen at the same time every night or sporadically and lead to long wake-ups and an inconsolable child. For Kelsey, when her son Lincoln was having night terrors she was at a loss for anything to snap him out of his distress and she finally found a song that would work to snap him out and get him back to sleep. For other children who may be experiencing a night terror at the same time every night, having the parent wake the child 10 minutes before it usually occurs can help break the cycle and prevent night terrors in the future.

Dr. Mary Barbera and Kelsey General on autism and sleep issues

Kelsey and I brought these big questions on sleep from commonly asked questions in our online community. Many times sleep issues can be linked to medical issues or deficiencies, so if problems persist, be sure to get a medical consultation or up-to-date blood work. All of the advice shared is for informational purposes only, as all families have differing personal and cultural beliefs regarding sleep.

If you found this episode and episodes like this helpful, be sure to leave a review where you listen to podcasts.

Help, My Toddler is Waking Up at Night! And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Issues in Autism


  • Why is my toddler waking up at night?
  • Why won’t my baby sleep without their bottle or pacifier?
  • How can I keep my child from waking up too early?
  • How can I break the cycle of allowing my child in bed with me in the middle of the night?
  • How to help and prevent night terrors for children with autism?
  • Can medical deficiencies cause sleep issues?
  • How do I know if my child is getting enough sleep?
Want to get started on the right path and start making a difference for your child or client with autism?


Dr. Mary Barbera – Turn Autism Around Podcast Transcript

Transcript for Podcast Episode: 179
Help, My Toddler is Waking Up at Night! And Other Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Issues in Autism
Hosted by: Dr. Mary Barbera
Guest: Kelsey General

Mary: You're listening to the Turn Autism Around podcast episode number 179. Today, Kelsey and I are doing a show on the top five questions we get regarding sleep. We are talking about Chapter 11 of my book, Turn Autism Around. We're talking about a free sleep guide at and we're discussing from infants to older kids how to get them to fall asleep better stay asleep in their own bed. And some tips that I just learned today, too, from Kelsey. So let's get to this really great interview and Top five Question podcast all about sleep.

Narrator: Welcome to the Turn Autism Around podcast for both parents and professionals in the autism world who want to turn things around, be less stressed and lead happier lives. And now your host, autism mom, behavior analyst and bestselling author Dr. Mary Barbera.

Mary: Okay, Kelsey, so we are talking all about sleep today. Thank you for joining me again. And you have gathered some questions regarding sleep from our online community and then also from our Instagram account and our Facebook page. And we actually just are starting, I have started a TikTok account. So if anybody out there listening is on TikTok, Instagram or Facebook or YouTube, you can always find our direct, actual account. If you just go to, /YouTube Instagram or /TikTok. So if you're on Tik Tok, we're trying to grow and grow quickly there. So give us a shout out and we'll see you over on Tik Tok. So anyway, getting back to our questions, why don't we start with whatever the first question is?

Baby or Toddler Won’t Sleep Alone

Kelsey: Okay, so this first question is; my baby or toddler will sleep, but only with me or with a bottle and pacifier. How can I get them in their own bed and to fall asleep on their own?

