Leisure is an interesting thing for people with autism. I am often told to pursue more leisure activities. I believe that is a very neurotypical suggestion. My idea of leisure is really different. I enjoy laying in my bed, thinking about my life and future blog posts. Some people with autism enjoy repetitive activities like watching the same thing many times or jumping. I am really into jumping when I have a lot of energy or anxiety. People often tell me to draw on my iPad or do crafts, but to me leisure is supposed to be relaxing. These suggested activities are often stressful and exhausting, even though they are well intentioned. I am learning new skills constantly, so my leisure time should be stress free. People with autism may not look like they are doing much in their free time, but we need more time to relax and regulate ourselves than the average person.


  1. Are those leisure activities exhausting for you because they feel like you’re learning a new skill?

    Do you think if you connected with a leisure activity that you could put enough time into it so that it did not feel like learning a new skill….and then become something that actually is relaxing?

    Maybe drawing and doing crafts isn’t for you. But maybe trying to make music on a piano, keyboard or guitar would be for you….and then not feel exhausting?


    • Yes they are exhausting because they feel like I am learning a new skill and because concentration takes up a lot of my energy. It may become something that is actually relaxing over time, but it would not take away the exhaustion of concentrating. I haven’t found anything like that for me yet. Anything with fine motor skills has been hard for me so far, but I haven’t tried instruments! Thank you for your thoughtful questions!


      • Now turning 48, my son Ben’s favorite leisure activity is still listening to music, as it has been since before age 2 but he stopped vigorously flapping his hands when listening to music at age 10 (an interesting “story” but unrelated to this topic). He initiates very clear gestures when he wants to listen to music, which is much faster and universally accepted instead of getting out his letterboard and spelling out such a request. When another activity is ready for him, he almost always agrees to do so, but if he does not agree his desire to continue to listen to music is respected (unlike his ABA program so many decades ago where music was used as a reward).


  2. I appreciate you explaining that individuals with autism may need to spend more time just being quiet, thinking, etc. We notice the same with our grandson, who often needs to just withdraw and be alone for awhile. Also, our granddaughter, who also has autism, will leave a room if too many people come in. Her mother often says, “Oops, it just got too peopley in here for her! ” LOL! Thanks for helping us to see the world through different eyes!


  3. Your blog is so enlightening. Oftentimes we hear from “experts” what it’s like for those with Autism or differentiated learning issues and it’s so refreshing to be able to read directly your thoughts and get feedback from someone actually experiencing the things you write about. Thanks for sharing and thanks for offering your perspective for us to learn from. What a great advocate you are for those who may not be able to communicate their frustrations or feelings directly!


  4. I completely agree about leisure. We all need that downtime, and the harder we work, the more we need!
    I love reading your blog posts, Mitchell- keep them coming!


  5. Thank you Mitchell for this post. I read it to my daughter and asked her what she thought. She spelled, “exactly right.”


  6. Leisure should not be stressful, great thing you are able to describe what leisure means to you. Keep the thoughts coming….it is very helpful.


  7. I love this blog post Mitchell. My son is non verbal and almost 7. When you said you enjoy laying in your bed in your room I smiled because that’s one of his common activities. I always love opening his bedroom door to see him lying there peacefully. He always lets out a happy sound and greets me with a hug. Happy I’ve come to see him in his space. I always wonder what it is he thinks about while he lays there in his bed. He’s the love of my life.


  8. Hi Mitchell — I wanted to let you know that I am really enjoying your blog, and this post was especially meaningful to me. My 18-year-old daughter has Down syndrome, and her favorite leisure activity is to lay in her bed and watch movies. Sometimes I get frustrated because I feel she should be doing something more productive in her free time. Well, you changed my perspective and opened my eyes to the fact that she has to work so much harder to accomplish the regular things she does in the course of a day, and time spent doing absolutely nothing is how she recharges. Activities that come so easily to most people are often an uphill climb for her and I need to remember that always, and let her do leisure time her way. You are so wise!


  9. I am glad you wrote this! I had been thinking about getting my son (age 4) into other activities, so I will be more careful about what we choose!


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