For Children & Teenagers with Sleep Difficulties

Welcome To SleepAbility

SleepAbility is a therapy and education service developed by Annie O’Connell that aims to improve sleep for children and teenagers and their families.

Sleep is an essential part of everyone’s daily routine and strongly related to quality of life, learning, health and emotional well-being.

Sleep, like diet and exercise, helps us to grow, recover from the wear and tear of daily life and build immunity.

While sleeping, the brain sorts and stores memories for future learning.

Over 80% of children and teenagers with developmental disabilities have disturbed sleep that affects their development, daytime behaviour (hyperactivity, mood swings, lethargy, aggression & self-injury), learning and health.

A child’s inadequate sleep can have a large impact on the whole family with increased emotional and physical stress. Sleep deprived parents and carers find it harder to manage family and work commitments. Parent’s own health can be greatly impacted by poor sleep.

For some children, sleep improves with age. Others continue to experience sleep disturbance into their school years.

SleepAbility can help families to develop better sleeping patterns for their children with a family centered individualised sleep plan.


Sleep Education

One of the first steps in improving your child’s sleep is to understand typical sleep.

There are developmental changes in sleep patterns over our life span.

There is a gradual reduction in the amount of daily sleep from babies to older adults but considerable variation.

The sleep-wake pattern is circadian rhythm that needs to be reset every 24 hours and linked to a neuro-hormone melatonin.

Sleep cycles through the night through the sleep stages of light and deep sleep (Non Rapid Eye Movement) and dream sleep (Rapid Eye Movement).

Lack of adequate sleep impacts on our emotional wellbeing, learning, behaviour, sensory processing and physical co-ordination.

There are many factors related to the child, family and environment that can impact on sleep.

Attending a Sleep Education session may help to unravel your child’s sleep pattern and the factors influencing sleep.

Check out session times and venues below.

Venue: TBA


Individual & Family

SleepAbility Intervention for Individuals and Families

Research has shown that the best outcomes for a sleep intervention are gained through.

  • Sleep education with parents and carers.

  • Completion of a sleep diary.

  • A detailed sleep interview (often 1-2 hours) with medical review if required.

  • Developing a unique sleep plan for the child, reflecting family preferences using a range of communication, sensory and behavioural approaches.

  • Ongoing review with changes to the sleep plans as needed.

    Many children and teenagers sleep disturbances have occurred for a long time so changes in sleep may take several weeks or months.

    Depending on the child’s need, families may wish a more gradual plan especially when there multiple sleep disturbances, complex medical conditions and severe anxiety.

    While face to face meetings are preferred for the sleep education session and sleep interview (in home or community center), the development and review of the sleep plan can occur via skype or telephone.


    Professional Development

    Professional Development and Training

    SleepAbility Promoting Positive Sleep Practices in
    Children & Adolescents with Developmental Disabilities

    Two Day Training:

    Sleep disturbance in children and adolescents with developmental disabilities has been clearly linked to reduced daytime functioning, increased problematic behaviour and increased family stress levels.

    Research has identified that sleep disturbance is highly prevalent and persistent among young people with developmental disabilities and professional intervention is needed.

    Allied health professionals working with children and adolescents are invited to attend a two day training program addressing sleep disturbance. It is essential to attend both days.

    Workshop Content:

    The workshop will cover typical sleep, sleep disturbance, communication, sensory and behavioural strategies to address sleep disturbance, positive sleep practices, case studies, developing and monitoring a sleep plan, sleep research results, running sleep education workshops and viewing parent digital stories.

    At the end of the training participants will be familiar with the resources required to conduct educational workshops for parents and/or work individually with families.

    Learning Outcomes:

    Workers who undertake training will be able to:
    • Understand the stages and cycles of sleep and need for sleep.
    • Interpret sleep diaries.
    • Appraise a sleep history.
    • Identify possible sleep disturbance.
    • Recognise indicators for referral to specialised services.
    • Consider a child and family’s readiness to commence intervention to reduce sleep disturbance.
    • Review strategies to reduce sleep disturbance.
    • Develop a sleep plan based on communication, sensory and behavioural strategies.
    • Set sleep goals.
    • Monitor and adapt a sleep plan.