Mary: Okay. So for those of you that have been listening to me for a while, you know, my first book, The Verbal Behavior Approach, has zero information about sleep. And because I had no other no idea what I was doing with sleep until after my first book was published in 2007. And that's when I got some really great sleep advice and started working with Lucas to sleep better and all of my clients as well. So now my new book, Turn Autism Around has a whole chapter on sleep. It's called Stop Playing Musical Beds, Solving Sleep Issues and Musical Beds is what I played a lot from the time Lucas was one until he was ten, and then I fixed it in three nights and I outlined how I fixed it. Maybe we'll talk about fixing his bedtime routine, but back to the question at hand, which is all about babies and toddlers. And I wasn't a behavioral analyst and I didn't know what I was doing with sleep when my kids were babies and toddlers. But now seeing all my participants having clients and having people I work with and interact with, having babies, I see a lot of people struggling with babies and toddlers, whether they have autism or not, whether they have delays or not. Some kids are used to falling asleep while they're breastfeeding or while they're being bottle fed, or they're used to being asleep, falling asleep with a pacifier, or they're used to falling asleep, being held and rocked. And then you put them down or you tiptoe up the steps and then you put them down and then they cry. And then you're kind of caught between, you know, like what to do because you don't want the crying. And I will say, first and foremost, I am not a proponent of crying it out. I don't want kids crying. I don't want kids crying during the day and I don't want kids crying at night. You might have a little bit of crying, though, here and there as you are getting your child to get used to sleeping on their own. But it never involves even several minutes of crying or certainly not Cry it out, go in and 45 minutes later. I do not agree with that. And I will also say that all of this information is for informational purposes only. You have your personal preferences, you have your culture, you have, you know, some people in different cultures sleep as a family until the kids are older. This is only if you want to get your child sleeping in their crib or their toddler bed alone through the night. So the first step is you have to assess what's going on. Is your child having problems falling asleep? Are they taking naps? Are they waking up frequently through the night? Are they only four months old or five months old? And it's natural for them to wake up a time or two to feed. And there is also a thing called nighttime sleep scheduling, sleep training for babies. And I learned a little bit about that recently. And one of the experts in this is a nurse, a pediatric nurse, and she has the Instagram site Taking Cara Babies. But Cara is spelled C A R A. So taking Cara babies and she has millions of followers and really good advice for how to teach babies to sleep in their own bed, in their own crib. Sure. Her recommendation is not to start sleep training until at least four months of age. Anywhere between four months and eight months of age is ideal. But you know, she and I agree that it's never too late to start helping your child learn how to sleep on their own. So part of it is assessment, which is the first step of the Turn Autism Around approach we need to assess. And in my book, in Chapter 11 and in the free book resources at, we have a sleep assessment. So how much total sleep does your child get on average? Obviously, a tiny little four month old baby needs a whole lot more sleep than a three year old. So knowing what the norms are for babies, how many naps should they be taking? How long should they be up? How many times should they be feeding? And I don't have that information off the top of my head. I don't need that information because I don't have any babies in my life that I'm responsible for. But, you know, seeing what your assessment is showing versus what is the normal or the range of normal, and then deciding, okay, what do I want to do about it? Also, part of the assessment is making sure the room is safe. The furniture won't tip over in my safety podcast and bonus video and chapter on safety. In my book I talk about, you know, heavy furniture. Kids can climb out and they can get crushed by that, blinds with strings are a problem. Even little Chino that I've talked about in many podcasts and I have a podcast with his mom, he, you know, he was in his room and he was less than three and he managed to open up a second floor window, throw all his clothes out on the roof and close the window. He could have thrown his body out the window, too. And I have heard of kids and know kids that have gone out on the roofs. So we want to make sure if we are trying to sleep, provide sleep training, provide kids alone in their bedrooms, we want to make sure that they're safe there, that it's not going to result in a dangerous situation. And naps are really super important, too, to assess, where are they napping? How long are they napping? How late are they napping? One of my strategies is the naps need to stop by 3 p.m.. Otherwise especially if you're trying to get your child to sleep at seven or eight at night and napping until five is really going to be a problem usually. And then what does your bedtime routine look like? You know, everybody needs routines and to settle down. And that's really important even for a baby. So sometimes we have to talk about weaning, like weaning from a pacifier, weaning from a bottle at the same time as getting your child to sleep. Because a lot of times, you know, if I'm sleeping and I'm used to sucking, sucking, sucking on a pacifier to fall asleep, and then I fall asleep and the pacifier flies off the crib, then I'm going to cry, you know, to get that pacifier back in. Well, that's very disruptive, not only to the baby, but to the parent to not be able to kind of soothe themselves and put themselves back to sleep, which is what we want. So one of the keys, especially when feeding a baby or talking about babies for this question, is not to feed them to the point where they're knocked out. You can feed them and then get them drowsy, but still awake and then put them down. And then you're going to have a better chance that they're really tired, they're fed, they're full, and hopefully they can go to sleep. And if they don't, they start crying and those sorts of things. It's okay to pat them. To stay with them. If you want, rub their back. But then as soon as they get tired enough but they're not completely out. Stop touching them. Let them fall asleep. Even if you have siblings, you'd be like, you know, Mommy's going to go to the bathroom or Mommy's going to check on Daddy. Even with a baby, they'll understand. I'm coming right back. You can kind of slip in and out, and by that point, they may have fallen asleep. So that is my advice about getting a child used to sleeping on their own first, it involves an assessment and then a plan to be like, okay, I'm not going to feed them until they're completely out. I'm not going to drive them around in a car until they fall asleep and then carry them upstairs and pray they don't wake up. So do you have anything else? Anything else?

