Help! My child doesn’t (ever) sleep!

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My child didn’t sleep – and this continued well beyond her toddler years, until I found what works for our special needs family.

I was a sleeper; that’s what my mom tells me about my life as a baby. “You were so content! You’d sleep for 10 hours straight and take naps in the afternoon,” she said.

What to do when your child doesn't sleep
Photo by Kat Jayne on

When my beautiful, perfect daughter was born, I just knew she’d follow in my footsteps.

She screamed for hours on end

Oh, how wrong I was. The reality was that my daughter never slept. She would scream for hours straight, to the point where I thought I’d lose my mind.

“Colic,” the doctor said, “She’ll grow out of it.” I tried everything; warm baths, bouncers, singing, reading, rocking, walking, swinging, and the ‘cry it out’ method, but nothing worked.

I was chronically exhausted, and as a mom, I felt like a failure.

Medical professionals weren’t much help

At 18 months when speech regressed, I knew something was wrong. Fast forward through a gazillion tests and assessments, and we understood our daughter’s special needs were related primarily to Autism Spectrum Disorder, with a side of gross and fine motor delays, ADHD, and intellectual disability.

Enter the specialists. ALL the specialists. Surely, they would know how to help us with chronic sleep deprivation?

Outside of the typical advice of giving a nice warm bath, having set sleep and wake times, no one offered much advice, empathy, nor concern that my child’s challenges might be exacerbated by a chronic lack of sleep. It wasn’t until we did a sleep study that we gained some insight, but even that didn’t completely solve our sleep troubles.

Sleep troubles beyond the toddler years

The inability to sleep went way beyond the toddler years. As she grew older (7, 8, 9 years old) sleep problems remained. I can remember sleeping wherever she did; on the floor, the couch, in the kitchen…. if she wanted to lay down in a spot and sleep, that’s what we did. There came a point where it didn’t matter where we slept- so long as our family could get some sleep.


Using my social work background and my love of research, I began to discover a working sleep system through trial-and-error.

I learned that nearly 89% of parents who have a child with special needs report sleep difficulties. Most often these challenges include difficulty getting to sleep and middle-of-the night wake ups. In many cases, these challenges go far beyond the toddler years. For my family it was not only difficulty getting to sleep, but the 2am wake-ups for the day.

Use our roadmap to better sleep!

I am thrilled to report that after many sleepless years, our whole family has achieved better sleep using a multi-pronged approach. It’s a system that we’ve perfected over the last 3 years. Now you can learn how in our one-page (free) roadmap to sleep.   

I talk to other parents about ways to achieve better sleep as a guest on LakiKid's Podcast, Ask an Autism Mom, check it out! Click To Tweet

More resources from TIL

Roadmap to Better Sleep
Learn how much sleep our kids need
Foods that support sleep
Blue light and sleep

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