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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 Manager’s guest blogger series.

Hello, dear readers. Today I’m going to write about Special Interests (SI). 

A Special Interest is something that Autistic People focus on with great intensity and fascinates us for the same reasons that interests fascinate anyone else – the difference is our fascination is much stronger and often a solo activity. 

Personally, it’s usually the complexity of a thing that fascinates me. Language is one of my Special Interests; not one specific language but the way language itself works – linguistics. This isn’t the best example of a solo interest, but I’m also deeply interested in writing (obviously) which is definitely a solo activity. 

Some Special Interests can be unusual and that is one thing that defines an Autistic Special Interest. 

I once knew an Autistic Person who was obsessed with televisions, not watching but with the sets themselves. When one broke this person became upset to the same level as if someone they cared about had passed away. Yes, our interests can be that strong. After televisions they went on to become fascinated with air conditioners – to the point they might have been able to repair one if it broke. 

That points out a misconception about Special Interests – that they don’t change.

I myself have had many Special Interests, and have abandoned just as many, but there are one or two that I keep coming back to. Special Interests can 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 in childhood but others have persisted through to adulthood, such as a fascination with music and art –but I no longer collect stamps or play in the mud (usually). 

Special Interests are also another vital way that Autistic People relieve stress and find comfort in a world that doesn’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 it’s not harmful or dangerous (like playing jump rope with a brown snake). 

Discouraging or removing a Special Interest as punishment or allowing an Autistic Person to indulge in their Special Interest as a ‘reward’ to attempt to affect behavioural change (hint: it does not work) is just plain abusive. Special Interests are important to us.

They help us cope in a world that overwhelms us – we need our Special Interests.

Interfering with them is damaging and can, in some cases, 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, with an Autistic Person can also cause severe long term psychological and social damage to us. 

The strange, wonderful, passionate behaviour surrounding our Special Interest is a very normal experience for us and should be celebrated, not discouraged. It’s one of the things that makes us who we are and we take pride in being Autistic People. 

Hi I’m Chris. I’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 wasn’t easy with an invisible neurological difference especially when that difference wasn’t even widely known about. On top of that I didn’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 I’m lucky, might make a positive impact.




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