Kelsey: Yeah, I like everything you said. It's really for me with sleep, it's about a lot of kids and even adults. We have sleep dependencies and those are really strong, especially in children and young toddlers who have delays, who are married to or love routine for both toddlers and babies. And we want to try and reduce those dependencies as much as possible. But just like us, we can't decide one day. Oh, we're getting rid of all dependencies, and then we're just going to, you know, they're just going to sleep just like we've talked about on all these FAQs, it involves what we call shaping, which you talked about, Mary. So that's like when you say if you have a toddler sitting right beside them and rubbing their back and raising your hand for a second, and then they fall asleep and then it might be the next night you're a tiny bit further away. And then the next night it might be I leave the room for 2 seconds and then come back. It's about building this trust that if I leave, I'm coming back like you're not alone. And I had to do this with Lincoln, actually, when he was a toddler. And he would get so and I'd be like, I'd be right back then I'd come right back and I'll be right back. He got so annoyed with this process, he's like, I get it, you're coming back. And then he would just fall asleep. But before that, he wouldn't even let me leave the room. Right? And so, yeah, I think what you said and just knowing that if you do need to wean from bottles and pacifiers, that it might be a slow process to get this sleeping. It's just tiny steps every night to get closer to your goal.

Mary: Right. And if you have other kids and you're worried that you don't want to deal with this you know, any kind of crying and waking up, it's going to wake up. The whole household really practices these techniques for the nap, too. Yeah, because kids shouldn't be napping in their bassinet or napping while you're driving around in the car because napping is a great time to practice falling asleep on your own in your crib. This is where I calm down. This is where I sleep. And using the nap or multiple naps, especially when you have a baby that's napping multiple times. If you're a nurse, then breastfeed them, sleep every time. That's what they're going to know and that's what they're going to get used to. And then you're going to have a harder time. But it's never too late to undo it or to learn more. And we can post Taking Cara Babies instagram into our show notes for this episode.

Kelsey: Yeah, yeah. So that would be my main thing. There was one more thing I wanted to say quickly about it and that was some like you said, you really need to look at what they should be sleeping because some parents are like, Oh, I cut the nap, my kid doesn't nap and my toddler doesn't nap anymore. And they're going to bed at 10:00 at night. And it's like, that might not be enough sleep. And sometimes when you're overtired, it's also harder to sleep. Brentley Actually, if he didn't get his two hour nap in the day, he would not sleep at night and you would think he would be more tired, but he actually wasn't. So really looking at those guidelines and seeing and assessing exactly how much sleep they're getting and that they might actually need more and going to bed earlier might even be better.

Mary: And keeping your schedule pretty much the same. So I'm not going to be able to sleep in on the weekends or keep them up till midnight because you really, you know, like if you can keep the schedule as similar as possible, that will really help.

Kelsey: Yeah.

Mary: I didn't do any of these. My sleep, my two boys, was like a nightmare. So I hear you. If you're like, No, Mary, I can't do it. I understand. But it will, like, make your life so much better.

