additional needs

Scope Launches New Sleep Right Service for Children with Additional Needs

Helping children with additional needs and their parents get a better night’s rest

Sleep Right is a new service run by disability equality charity Scope that supports parents of children with additional needs, aged two to 18, who are experiencing sleep issues.

Most families with babies and young children will experience sleepless nights at some stage. Disabled children, however, are more likely to experience unsettled sleep, with figures estimating 60% to 80% of disabled children not managing to get the sleep they need.

The service is headed by Maxine McCulloch, herself a mother of a disabled boy. Maxine says: “I know too well how the effects of continual sleepless nights can impact on the entire family.

“George, was three when he decided that 3am was the time to get up each day. Luckily I had just completed my Sleep Practitioner training so knew what I needed to do.

“The Sleep Right team are there to support families just like mine and I know how important that support is. I urge any parent whose disabled child is having sleep problems to get in touch with Sleep Right.”

There are many conditions that can affect sleep. The below examples are just some of the ways the Sleep Right team has been able to help children with additional needs relax and be at ease for a restful night.

Sleep apnoea

For a child with sleep apnoea, the team would support the parents to look at the routine around bedtime. By making the lead up to bedtime as calm and melatonin productive as possible, children can feel more relaxed about bedtime and even those intrusive machines that assist with breathing.

Hearing impairment

Sometimes conditions can affect our little ones in ways we never would have thought of.  Something like hearing impairment can make children feel more anxious at night. After a conversation with a Mum whose daughter had a hearing impairment, it became clear her daughter was worried  Mum wouldn’t be there in the morning.

The Sleep Right team introduced an object of reference and asked Mum to buy a teddy and keep the teddy with her to ensure her daughter could see that the teddy was important to her. After a week Mum offered the teddy to her daughter to look after overnight but told her daughter she must take it back in the morning. The reason behind this is: children don’t always understand how important they are to us, but they see us worrying over objects such as phones, keys etc. This may never have occurred to the mother who was no doubt certain it was obvious she cared for her daughter and would, of course, be there in the morning.

Autism

Children with Autism may suffer from anxiety so routines and the security of knowing what’s happening next can help to alleviate those feelings. The Sleep Right service works with the family to see if they can find some key triggers of anxiety. Anxiety is often around school so the team ensures that any conversations about school happen in the early evening.  They encourage children to spend time engaged in relaxing activities before bedtimes like drawing, threading beads or anything that involves hand-eye coordination so that the child has to concentrate on what they are doing. A calm and relaxing bedtime routine would follow.

While conditions may have similar characteristics each child and family is different. The home environment, child’s age, culture and tradition, family dynamics and siblings can all be factors that need to be considered when helping a family find a peaceful nights rest.

Families are supported by a sleep practitioner who understands first hand, what they’re experiencing. If you need help from a Sleep Right practitioner, you can refer yourself by visiting https://www.scope.org.uk/sleep-right

If you know a family who has a child with a disability or sensory issue and is struggling with sleep, please share this vital service with them. It is sometimes difficult to know everything that is available to you as a parent with a child who has additional needs.

 

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