“Struggles reading social cues” or “not talking as much with other children” are common indicators of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). So is “difficulty cooperating with others” and other signs that paint a picture of an anti-social or introverted child.
However, many children with ASD, especially those who are considered high-functioning, are very social indeed - and that is a struggle for an introverted parent.
Parents who are less social or identify as introverts find it challenging to meet the energy demands of a chatty, social child. This is true whether or not your child has ASD.
Here are tips on what to do when a child with ASD is social - and you are not. Not only is striking a balance essential for the health of your family culture, but it's also important that your child learns to read and respect cues from other peers and adults who aren’t as talkative or outgoing as they are.
Schedules and routines are important for any household, especially for autistic individuals who get agitated or upset when a routine is disrupted. Use your household schedule as a built-in tool for your own self-care and quiet time, which also benefits your child.
This might mean that you schedule 15 minutes of quiet time in the morning, another session of quiet time when everyone arrives home from work and school (perhaps they read a book or get screen time during this session), and then again as part of the evening wind down. The length of time will vary over the years, so they should be age-appropriate and make sense for the general rhythm of the average weekday/weekend.
This is a good opportunity to explain that there are up and down rhythms in a day and that the down times are healthy for the brain to feel rested, alert, and at its best. Quiet time is also a space for your child to practice self-soothing strategies, independent play, and recover from sensory overload that may internalize, going unaddressed in an extroverted child.
Often, social children with ASD get very hurt feelings when a less-social peer or adult gives them the brush-off. They may internalize it as “they don’t like me,” or, “they would talk to me if I weren’t ‘different,’” when in fact, it’s just the need of any introvert.
You have the chance to model and teach them what it’s like. Use examples from their own life, “you know how you get upset when you don’t get the orange squares for a snack at 2:00? Well, I get that same feeling inside when I need to have quiet time, and someone keeps talking at me.”
Model what the body language and words look and sound like when someone needs alone time:
The more they know how to recognize when it’s time to talk excitedly about their favorite things and when it’s time to join someone in quiet play or shared silent activities benefit them for the rest of their lives.
We know this may sound like the exact opposite of what you want to do as someone who isn’t as fond of social groups. However, joining a support group may actually gain you far more kid-free and quiet time than you think.
Whether your child is obsessed with legos and engineering, can recite an infinite string of galaxies in alphabetical order, or is crazy about plants or animals - there’s bound to be a children’s group in your community that honors that.
Your ASD support group will have tons of references. Also look for after-school programs, clubs, and related organizations and see what you can find if your child with ASD is social. Team sports, swimming, children’s performing arts groups, and music lessons - all are opportunities for at least an hour or several per week that you have time to yourself.
Do not feel guilty. Parenting is hard work, and the energetic/verbal output required from those of us who need quiet, solo time is one of the hardest parts of the job. There is nothing wrong with you. You are not selfish. Your needs are perfectly normal and deserve to be met.
Contact us here at the Autism Response Team. Not only will you receive a wealth of support, but our behavioral specialists can also provide age- and individually-tailored tips and suggestions for how to balance quiet time and social time in your life. It’s time for you to recharge!