Behavioral parent training to address sleep disturbances in young children with autism spectrum disorder: A pilot trial



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

Sleep Medicine





First Page


Last Page





Autism, Autism spectrum disorders, Bedtime problems, Parent training, Sleep, Sleep disturbances, Sleep problems


Objectives: A large percentage of children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) have bedtime and sleep disturbances. However, the treatment of these disturbances has been understudied. The purpose of our study was to develop a manualized behavioral parent training (BPT) program for parents of young children with ASD and sleep disturbances and to test the feasibility, fidelity, and initial efficacy of the treatment in a small randomized controlled trial (RCT). Participants and methods: Parents of a sample of 40 young children diagnosed with ASD with an average age of 3.5. years were enrolled in our study. Participants were randomized to either the BPT program group or a comparison group who were given nonsleep-related parent education. Each participant was individually administered a 5-session program delivered over the 8-week study. Outcome measures of feasibility, fidelity, and efficacy were collected at weeks 4 and 8 after the baseline time point. Children's sleep was assessed by parent report and objectively by actigraphy. Results: Of the 20 participants in each group, data were available for 15 participants randomized to BPT and 18 participants randomized to the comparison condition. Results supported the feasibility of the manualized parent training program and the comparison program. Treatment fidelity was high for both groups. The BPT program group significantly improved more than the comparison group based on the primary sleep outcome of parent report. There were no objective changes in sleep detected by actigraphy. Conclusions: Our study is one of few RCTs of a BPT program to specifically target sleep disturbances in a well-characterized sample of young children with ASD and to demonstrate the feasibility of the approach. Initial efficacy favored the BPT program over the comparison group and suggested that this manualized parent training approach is worthy of further examination of the efficacy within a larger RCT. © 2013 Elsevier B.V.

Open Access

Green Accepted