Why does my autistic child like to be alone?

If it seems like your autistic child likes to be alone, you may be worried. You want your child to be social, to take what they’re learning in therapy and in the classroom and to apply it in real life, in real time.

Whether or not you’re autistic, consider your own needs. Isn’t it just nice having time to be alone sometimes? To recharge, decompress, with no interruptions and no demands? Isn’t it nice to have quiet periods of time to yourself? Isn’t it a great way, whether you’re a natural introvert or extrovert, to feel like you can breathe by yourself and just look after your own wants and needs?

Your child is no different.

In fact, it’s been proven that alone time is beneficial for kids with autism, something they’ll crave and need even as they grow into adulthood. There’s something to be said about being with oneself where there is no interruption; it’s a space where your child can feel entirely comfortable because there, they can choose what they want to do and when and how.

So alone time for your child isn’t to be feared – it’s to be supported, even if it’s just for an hour or two a day.

And here’s why.

For one, when a child with autism becomes overwhelmed with sensory input and social interactions, it can be intense and very difficult. They can be very distressed at the end of the day (or well before). It could be that they’ve been in bright lights all day, around larger than usual crowds, or in new, uncomfortable places where they’ve been thrown out of their routine, like a doctor’s appointment or the first day of a new class in a new school.

Another reason is that alone time gives them a place to recharge. When your child can reset alone, they can process their emotions and thoughts better. For many autistic kids, it’s a stress release to be alone, a time to shed whatever anxious thoughts built up during the day. Kids might want to play with their favorite toys, color, watch a favorite show, or just sit and listen to music. Or they may opt to do nothing. It’s the quietness and aloneness that counts.

Kids who seek alone time may find being alone to feel safer than being with others, especially if it’s a room or environment they’re familiar with and love. In these spaces they know they can expect much of the same – lights can be controlled, the colors never change, and the temperature is theirs to set. Here, they’re surrounded with what feels good, and what can be expected.

When your child wants to be alone, don’t consider it a rejection of you, or that treatment must not be working. For them, it’s a necessary break, a time to reduce their overload and a way for them to refocus – so that they can engage and regulate better, when they’ve finally decided to peek out of their safe space.

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