Child or Toddler Taking Too Long To Fall Asleep

Kelsey: Yes. So the next question is, my child or toddler takes a long time to fall asleep. They talk to themselves, laugh, etc.. What can I do?

Mary: Yeah. So everything starts with an assessment. So I would look at them if they're obviously not tired enough if they're just laying there. So I would look at their naps, make sure they're ending, make sure they're not too long, make sure they're ending by three if possible. Make sure the room is really safe. And you know, it's okay for kids to kind of babble, stim, laugh. You know, a lot of people don't fall asleep right when their head hits the pillow. I mean, it would be more ideal. But one thing is for sure, you have to keep the room safe. Now, if they are playing with toys and books and that sort of thing, you might want to look at getting rid of the fun stuff from their bedroom so that it is just a quiet, calm place that there isn't much to do besides being in bed. And then the other thing is, you know, like I said, it's kind of fine as long as they're not hurting anything or getting into a complete mess or getting into any dangerous situation. But at the same time, you're trying to figure out how you can get them more tired so that they fall asleep quicker. Like if I were putting a three year old to bed and it was I wanted their bedtime to be 7:00 and they weren't going to sleep until mine. I would probably push it back to eight or 830 so that the routine involves sleep hum. And then the other thing is, some kids, especially kids on the spectrum, don't have enough serotonin in their body and they have difficulty falling asleep. And so when we went to Children's Hospital in Philadelphia with Dr. James Copeland, who we did a podcast with, we can link that in the show. That's one of Lucas's problems was sleep, actually, and falling asleep and staying asleep. And even back then, this was 1999, so a long time ago, Dr. Copeland did say that we can look into giving melatonin. And I know Doctor Cheryl Tierney, who's recently been on the show, she was on the show twice now. She's a developmental pediatrician. And I know she has said it's not really prescribed because it's an over-the-counter supplement called melatonin. Some kids, if you take that, it just calms them down a bit so that they can fall asleep. And it's a natural supplement. Lucas has been on it from the time he was three until every night. Now at 25, he takes melatonin and however it can backfire. I had a client who, when the mom gave her melatonin, she would actually record her sleep issues, record the time she fell asleep and woke up in a calendar. Like I recommended my calendar video blog, which we can put in the show notes. She found that on nights when she gave her melatonin, her nighttime waking would actually increase. So you just need to try different things to see what's going to work. At first I would definitely start with, you know, looking at the assessment, looking at the naps, looking at the bedtime routine, and I might not put a monitor on to hear every little squeal and laugh because you need your sleep too. As long as the child is safe and you can hear anything major going on. I might do some things to kind of not hear every little movement or sound.

Kelsey: Yeah. I agree with everything you said. Also for falling asleep. It is about doing the assessment and then it's really playing around in my mind with your bedtime routine schedule, with the time. Like you said, Mary, if they're not falling asleep, they're falling asleep at nine. You might start with going to bed at nine and then going back a little bit every night to get to a more appropriate bedtime. But then also you have to look at things like physical activity. How much physical activity did they get? Did they get up early enough? Some people really can't fall asleep if their body temperature is really high. And so a lot of people like to get a hot bath before bed. But for some kids, you can't give a hot bath before bed because then they can't sleep and you'll notice they sleep better if you don't do that. So some of it is about looking at your bedtime routine and taking one thing out at a time and seeing if that helps. Adding something, trying to only add one thing at a time and track it on your calendar to see what helps and what doesn't.

Mary: Right. And some people swear by lavender. Yeah, people swear by noise. Machines make sure their pajamas are comfortable, make sure they potty right before bed or their diaper's fresh and clean, which is so many variables. And, you know, sleep is one of those things that's very vital. But there are a lot of variables to kind of whittle through it when things aren't going well.

