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Sleep therapy may help children with autism.

Sleep therapy may help children with autism.

Affecting one in 50 children born in the United States, according to recent government statistics, autism is a complex behavioral disorder that can affect cognitive development in many ways. There is no cure for this condition, but public awareness of autism is growing and research efforts continue to reveal new alternative treatment methods to address its symptoms.

Previously on this blog, we've touched on the specialized diets and therapy styles that have shown some success in this area. Treatment methods that focus on sensory experience, for example, were linked to "positive clinical outcomes," a University of California, Irvine, study indicated earlier this year.

Now, a joint effort among researchers from Vanderbilt University, the University of Colorado Denver and the University of Toronto has revealed that autistic children and their families may also benefit from comprehensive sleep therapy.

"We found that one hour of one-on-one sleep education or four hours of group sleep education delivered to parents, combined with two brief follow-up phone calls, improved sleep as well as anxiety, attention, repetitive behavior and quality of life in children with [autism] who had difficulty falling asleep," said Vanderbilt University professor and lead author  Dr. Beth Malow in a press release distributed by ScienceDaily.

The education sessions reportedly covered techniques like introducing a visual aid to lay out a child's sleep schedule. Various habits that have been shown to promote restive slumber were also discussed. Targeting certain areas such as autism and nutrition or sleep can help families better understand and address the many unique challenges posed by this condition.