    Next training

    2018 Training

    1.  Where: Adelaide, SA. Date: 8th & 9th February 2018 hosted by Develop Therapy Services - contact 08 8346 4580 or

    2. Where: Sydney, NSW. Date: 3rd & 4th May 2018 hosted by Occupational Therapy Australia (NSW & ACT) -

    2017 Training

    1. Where: Adelaide, SA. Date: Thursday 19th & Friday 20th January 2017 hosted by SleepAbility - contact Annie at or 0418 802224

    2. Where: Melbourne, Victoria. Date: 3rd & 4th March 2017 hosted by Occupational Therapy Australia (Vic) -

    3. Where: Sydney, NSW.  Date 28th &29th June 2017 hosted by Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Fully booked

    4. Where: Adelaide, SA. Date 11th & 12th October hosted by Develop Therapy Services. contact 214 8356 4580

    2016 Training

    1. Where: East Gosford, NSW. Date: Thursday 14 & Friday 15th April 2016 hosted by Yarran

    2. Where: Catherine Fields, West Sydney, NSW. Date: Monday 18th & Tuesday 19th April 2016 hosted by Macarthur Early Childhood Intervention Service. Cost $400, Students $300.
      Contact Ellissa Fry on or 46289332

    3. 3. Where: Adelaide, S.A.  Date: Tuesday 12th & Wednesday 13th  July 2016 hosted by Occupational Therapy Australia (SA) information available For training details contact Annie at or 0418 802224 

    2015 Training

    1. Where: Melbourne. Date: Tuesday 7th & Wednesday 8th April 2015 hosted by Cerebral Palsy Education Center

    2. Where: Adelaide. Date: Monday 10th & Tuesday 11th August 2015 hosted by SleepAbility

    3. Where: Melbourne. Date:Thursday 3rd & Friday 4th September 2015 hosted by Norparrin, Melbourne City Mission

    4. Where: Maitland, NSW.   Date: Thursday 24th & Friday 25th September 2015 hosted by Early Links Inclusion Support 

    Annie on PH: 0418 802 224 Or Email:

    SleepAbility- Sleep
    Snooze it or Lose it:

    Two hour Training

    Annie is available to present an introductory session for allied health professionals promoting adequate sleep for people across the life span.

    Session Content

    • Impact of inadequate sleep
    • Quantity& quality of sleep/sleepiness
    • Occupational role of sleep
    • Typical sleep cycles and stages
    • Sleep Disturbances
    • Framework to address adequate sleep
    • Resources/tools
    • Case Study
      Contact Annie to discuss the training needs of your organization or for a quote.


    Positive Sleep Practices for Teens

    Sleep Tips For Teens – What you can do to Sleep Better

    1.Follow a schedule where you have regular bed and wake times, even on weekends, so you stay in sync with your sleep-wake cycle.

    2.Try to get at least 8.5 hours of sleep each night, preferably around 9.25 hours. Time I will go to bed on school nights _______________ pm.

    3.Create your bedroom environment so that it is comfortable, relaxing, quiet, cool and dark. Try keeping the lights dim at night to prepare you for sleep. In the morning, bright light can help you become alert.

    4. It’s best to not use televisions, computers or do homework in your bedroom close to bedtime.   What’s in my bedroom that keeps me from sleeping:

    TV             Computer        Homework    Video games    
       Music   Phone     Lights        Pets         Other________

    sleeping child

    5. Set up a regular bedtime routine that helps you to fall asleep. This can include taking a warm bath or shower, reading something you enjoy, listening to music that is not too alerting or thinking pleasant thoughts. What I will do one hour before bed that is relaxing
    6. Your mattress and pillow(s) should be comfortable.

    7. Avoid caffeine (soda, energy drinks, coffee, tea, chocolate) close to bedtime. They can keep you awake.

    8. Avoid alcohol and nicotine.

    9. Don’t go to bed too hungry or too full. Try light, nutritious snacks.

    10. Exercise regularly to promote sleep, but complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.


    7 Good Reasons to Consider Your Childs Sleep

    Sleep disturbance is common. Up to 40% of children (babies to teenagers) experience sleep disturbance at some stage and up to 80% in children with developmental disabilities.

    Sleep disturbance can be long-term. While many children’s sleep improves with age, other children continue to have inadequate sleep into the school age years.

    Sleep disturbance in children impacts on the whole family. Parents and carers can be exhausted from sleepless nights and experience additional emotional and physical stress.