Kelsey: Yeah, yeah. The next one is; my child wakes up in the middle of the night and may stay up for two or 3 hours. What can I do?
Toddler Waking Up at Night or Too Early in the Morning

Mary: Yeah, so Lucas used to do that. He used to wake up, and that's when we got into the bad habit of either letting him in our bed because that the odds were better, or if we let him sleep with us, he would just sometimes go to sleep, right? Yeah. We were like, No, go back to bed. He would wake up and then be up. So melatonin, there is a long acting melatonin, but that's more of a pill where there's liquid melatonin that might help keep them asleep and then making sure they're safe and that sort of thing. Now, I will actually tell the story of how Lucas stopped the nighttime waking and we stopped in our bed starting at age ten. So my book came out, Lucas was ten, my first book, and I went to a conference and I went out to dinner with the behavior analyst and we're talking about my book and then she said, So how's his sleep? I was like, Oh, horrible. I don’t wanna be talking about Lucas's sleep and I was like, Actually, that's not really a great area. In fact, my husband said, You better not put anything to sleep in your book because I'm terrible at it. So I didn't have any pieces of advice in my book, and he was still every night waking up in the middle of the night and coming in our bed. And by this point, he was ten and he was over 100lbs, and he would come into my room and I sleep pretty soundly. And we had a king sized bed. We still do. And he would run in our room and he would jump over my body into the middle of the bed before I was even, like, awake, so now we have him, you know, in our bed. Now it's like getting him back to his room. Or even if my husband had to work, I'd be like, Okay, Lucas, let's go back into your bed. So he had a double bed, so. I would then also do the bad thing of laying down with him, like, just please just go back to sleep. So anyway, so this woman in Ohio, I don't even remember her name to give her credit. God bless her. If you're listening, please let me know who you are because you did change my life with your sleep advice. So anyway, she said a few things. She said, get rid of the electronics in the bedroom, which I actually did not do because he was used to falling asleep with a VCR and the TV and that was part of his bedtime routine. And even in the middle of the night, like, if I just had to sleep, I could turn on something and he could watch and I could sleep in the bed, you know. So I didn't get rid of electronics. But if you haven't started electronics in the bedroom, don't start it and you know, get rid of it. And I wouldn't put it on in the middle of the night like now, you know what I mean? If that's part of your routine to fall asleep, that's one thing. We have a sleep timer and he still does it every night. But the other thing she said is he has to learn in the middle of the night. Like at night he falls asleep with the TV, but in the middle of the night, if he gets up, he can't come into your bed and he needs to put himself back to sleep. So he was ten and so I made a plan. I was like, okay, this is what we're going to do. We're going to lock our bedroom door. And of course, you know, we didn't have to, like, gate the steps, like he did not he will not go downstairs if it's nighttime. Like he will not run the house. He will not leave the house. Many clients and other people I know of, that's a danger. So that's why I'm like saying, like, this is what we did for Lucas, but this might not be safe for you and your family, but so we locked the bedroom door the first night, night one. He got up three times. He came over, wiggled the handle, knocked on the door. I woke up instead of having him jump on me, I woke up to the knock, noted the time opened the door, said, Lucas, you need to sleep in your own bed. You're going to get and I offered a strong reinforcement of a Pop-Tart. I said, You get a pop tart in the morning for sleeping in your own bed. So walked him back offering this promise reinforcer in the morning. And that was because I didn't want him to get agitated or have any self-injurious behavior or upset and any new behavior we want to change. I mean, this has been ten years of him sleeping with us in some capacity every single night. So it's a big behavior we want to change. The one Pop-Tart once a day isn't going to, you know, hurt anything. Had him get back in his bed, say, I'll see you in the morning for the Pop-Tart. Got back in my bed. We locked the door, noted the time, jotted it down, and I went back to sleep. Thank goodness I'm able to fall back to sleep pretty quickly that he woke up in that little situation the first night it happened three times he got up, came, knocked. I went back to bed. The second night. It was two nights. Two wake ups. Over to our bed. Over to our room. Knocked on the door. And the third night it was one time. And he never slept in our bed again. So ten years of musical beds were solved with that little. But those early tweaks. And for us, that was life changing. Now, you know, we have a two year old, you know, if you have a baby, obviously, you can't do that. If you have a child who will leave the house, you are not going to be, you know, but you have the thing gates, you have to think alarms. You have to think, you know, the idea. I worked with a family that had a 24 year old and they were still like sleeping in her room every night because they were afraid she would leave the house. And it's like it's not healthy for anybody to have that kind of dependence. Yeah, so it was a long answer, but Lucas is a great sleeper. Or now he takes melatonin, he sleeps well, he will get up in the middle of the night, might go to the bathroom. He'll go right back to his bed. I have no fear that he's going to leave the house or even go downstairs until somebody, you know, lets him know that it's morning and he can.

