If there’s one thing I’ve learnt over the last few years from both my daughter and my students, it’s that alone time can have huge benefits. As much as I want my daughter and students to have friends and to interact with others, I have come to realise that alone time can be every bit as valuable.
Sometimes we need to sit back and look at the bigger picture. Social Interaction is important, but so is time to self regulate, to regroup and to truly be yourself.
Here are the reasons why:
Alone time provides space to recharge.
Time with others can be overwhelming for many young people on the spectrum. Constantly trying to figure out what is expected of them, struggling to read the facial expressions of others and follow both the implied and overt instructions in the environment can be exhausting. Time out by themselves gives them time to regroup, meaning that they are more able to cope when they return to a situation.
Alone time can help to reduce the risk of a meltdown.
When anxiety and/ or anger and frustration kick in, being around others can quickly add to the tension. Time alone doing a preferred activity can really help some young people to regulate their emotions much more quickly than being surrounded by others. For those who exhibit a fight or flight response, allowing them that flight time is much less likely to result in a fight response.
Alone time allows for greater concentration.
When senses are heightened it can be difficult to concentrate in a room full of people, and whilst it’s a skill that some students want to work on there are times when doing so becomes too difficult for them. If they are doing an exam or a piece of work they feel is particularly important some may asked to be able to work in a room on their own. Whilst a balance should be sought to avoid isolation rather than inclusion, it should be remembered that particularly in times of anxiety for short periods of time this can bring benefits to the students.
Alone time allows time to be yourself.
As society we have expectations about how others should behave, if for whatever reason you don’t fit into that box – especially as a teenager – the world can be an unforgiving place. For those children who mask their true self throughout much of the day because they desperately want to fit in with their peers, time alone can give them chance to be their true selves. For some time alone may be a change to engage in self stimulators behaviours, like spinning or flapping, for others it may be a chance to indulge in a special interest that they might not want to share with friends. Above all it’s an opportunity not to feel as though they have to pretend, and that is important.
Alone time helps keep friendships.
Part of making and maintaining friendships – and indeed relationships of any kind – is knowing when to step forward and when to step back. Interacting at times when they are not in the right place can cause more difficulties and make children reluctant to interact in the future. Teaching them that it’s ok to spend time alone when you don’t feel like being around people can be really useful skill.
What benefits of being alone do you see in your children and/ or students?
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