Contrary to the song lyrics “It’s the hap-happiest time of the year,” children with autism experience significant stress with the holidays and often times as a result of that stress the whole family does as well. Between Halloween, my son’s birthday in November, Thanksgiving and Christmas, it seems like an endless stream of activities. One of the aspects of autism that we need to remember is that our kids need time alone to decompress from a changed schedule and sensory overload that comes with the holidays.
Recently, I interviewed Trevor Pacelli, the author of “Six Word Lessons on Growing up Autistic.” His perspective helped me look at my own son’s behavior and my need to see things from that perspective. Trevor offered the following insights, based on his own experience growing up autistic, on the importance of alone time:
Most autistic kids need time alone.
I have always felt that having time by myself helps me unwind and smell the petunias. But this doesn’t mean I’m anti-social. I still enjoy the company of friends and family, just not as much as most people.
Some actually prefer to be alone.
While I do not necessarily always want to be alone, I still feel much more sustainable with myself and able to unleash my emotions when I am on my own. Others who are like me may also feel happier when alone.
Balance solo activities with parental interaction.
While it was easy for my parents to leave me alone to play when I was young, part of my speech and language therapy was for them to actually play with me and talk to me in specific ways that taught me to communicate better. It just needs to be balanced with needed time alone.
They need to vent their problems.
Some may have to explain what’s troubling them immediately to others. But it has always been important to me to have some time alone for a while to reflect over what is bothering me before expressing it verbally.
If you find your child’s behavior is escalating in negative ways, it might just be a signal that your child requires some much-needed time alone. We instituted “silly breaks” at our house where my son can go to his room and act however he wants for those 10 minutes. This is also a great time for me as a parent to meditate, make a cup of herbal tea or prepare some other activity that constitutes “alone time” for me.