The purpose of this paper is to explore the role of fathers in the management of sleeping problems in children with autism and their perspectives of the impact of these difficulties on family life.
Semi-structured interviews with 25 UK-based fathers of children with autism were undertaken.
Two-thirds of fathers reported that their children experienced severe sleeping problems in the areas of bed-time resistance, sleep onset and night-time waking. Fathers were significantly involved in the management of these difficulties and reported a range of associated deleterious impacts on the family, including significant negative effects on paternal and maternal health, father’s employment, couple relationship and sibling experiences.
The interview sample cannot be said to be representative of all fathers of children with autism since the backgrounds of those taking part were relatively homogeneous in respect of ethnicity, marital status and level of education.
Improvements in effective, family-centred provision are urgently needed which employ a co-parenting, gender-differentiated methodology.
Given the severity and frequency of difficulties, sleeping problems in children with autism should be viewed as a significant public health concern.