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Parental reports of symptoms and treatment of sleep problems in children with autism or pervasive pevelopmental disorder Russell, Rachel

Abstract

This study examined parental reports of sleep problems in children with autism or Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD) first purpose of this investigation was to describe, through parent report, the types of sleep symptoms experienced by children with autism or PDD. Secondly, this study investigated whether specific types of treatments were tried to treat particular sleep symptoms. In addition, through parent report, this study examined whether particular sleep symptoms were successfully treated by specific treatment types. Parent participants (N=52) who had children aged 3 to 11 with a diagnosis of autism or PDD completed a questionnaire regarding their child's sleep history, specific sleep symptoms, assessment and treatment history. Information was also gathered on parent reports of treatment effectiveness for specific sleep symptoms. Of the 52 participants, 40 (76.9%) reported their child had experienced a past or present sleep problem. The six main symptoms for children with a past or present sleep problem were, 'trouble falling asleep' (62.5%), 'waking to engage in disruptive or self-stimulatory behavior (60.0%) 'sleeps less than other children their age' (30.0%), 'gets less than 6 hours of sleep in a 24 hour period' (20.0%), 'sleeps in my room now' (17.5%) and requires medication to sleep (17.5%). The symptom, 'waking to engage in disruptive or self-stimulatory behavior' was revealed from information volunteered by parent participants during data collection. This symptom was not part of the initial assessment tool used in the questionnaire. As participants did not have an opportunity to select this symptom during the assessment of their child's sleep problem as it was volunteered by some parents, the frequency of this sleep symptom may be underreported. When treatment effectiveness for specific sleep symptoms was examined, the hormone melatonin was frequently reported by parents as an effective treatment for all of the six main sleep symptoms. The behavioral technique, 'extinction' was also reported by parents as an effective treatment for the symptom, 'waking to engage in disruptive and self-stimulatory behavior'. The behavioral technique, 'bedtime fading' was the next most effective treatment reported by parents for both of the symptoms, 'sleeps less than other children their age', and for, 'gets less than 6 hours sleep in a 24 hour period'. Results are discussed in relation to the literature on treatment effectiveness in conjunction with research areas that require future study.

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