Some children, and adults as well, gather strength in private alone time. Solitude can feel good to these individuals, so they seek it.
But this can lead parents, especially those that feel a personal need to be socially active, into the throngs of concern, “My kids do not want to socialize. They are happy being alone. Should I force socialization?”
We understand that a child’s desire for aloneness can present real concerns for parents, but rather than forcing socialization (which does not work), here are some key points to consider:
- Do you want to change your child’s personality? Some individuals are introverts, some are extroverts, and either personality type can develop and grow in their own space.
- Is your child happy and fulfilled, or are they lonely and depressed and avoid socialization because they either cannot handle social situations (i.e., feel pressured, stressed, or anxious) or do not know how to interact with others?
- Does your child’s alone time recharge them so that they feel ready to reconnect with others?
- Does your child’s alone time give them space to process the world and to feel safe, secure, and ready to grow and learn more?
This list could be limitless, but we’ll stop here. The point is that there are many layers to consider when we compare the desire for solitude with the want or ability to socialize. Either can be a precursor to growth and development in children.
The Many Benefits of Alone Time
In her study findings, Florence Neville, autistic Health and Wellbeing Ph.D. student, identifies areas in which alone time can help individuals, especially autistics.
Florence defines alone time as when you are by yourself and you will not be interrupted by others, in a space where you are comfortable, and you are able to choose what you do in the time and space.
Aloneness while immersed in your own activities, allows you to:
- React to, and process, social and sensory overwhelm
- Retreat and recover from social and sensory distraction
- Regulate, relax, and recharge
- Become ready to reconnect with others
Can we readily process our world when we feel overwhelmed? No. Autistic or not. Adulting and independent life require the ability to react to situations properly, manage feelings of overwhelm, recover from distractions, regulate, and return to a mode with diminished stress.
“Spending time alone in your own company reinforces your self-worth and it is often the number-one way to replenish your resilience reserves.” – Sam Owen
Forced Socialization Inhibits Dynamic Intelligence
Forced socialization can make a person feel miserable, especially when it is forced upon a child. It can leave the child feeling alienated and insecure. This prohibits social growth and development.
RDI® is not a process that forces socialization. It supports quality of life and a learning environment through everyday life activities between the parent and the child, and in the natural family home.
Our focus is on the six areas of dynamic intelligence, which helps the child not only feel more comfortable in social situations but also equips them to communicate and develop independence.
The Six Areas of Dynamic Intelligence Are:
The ability to ‘read’ and learn from the emotional experiences of others.
The ability to observe others and self-regulate behavior in order to participate in social relationships.
The ability to use language and non-verbal language for expression, interaction, and the sharing of feelings and ideas with others.
The ability to adapt when life’s circumstances change.
Relational Information Processing
The ability to think situations through, to obtain solutions, when there are no “right or wrong” answers.
Foresight and Hindsight
The ability to reflect on past experiences and use them as a tool to anticipate potential future scenarios.
These areas of emotional intelligence are important to the quality of life and independence in all people (not just autistics). Achievement in each of these areas is not dependent upon how much socialization the individual is involved with, nor how much time the person enjoys or spends alone.
Forced socialization, much like forced therapy, creates a roadblock that inhibits natural communication and development. It creates stress and anxiety, and it promotes the thought that a child (or any person) must change to fit in. It becomes painful and overwhelming and can lead to poor mental health.
Connection and Support
Finding peace and contentment, when in solitude (or not), is crucial for children, but also for people of all ages.
You may be wondering, “How do I know what will work for my autistic child and my family?” You aren’t alone in this process, the RDI® Online Learning Community can give you the support and resources your family needs.
The Community offers the most up-to-date autism research and exclusive RDI® tools, resources, articles, and presentations, as well as support from real people – RDI® professionals, adults on the autism spectrum, and other parents just like you.