    Adequate sleep is essential for a child’s health and development. Lack of adequate sleep impacts on:

    • Emotional wellbeing (eg may lead to increased irritability, mood swings)

    • Learning (eg poor attention and concentration)

    • Behaviour (eg may cause sleepiness or hyperactivity during the day, aggressive or self- injury)

    • Sensory processing (eg increased sensitivity to noise)

    • Physical coordination (eg slower reaction time, poor stamina)

    Intervention can help. There is a growing body of knowledge and research that communication, sensory and behavioural strategies can promote adequate sleep in children and teenagers with and without disabilities. Specific sleep disorders may require medical intervention especially those related to breathing, movement during sleep, pain, epilepsy or severe anxiety.

    Sleep disturbance can be prevented. By promoting good sleep habits children and teenagers they can learn to sleep independently and improve the quality, quantity and timing of their sleep.

    SleepAbility can help you to understand typical sleep, assess the sleep disturbance and develop a unique sleep plan for your child. Ongoing support and monitoring can be provided while a positive sleep pattern is established.




    About Annie O`Connell

    Annie O’Connell is an Occupational Therapist with over 30 years of experience and has worked in a variety of paediatric settings in South Australia and overseas.

    In 2003 Annie completed her M.App.Sc (OT) by research investigating ‘Sleep Disturbance in Children with Autism and the use of a Waterbed’.

    From 2003 until 2015 Annie worked for Child and Youth Services, Disability Services, in South Australia leading the ‘Sleepwise project’ addressing sleep disturbance in young people with developmental disabilities.

    Two research grants from the Apex Foundation For Research Into Intellectual Disability Limited allowed the evaluation of the Sleepwise approach for children 2–6 years of age and 8–18 years of age.

    In 2008 Annie received the Department for Families and Communities Australia Day Award for Innovation for the Sleepwise Project.

    Annie was awarded a Churchill Fellowship in 2009 to further explore the management of sleep disturbance in the UK, USA and Canada.

    In 2010 Annie received the OT Australia SA (Australian Association of Occupational Therapists SA Inc) Achievement Award – Innovative Service Delivery (Individual).


    Publications & Reports

    Moss, Gordon & O’Connell (2014) “Impact of Sleepwise: An Intervention for Youth with Developmental Disabilities and Sleep Disturbance” Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders ,DOI 10.1007/s10803-014-2040-y

    Austin, Gordon & O'Connell (2012). "Preliminary evaluation of Sleepwise program for children with sleep disturbance and developmental delay " Child & Family Behavior Therapy .

    Department for Communities and Social Inclusions, Disability Service, (2012) Special Project Final Report Intervention for sleep disturbance in older children and adolescents (8-18 years) with developmental disabilities 2012.

    O'Connell (2009). "Addressing sleep disturbance in young children with developmental delay." Interconnection Quarterly Journal 2(2).

    O'Connell & Vannan (2008)."Sleepwise addressing sleep disturbance in young children with developmental delay." Australian Journal of Occupational Therapy 55: 212-214.

    Department for Families and Communities, Disability SA, (2006) Special Project Final Report Intervention for sleep disturbance in young children with developmental delay.

      IDSC. (2005). Sleepwise: A Resource Manual. Positive Sleep Practices for Young Children with Developmental Delay. Adelaide: Intellectual Disability Services Council Inc.


    Honours And Awards

    Department for Families and Communities Australia Day Award for Innovation


    Churchill Fellowship to travel overseas to research interventions for sleep disturbance with children with disabilities


    OT Australia SA (Australian Association of Occupational Therapists SA Inc) Achievement Award – Innovative Service Delivery (Individual)


    Referral Process

    SleepAbility has an open referral policy whereby referrals are accepted from the family, Specialist, GP or other health professionals.

    The referral should contain the following information:

    • WHO – child’s name, date of birth, address, contact details, parent or carers names.

    • WHY – reason for referral, presenting conditions,
      past Medical history

    • WHAT - need for intervention

    • HOW TO BE FUNDED – for example funded under Medicare, NDIA.

    A written referral is not required however any written reports or correspondence from other Professionals is always valuable.


    Rebate Details

    Rebates are available from:

    Disability Care Australia funding.  SleepAbility is a recognised provider under the National Disability Insurance Scheme – Disability Care Australia.  More information about this program is available from the National Disability Insurance Agency website.

    To check whether your child may be eligible for support through this program you can complete the "My Access" checker on the NDIA website. Please speak with your child’s Planner should you wish to utilise SleepAbility services under this funding.

    The SleepAbility intervention would include a 2 hour small group education session, sleep assessment and approximately 8-12 session to develop and implement the sleep plan.
    SleepAbility will provide intervention services to families in regional & remote locations if 4 or more families involved per visit. There is also an option of a Sykpe based intervention for regional families.

