Thursday, November 2, 2017

Autistics Speaking Day: Special Interests and Autism

TimeTravellingGirl sends us

"Autistics Speaking Day: Special Interests and Autism"

Most autistic people have "special interests", sometimes called "obsessions" or "large interests". A special interest is an interest that a person spends a lot of time and enjoys, more so than "normal". A special interest can literally be anything: Some of my main special interests have included Great Big Sea (a band), The Sims, Back to the Future, Ferries, Planets and Winnie the Pooh. Other autistic people have had special interests in topics like dogs, Star Trek, trains, politics, airplanes and piano. This is in no way a complete list and I didn't even list all my special interests. That would take forever. At most times, I have had more than one special interest, it is sometimes believed that autistic people can only have one special interest at a time. I currently have three. So, are special interests beneficial? Most of the time, yes. People have developed careers based on special interests. I, myself, am thinking of opening a business that is related to my special interests. Another example is a person who has a special interest in animals becoming a vet or working with animals in some other way. I, personally use special interests as a coping mechanism. When I am upset or overwhelmed, I tend to indulge myself in special interests. In the past, I have listened to my favourite music. Now, I may watch clips from Back to the Future or play The Sims (or the Back to the Future video game. It is also cool to find someone who shares your special interest with you, it can help you make friends (if you so choose of course). Many of us are told that they we can't talk about our special interests or do any activities involving them. This does not work very well. First of all, in my case, whenever I have been preventing from engaging in a special interest, I have always ended up developing another one. Also, it takes away a coping mechanism that many of us use. I have been told to let other people talk about their interests and to never talk about mine. Not so much as a teen or adult, but certainly as a child. Sometimes, the other person's interests, don't interest me at all and I kind of drift away from conversation. For example, I have absolutely no interest in snap-chat whatsoever, so whenever someone starts talking about, I get bored. Just like people might do if I talk about something I'm interested and they are not. The trick here is find a compromise (or people who share your interest) instead of telling autistic people not to talk about their interests at all. I recall a time when I was in a social skills class (that's a other blog post), and both me and my social skills partner (also neurodivergent), wanted to talk about video games, but our social skills teacher told us that we had to talk about school, even though we were both interested in video games. Neither of us wanted to talk about school, so why would we? In real life, people don't discuss topics that bore both of them because society requires they talk about it. The bottom line is that special interests are rarely harmful or destructive and actually serve a benefit to many autistic people. Thanks, AP

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