Kelsey: Yeah. Brentley goes through phases where he wakes in the middle of the night and he'll stay up and Lincoln used to be a really, really, really bad sleeper. And the one thing I'll say that you didn't touch on is I would definitely go to a doctor and make sure you have up to date blood work. Lincoln was actually super iron deficient. And once we fixed that, he wasn't waking anymore. So we also have to look at biological reasons. It's hard to sleep magnesium. A lot of people are deficient in magnesium, iron. You know, those are just the big easy ones. And some of them can probably even be dealt with with just diet changes. But looking at that, looking at constipation, if a child's constipated or their stomach hurts, they could be waking up. Yeah. Yeah. And when Brentley used to wake up. You know, I used to do what you did and it's like, okay, just watch something. I'm just going to sleep right beside you. But then when I stopped, when I finally I think he went through his longest stretch, which was only two weeks, and I was done with it. And so it was just like consistency and as boring as possible. Every time he would come near me, he never got to the point, Lucas, to where he jumped in the bed. But like, if he would come in my room, it would be immediately Brentley it's nighttime back to his bed. In his bed, he'd get up again. Walking back it's nighttime. I'll see you at six. And we have a clock in their room and they know they're in their room. Whether you're sleeping or you're laying in your bed until 6 a.m., you do not do anything until that time. And so it was just really easy to just continue with consistency. It was hard for about a week and it is really hard to be firm and consistent in the middle of the night when you're exhausted. But just reiterating, it's nighttime. We stay in our bed and eventually it's so boring that like, what else are you going to do but sleep?

Mary: You know? And there are like alarm clocks and different things where it's like a green shows you get up and red can you can even set it for the weekends to be a little bit later and everything like that. So I mean, they do have some new contraptions that I never tried, but, you know, there are lots of things you can do to make better sleepers. I think your point about going to the doctor, you know, and getting blood work is really important. Magnesium is also a great supplement to foster sleep, you know, and kids do tend to be deficient in that. And looking at diet, looking at constipation and all those things that we're going to discuss, actually, medications and supplements and those sorts of things. The next two episodes of this podcast.
Kelsey: Yeah. And yeah, it is really important because even as adults, if we don't feel good, we don't sleep well. And I think it's important to remember that in our kids, too. And our next question we kind of already answered with the alarm clocks; is my child waking up really early. Can I teach them to stay in their bed or room?

Mary: Yeah. And even for kids that give up their nap, you could have a quiet time box of activities where you do have them. You don't have to sleep like they do at daycare hours for kids, when kids don't sleep. It's like you can play quietly. So, yeah, there could be a some activities that the child is, is comfortable doing in the room and that could be for naptime or for early morning or they might be able to, depending on their their level of functioning and their age, they might be able to go down and and start making themselves, you know, cereal or watch TV or do other things that, you know, everything is a transition. You know, transitioning from a crib to a toddler bed to a regular bed to, you know, once they're potty trained, you have to be able to have them go to the bathroom. And so, like, how does that work? And, you know, at some point for many of our kids, they could go to a different part of the house and busy themselves. But like all these factors of safety and sleep and constipation and potty training, it's like, whoa, you know, but this is life and this is the way we change. But I can honestly say in the past 15 years, Lucas has had, you know, next to no problems with sleep. And we're very fortunate. And even he'll sleep really late on a weekend. He'll sleep until like 10:00 sometimes, but normally sleeps until eight, 830. But he usually wakes up, wants to go to the bathroom.

