Special interests – even the title makes me salivate with the potential for joy!

Before you realised you are autistic, people may have told you that you are obsessed  with your hobby or niche area of interest. There carries with that a bit of judgement. Obsession implies that it is a little unhealthy! Some autistic people still refer to their special interests as obsessions, and guess what? That’s totally fine! Who cares anyway, as long as it’s YOU choosing the word? Special interests, passions, hobbies with intense focus, areas of interest that you have a really in-depth knowledge – call them what you like. These are all special interests and that’s a term used by autistic people and one that we seem to be comfortable with – though you, as ever, get to choose your own language preferences.

Special interests are what we do best. We can drill right down into something that excites us and somehow we come out the other end with the most amazing depth of knowledge. And then it just gets more interesting to us, and if you can find others that share that interest well, that is when you’ve really hit the jackpot of joy as you can enjoy a bit of mutual infodumping without people trying to edge out of the room!

When I am on the edge, feeling like I’m spiralling, what do I do? I come and write a couple of glossary entries for this site, because this project, and all things neurodivergent, is one of my special interests and it’s currently my sole special interest. I instantly feel my heart rate slowing, my chest easing, my chaos turning to focus. I’m in my happy place.

If you identify with this, you would probably enjoy reading about the theory of monotropism – it puts out special interests at its very centre and it’s a very positive approach, developed by an autistic person, with respect for autistic people’s unusual skillset.

Anyone who tells you that you spend ‘too much time on [insert your special interest]’ would benefit from us explaining to them that we need these areas of intense focus in order to keep us balanced and calm, in order to cope with all the rest of the challenging stuff in our lives. It’s not self-indulgence, it’s survival. It’s also how lots of amazing things are discovered. This is an over-quoted ‘fact’, but hey, let’s give it one more airing – it is often claimed that Albert Einstein was autistic. Also, Isaac Newton and George Orwell, amongst many others. We can’t ever prove this of course, but it would put us in pretty cool company!

And talking of cool company, I shall finish with a link to a blog written by one of our very own tribe – she’s a member of The Gentle Autistic Women’s Community. This particular link will take you to her blog post entitled:

Why fixations and special interests are sometimes helpful, and how my fixation with Fantastic Beasts helped me! by PurpleUmbrella