An Entirely Online Intervention to Improve Sleep in Children with Autism

Beth Malow, M.D., M.S.
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center Investigator; Burry Chair in Cognitive Childhood Development; Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics; Director, Vanderbilt Sleep Disorders Division

Research supported with a grant from the Autism Intervention Network on Physical Health (AIRP)

– Hello, I’m Dr. Beth Malow, and I want to tell you a little bit about our research project today. Starting with the purpose of my research, we are trying to test a totally online multimedia toolkit to improve sleep in children with autism. And what we’re doing is we’re studying whether adding a video and tip sheets to a pamphlet makes a difference in helping kids sleep. We’re looking at sleep habits. We’re looking at sleep patterns. We’re even looking at parenting sense of competence. And the toolkit covers all elements of sleep, anything from good daytime habits such as getting sufficient light and exercise, to what happens at bedtime, getting the electronics out of the room, making sure the child has a calming, soothing, bedtime routine. The reason I’m engaging in this research is because I wanna find out if educational materials can help families teach their children to sleep. It’s so hard to get help sometimes with sleep, and if we can give it to the families directly, get it in the hands of the families in their own homes, wouldn’t that be amazing? And it’s also, I have to admit, exciting to do a totally online study, whether it’s electronic consenting or filling out surveys online, or viewing the educational materials that we’re testing online. We had designed this before COVID. We didn’t know that we were gonna be having to deal with COVID, but we have not had to curtail our enrollment or any of the study procedures because everything is being done in the home, so it’s totally online, so that’s been a big relief. And I think families have been pleased with the support provided and also how easy it is to do the study. And finally, the outcomes of this research, I think it will help families ’cause we’ll know if they can do this online viewing of materials and if it will help their children sleep. Beyond that, I think it will also help the field of developmental disabilities because there may be some other research projects that we can also do entirely online. So I’m hoping we can advance the field of developmental disabilities research even further.

For more information on VKC-affiliated research studies, visit
Vanderbilt Kennedy Center (VKC) Research Briefs are a series of 2- to 3-minute videos during which VKC members and investigators share exciting details and promise of new research opportunities in accessible “plain language.”

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