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The Special Interests of Autistic People

A wooden table with a camera, black and white photos, a handwritten note, a book, an egg on toast, a coffee and some flowers

By Chris

This article is part of My Plan Managerā€™s guest blogger series.

Hello, dear readers. Today Iā€™m going to write about Special Interests (SI).Ā 

A Special Interest is something thatĀ Autistic People focusĀ on with great intensityĀ and fascinates us forĀ the same reasons that interests fascinate anyone else ā€“ theĀ difference is ourĀ fascination is much strongerĀ and often a solo activity.Ā 

Personally,Ā itā€™sĀ usually the complexity of a thing that fascinates me. Language isĀ one of my Special Interests;Ā not one specific language but the way language itself works ā€“ linguistics.Ā This isnā€™t the best example of a soloĀ interest,Ā but Iā€™m also deeply interested in writing (obviously) which is definitely a solo activity.Ā 

SomeĀ Special InterestsĀ can be unusual and that is one thing that definesĀ an Autistic Special Interest.Ā 

I once knew an Autistic Person who was obsessed with televisions, not watching but with the sets themselves. When one broke this personĀ became upsetĀ to the same level as if someone they cared about had passed away. Yes, our interests canĀ beĀ that strong. After televisions they went on to become fascinated with air conditioners ā€“ to the pointĀ they might haveĀ been able to repair one if it broke.Ā 

That points out a misconception about Special Interests ā€“ that they donā€™t change.

I myself have had manyĀ Special Interests,Ā and have abandoned just as many,Ā but there are one or two that I keep coming back to.Ā Special InterestsĀ canĀ change over time and some are forgotten while others stay with us for life.

Some of the Special Interests I had as a child have been left inĀ childhoodĀ but others have persisted through to adulthood, such as a fascination with music and artĀ ā€“butĀ I no longer collect stamps or play in the mud (usually).Ā 

Special InterestsĀ are also anotherĀ vitalĀ way that Autistic People relieve stress and find comfort in a world that doesnā€™t seem to understand us and quite often does not accept us.

For this reason, it is important that a Special Interest is never taken away or discouraged so long as itā€™s not harmfulĀ or dangerous (likeĀ playingĀ jump rope with a brown snake).Ā 

Discouraging or removing a Special Interest as punishment or allowing an Autistic Person to indulge in their Special Interest as a ā€˜rewardā€™ toĀ attempt toĀ affect behavioural changeĀ (hint: it doesĀ notĀ work)Ā is just plain abusive. Special InterestsĀ are important to us.

They help us cope in a world that overwhelms us ā€“ weĀ needĀ our Special Interests.

Interfering with them is damaging and can,Ā in some cases,Ā cause permanent relationship damage between the person trying to take it away and the Autistic Person.

Besides the possible relationship breakdowns, taking a Special Interest away, discouraging, shaming, whatever you want to call it,Ā withĀ an Autistic Person can alsoĀ causeĀ severeĀ longĀ term psychological and socialĀ damage to us.Ā 

TheĀ strange, wonderful, passionate behaviour surrounding ourĀ Special InterestĀ is a very normal experience forĀ usĀ and shouldĀ be celebrated, not discouraged.Ā Itā€™s oneĀ ofĀ the things that makes us who weĀ areĀ and we take pride in being Autistic People.Ā 

Hi Iā€™m Chris. Iā€™m a 44 year old Autistic Person. Originally from California, I ran away to Australia as soon as I could. Raised in the country, life wasnā€™t easy with an invisible neurological difference especially when that difference wasnā€™t even widely known about. On top of that I didnā€™t even get a diagnosis until I was 39 years old. Looking back I now realise how miserable I was and how badly I was being treated by everyone. Looking forward I want to leave behind some small piece of myself that maybe, if Iā€™m lucky, might make a positive impact.




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My Plan Manager: NDIS Plan Management