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Autistic child won't leave the house

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bearfamily
bearfamily Community member Posts: 5 Listener
Hi all,

I'm hoping some other parents of children with autism/ADHD can empathise/support here.

My son is almost 10 years old and mostly refuses to leave the house. He hates any outdoor activities, I have tried everything from extravagant days out to quiet simple outings. I have tried clubs, classes, activities, and anything he shows an interest in I try to make happen but mostly it happens once and then we can't get him to go again.

We tried martial arts classes which resulted in a huge meltdown on the second session and trying to run away. We tried a walk in the forest, which resulted in another time of running away and locking himself in the car demanding to go home. We went to a trampoline park but he hid in the corner and demanded to go home.

We have managed a couple of successful outings with his cousins and his best friend but both of those are only available around once per month for get-togethers due to their own schedules. When these have happened, he will often say he needs time to "recover" after that outing which results in us not being able to get him to leave the house for some time afterwards.

He feels safe and comfortable at home and finds no enjoyment in the outside world.

My son's family members do not "believe" his diagnoses despite three doctors confirming them so, I am mostly without support. They believe he and I are just lazy and do not understand what we face each day.

I've seen a few posts on here of other parents struggling to get their autistic children out of the house and I wondered how common is this and did you ever find anything that worked?
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  • Albus_Scope
    Albus_Scope Posts: 5,706 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hi there @bearfamily and welcome to the community!

    I'm sorry to hear you're having issues with your son and the great outdoors. It can be very tricky to really pinpoint where the issue is and it's hard to get people to understand when it's not something visible.  I'm autistic myself and know the struggles well. 

     Could it possibly be a sensory issue and things outside are too overwhelming for him? 

    There's lots of reading to be had on this part of the Scope site, maybe that could help a bit? 
    Albus (he/him)

    Online Community Coordinator @ Scope

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    Neurodivergent.
  • bearfamily
    bearfamily Community member Posts: 5 Listener
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    Hi @Albus_Scope!

    Thank you for your reply.

    I think it is a sensory issue, he is very easily overwhelmed. For example, a bee flew near him on one of our walks, he didn't even see it but the sound sent him into a tailspin.

    In your experience, is trouble with going out a common trait amongst autistic children?
  • Hannah_Alumni
    Hannah_Alumni Scope alumni Posts: 7,911 Disability Gamechanger
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    Hello @bearfamily

    From what I have seen from other community members, it is a common trait. The National Autistic Society have an information page on Meltdowns that you may find useful to read. 

    We also have members who have created their own threads with similar concerns over their children not leaving the house. 
    I thought maybe they could help or even give you more members to talk to <3 I hope the community can be a place of support and friendship for you!
    Hannah - She / Her

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  • L_Volunteer
    L_Volunteer Community Volunteer Adviser, Scope Member Posts: 7,981 Disability Gamechanger
    edited November 2023
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    Hi @bearfamily. Thank you for reaching out to us, you have done so well in identifying these triggers already. If it is sound-related, would headphones or earplugs/earmuffs work well? Fellow autistic here and I can relate that lots of sounds (especially at once) can be overwhelming. I find headphones really helpful and I'm wondering if they (or something similar) might also be helpful for your son  :)
    Community Volunteer Adviser with professional knowledge of education, special educational needs and disabilities and EHCP's. Pronouns: She/her. 

    Please note: if I use the online community outside of its hours of administration, I am doing so in a personal capacity only.
  • Mum369
    Mum369 Community member Posts: 2 Listener
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    Hi I am also new here, my daughter uses headphones, sunglasses and all sorts to reduce sensory overload.Yet trying to get my daughter to engage consistently with anything is so difficult. I recently took her back to CAHMS after trying to get her to engage in a small group class went horribly wrong .I daily ask her if she was a battery how much energy she has,as it’s the starting point of her tolerance for any social engagement. I was given some information on a ODD/PDA profile in Autism that I found helpful/interesting, as she is still on the assessment pathway , I can relate and empathise as it’s exhausting with daily struggles, and Its so hard as you don’t want to create a meltdown but pushing anything for social engagement leads to more meltdown withdrawal and not pushing leads to more selective isolation. This information may help. https://childmind.org/article/pathological-demand-avoidance-in-kids/

  • Amaya_Ringo
    Amaya_Ringo Community member Posts: 78 Pioneering
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    My mother used to ask me as a child why I didn't want to go out more. I struggled often on trains, and hated restaurants. I had no diagnosis so didn't really know how to explain, so it led to issues.

    I've travelled a lot of places, I've done a lot of things since my diagnosis. I've found my own coping mechanisms for travelling, sound, smells etc, as an adult since my diagnosis. I couldn't go to a cinema as a kid, but now I can - if it's a proper screening and nobody has their kids running riot around it.

    I think if it's sensory, headphones, glasses etc might help BUT…at the end of the day I don't really see the need to force them into something they're not comfortable with. It's hard to explain but in my opinion autism is a network of patterns. Not necessarily rigid routines, but familiar safe paths, and trial and error judgements. If a particular activity has created a negative pattern (eg a meltdown, a trigger, something unpleasant) or the autistic brain wasn't properly geared up for it, then you may encounter resistance in repeating it. It might be hard for your son to explain exactly why, because usually these triggers are not things neurotypical brains pick up or react to. There are also a lot of logistical processes autistic brains have to go through to mediate the world that neurotypical brains do automatically, so it can be very exhausting and feel overwhelming to go out even if it's necessary.

    It may sound counterintuitive, but I have always done more things when I've been able to control the parameters. I wonder if you are trying too hard to get your son out and about because you're worried that your family might misunderstand and say something to him that will hurt him (or you). But as my mother found out, trying to make me go out when my brain wasn't up to it didn't help me at all. I did get there on my own, but I still have negative associations for restaurants etc because of being forced to do it so much as a kid and the trauma it caused.

    Going out is a neurotypical expectation. Being forced to go out is a neurdivergent barrier, making going out an unpleasant experience. Taking off the pressure and helping him to find things he wants to do - but not pushing him to do them again if he doesn't feel happy about it…may be the path forward.

    It's pretty common for non-autistic parents to feel they're failing their child by not taking them to places and integrating them, but that's not true. You are doing the best for your son. He trusts you and talks to you about how he feels. It's ok to take a step back as well. I feel like he'll find his path on his own, and then when he does, you'll be there to support him. In the meantime, please don't think he's missing out. The fact he's comfortable at home means he feels safest there, with you and your family around. That's a good first step :)

  • Mum369
    Mum369 Community member Posts: 2 Listener
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    I agree, flexibility and building confidence with support whilst maintaining autonomy appears to be the best way forward..

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