In this episode of Parenting Impossible, host Annette Hines talks to sleep consultant Melissa Doman. For more than ten years, Melissa has worked with special needs families who are fed up with sleepless nights and are ready to find solutions despite being told there’s nothing that can be done about their child’s sleep problems.  

Annette and Melissa begin their discussion with an explanation of “sleep training” and how it can benefit special needs children in particular. Melissa breaks down the importance of using techniques  other than medication  to build new sleep routines and habits. They also touch on the added difficulties that come with seizures and the connection they have to sleep. 

Melissa combines the Doman Method with the Sleep Sense Program created by Dana Obleman to help kids with special needs develop independence within their bedtime routine, no matter their diagnosis or age. This process of neuro-rehabilitation usually takes about three weeks, but in the end, both the child and their family members or caregivers will have improved the quality of their sleep. 

With the onset of COVID-19, anxiety has increased for a number of families and their special needs children, and sleep has become an issue for kids who previously slept well. Melissa addresses certain fears that these children face and uses checklists to ensure consistency that can help ease their stress. 

Melissa’s top three tips for families with special needs children who struggle to sleep are: 

  1. Don’t skimp out on bedtime  earlier is always better than later. 
  2. Have a consistent bedtime routine that incorporates whatever physical or tactile needs your child has. 
  3. Encourage independence as much as possible, and sleep quality will improve. 

Annette’s advice? Don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. You don’t have to suffer alone night after night.

Melissa lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but she provides services and information for families across the country virtually and in her blog

Annette Hines has been practicing in the areas of Special Needs, Elder Law, and Estate Planning for more than 20 years. Ms. Hines brings personal experience with special needs to her practice and podcasts as the mother of two daughters, one of whom passed away from Mitochondrial disease in November 2013. This deep, personal understanding of special needs fuels her passion for quality special needs planning and drives her dedication to help others within the special needs community.