After going to four parties, the zoo and fairyland during the break, Mychi and I realized a few things. When there are a lot of social activities/parties, Collin needs his alone time, a quiet space and/or mini-breaks during and after parties.

Don’t get me wrong, Collin LOVES parties! In fact, I think he sees me as his personal driver on weekends. But as an autistic, these parties can be a sensory overload.

What does this mean? Unlike what most people understand about autism, Collin feels, sees, hears so much more than we do. He has incredible capacity to receive and sometimes it is a lot to process.

At first, it was about having the “right” space or “safe” space for Collin but then we ended up inadvertently isolating him. Most parties are pretty loud and high sensory. I still remember going to parties where we just stay outside the entire time! Then, we learned to be in imperfect spaces and build our capacities around that. We are learning to create BOLD spaces with our community and learning to give him space and not to isolate him.

Here are some of our learnings: (Note, these are things that many parents do regardless if their children are autistic.)

  1. Preparation for parties: Before going anywhere with a lot of people or even on a playdate. We will go over who will be there. I often show pictures, how many people will be there, and if there will there be animals. He loves cats and dogs!
  2. Having a home base at parties: Ideally, it is good for him to have a quiet space/corner at the party, like a home base. He is not able to verbalize this need yet but it is clear that this allows him to rest and recharge and then go back out and play with others.
  3. Alone time during parties: Like I said, Collin wants to party but he needs breaks. If there is no home base, then we take him outdoors for mini-breaks. It also helps him to “stim”. When experiencing sensory overload, autistics tend to stim, which is often a repetitive motion to self-stimulate to calm them down. Collin enjoys getting at eye level with his cars or trains and rolling them back and forth.
  4. Alone time after parties: It is like clockwork that Collin goes home and stims with his lego cars and trains. He’s starting to sing to himself more these days. It’s a sign of him decompressing from the day.
  5. We could all use some alone time: Collin constantly reminds me that we all need our own alone time. With social media, texting, and email all at our finger tips, sometimes we can’t even hear ourselves think. Capitalism is pretty relentless and wants every waking moment of our time and rarely do we draw boundaries. For Collin, it is a self defense mechanism; for us, we need to also learn to be alone.

Finally, we are always learning and humbled by this journey. The gift Collin give us is learning to be more mindful of the time we have together. It’s not about having more play dates or parties, but how to cherish slower moments and how to be community with others.