    Options could include:

    • Option A: Sleep education workshop and no followup

    • Option B: Sleep education workshop, home assessment and individual followup

    • Option C: Home assessment and individual followup

    • Option D: Regional visit plus follow up via Skype or phone.

    • Private health insurance Extras cover (if your cover includes Occupational Therapy). Please contact your provider to determine your allowances
    A Chronic Disease Management plan (formally Enhanced Primary Care Plan Item No. 10958) which is completed by your medical practitioner. The care plan can be made out to Occupational Therapy and the number of sessions indicated. The family is required to cover the gap payment. 

    Packages for children with Pervasive Developmental Disorders (Item No. 82010 & 82025) – a consultant paediatrician or psychiatrist is required to make the referral using a specified medicare format that details the number of occupational therapy sessions that can be provided.

    For children between 13 – 15 years the referring consultant paediatrician or psychiatrist must have claimed item 135 or 289. This entitlement is for 20 allied health sessions (non renewable) to be used before your child turns 16.

    Allied Mental Health Services (Item No. 80125, 80130, 80135, 80140, 80145)– a GP Mental Health Care Plan (Items 2719), referred psychiatrist assessment management plan (Items 291 or 293), and or relevant psychiatrist or paediatrician item must have been claimed. A note or letter from the referrer is required ( ie no specific referral form).


    Fee Structure

    The cost of sessions varies based on:
    • Education session 2 hours

    • Initial assessment 1.5 -2 hours

    • Plan and review sessions 45 minutes – 1 hour.

    • Additional charges are made for extended consultations.
    Type of session
    • Group interventions have a special rate (maximum of 4 parents/carers).

    • Individual assessments where a comprehensive report with recommendations is required incur additional fees.

    Services in home include a component of travel time The cost of the sessions will be confirmed prior to the first appointment and invoices issued on the day

    SleepAbility 2 Day Training

    Participants comments on pace and presentation style

    All good!; 2 days went well - after the first session I went home and reflected. Ready to learn more on day 2. Plenty of quality information covered in 2 days. Autism service Adelaide 2016.

    Annie was fantastic with the right balance of discussion, presentations, DVD and small group work. Participants early intervention program 2015.

    Good pace for me- was able to keep up; thought it was great having activities/discussion to break the learning up and keep my mind going. Autism service Adelaide 2016.

    What did you find most important to you in this training?

    I found the training offered me more confidence around offering support around sleep to the families I work with. Also offering various strategies that can be used around sleep. I can't wait to try some of the strategies in my own home. Participant SleepAbility training, Adelaide 2015.

    The background information to sleep eg cycles, melatonin, current strategies used; resources provided very valuable. Participant Childhood Early Intervention Service NSW 2016.

    A great explanation and exploration of various strategies. Honestly, I thought it was great! In the beginning I wondered why we were delving so deeply into 'what is sleep' but by the end of day 1 I totally see why we did and think it was definitely necessary. Participant Childhood Early Intervention Service NSW 2016.

    Presenting a range of approaches so that parents can choose what works for them. Fantastic - so much content. It was a huge gap in my skill base, I'm so thrilled I did the training. Participant Melbourne City Mission 2015.

    Thank you so much for a wonderful 2 days. I enjoyed the workshop; the presentation was excellent, clear and flowed well. The research was interesting and I appreciated the information they gave on the benefits of the Sleepwise Program. Thank you for sharing information and resources! I can't wait to share the information with families I work with. Participant Melbourne City Mission 2015.

    Pretty much all of it!. Interventions were great - look forward to using them. The ability to apply learnt knowledge immediately in workshops, increase transferability of skill to practice. Autism service Adelaide 2016.

    The importance of doing thorough sleep diaries and sleep interview to inform the strategies put in place. Participant SleepAbility training, Adelaide 2015.

    Multi factorial framework to assessment and management of sleep difficulties. Participant Melbourne 2015.

    Understanding sleep cycle, normal sleep hours for different ages. Participant SleepAbility training, Adelaide 2015.

    A more structure, comprehensive, ordered approach to sleep concerns. looking at more than one strategy and how to begin implementing/creating a sleep plan. Participant Melbourne City Mission 2015.

    The ability to apply learnt knowledge immediately in workshops, increase transferability of skill to practice. Participant Autism service Adelaide 2016.

    The real life examples, being able to relate it to actual situations. Participant Autism service Adelaide 2016.


    Contact -us

    PO Box 62
    Uraidla S.A 5142