Kelsey: Yeah. Yeah. An early waking Brentley that was probably his worst thing. And it's just the same thing that I said about consistency in the middle of the night. It's still nighttime, especially once it starts getting spring and summer where it starts getting lighter earlier, making sure your blackout curtains, you know, really dark and some type of clock or you being like, nope, we stay in our room until this time we stay in our room until those times can really help, whether and if there's books in there or something they can do. Not too fun, but something to keep them occupied.
Mary: Yeah.

Autism and Night Terrors

Kelsey: Yeah. And our last question is, my child wakes in the middle of the night and is not consolable. Kind of like a nightmare. What can I do?

Mary: Yeah. So there are night terrors. And Lucas had some night terrors early on. I know Lincoln had night terrors, and I didn't even know this. But Kelsey kind of discovered it through getting a medical exam and advice and blood work was that the iron deficiency was actually contributing to his night terrors quite a bit. And, you know, I do think that night terrors, I mean, they're very scary because it's like the child's just, like you said, inconsolable. And, you know, I do think that a medical examination and blood work is really what you want to do. Kids can also have nightmares. And so you do want to be you know, kids get sick. Kids have, you know, vomiting or diarrhea or, you know, horrible virus or, you know, there are going to be times when you're going to have to go up in the room. You're going to have to help your child. You might have to lay down with them or stay in their room or help them and in a lot of different ways and night terrors or something that you can't just ignore. I mean, the child is really going through something whether whatever the cause. So staying with them state, making sure they're safe and trying to figure out what is contributing to it, I think is really key.

Kelsey: Yeah. Night terrors like Lincoln were not even like he wasn't even there. Like he wasn't. You couldn't talk to him. Like, it wasn't like a child that was inconsolable and was like, because you weren't there. So I finally found there was nothing that would snap him out, my voice wouldn't snap him out and you could, like, touch him and, like, nothing would snap him out of it. But I found a song that would snap him out of it. So we would play the song and snap them out of it, and then he'd go right back to sleep before we figured out what was causing them. But one thing the pediatrician also did tell me is some kids who have night terrors have them at the same time every night, maybe from one in the morning or midnight. So if you can notice, if there's a time pattern waking them up directly before the night terror happens to kind of break their sleep cycle of that can help Lincoln's was non predictable what time it would be at. Probably because of his deficiencies and it was an actual medical issue but they did say try waking them right before it happens. If it happens at the same time every night and I have had a client who did work where he woke them up 10 minutes before the regular time, and they stopped having them.

Mary: Learn something new every day. Okay. Well, I think those are five questions and answers regarding sleep. Hopefully that was helpful for you. All the show notes will be at This is part of our Top Five Questions series, which we are doing, you know, once, twice a month whenever we get a topic and some questions, I think it's a really good opportunity for us to dive deeper. And I think hopefully it's helpful to both parents and professionals. So if it is, we would love it if you would go on Apple Podcasts or wherever you're listening. Leave us a review and a rating. Let us know. Email us back through our emails. Just hit reply. Let us know if something's super helpful. We all love positive reinforcement. It keeps us going and it also helps us know what's resonating with you and what's not. So keep us posted. Good luck. We do also have a sleep guide and that is available at So you may want to check that out. Also chapter chapter 11. Okay. Chapter 11 of the book on sleep as well. Okay. So I hope you enjoyed it. Catch you next time. Thanks a lot for joining us. Kelsey, you had very valuable feedback for us.

Kelsey: Thanks.

Mary: If you're a parent or an autism professional and enjoy listening to this podcast, you have to come check out my online course and community where we take all of this material and we apply it. You'll learn life changing strategies to get your child or clients to reach their fullest potential. Join me for a brief online workshop at workshop where you can learn. How to avoid common mistakes. You can see videos of me working with kids with and without autism, and you can learn more about joining my online course and community at a very special discount. Once again, go to for all the details. I hope to see you there.