Autism & the need to be alone

In life, we all prefer that time where we can be alone, gather our thoughts and have some silence, especially when life is a little hectic. For Neurodiverse people, it can be a little more than that, and it can be an actual need.

On a particularly busy day – from going out in public to having a full on day at school/work, it can really impact an Autistic persons wellness. They could need some time alone after this to recover from Sensory overload and self-regulate. This is one that I am fully aware of, as Grace needs at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted alone time when she gets home from school, she comes to us when she feels that period is over, and we respect that.

Many Autistic people may also need alone time to help prepare them for things, such as social situations that are planned. They could use this time to plan what they will say and do socially, or simply use it to keep themselves calm and self-regulated.  

Some autistic people may prefer to spend time alone in order to prevent them from forming friendships and relationships – in a way to protect themselves from social awkwardness and fear of failure. Also, they will not have to remember any social cues, eye contact, or think of ways to keep a conversation – all the things that can make socialising painful and exhausting. One way to think of it, is to manually do something and be alert for an entire conversation, but imagine having conversations with multiple people or be in a group format – it can be extremely hard to follow everyone’s body language, facial expressions and still comprehend what they are saying.

Quite simply – many autistic people prefer to be alone because they can control everything – the lighting, the sound, the temperature – everything that can make them uncomfortable and irritated, they are able to control to make them feel that more settled and safe in their own environment.

In terms of work and schooling, some neurodiverse people can actually prefer to be alone as they may have something called ‘Hyperfocus’ and work really well on their own once they get into the swing of things – working in a team or having people around them can actually be a huge distraction and be very frustrating for them.

Overall, it is mostly about recovering from being social or even masking. As an undiagnosed Autistic (on pathway) I get this – if I have been around people other people for over 2 hours, I need some time to decompress, be on my own and relax. I need that time to just have silence, think about and do what I want for a while, rather than have an agenda that I need to do with family, friends or with Grace.

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