What is an Autism Special Interest?
An Autism special interest can be more clearly defined when we consider the special interest through the lens of Autistic culture.
Many Autistic people have special/focused meaningful interests. Special interests can begin in childhood and develop over the course of the Autistic person’s life or they can picked up throughout the course of the Autistic person’s life. Their longevity will vary depending on the their meaningfulness to the Autistic person.
Special Interests can also be known as Focused Interests. Many in the Autistic community also prefer to use the term SpIN as a shortened version of the wording “Special Interest”.
They are uniquely different to mainstream cultural activities such as hobbies, collections. Special interests are unique:
- in their intensity
- in their nature
- in their value to the Autistic person
- in the wellbeing and support they provide to the Autistic person
- in the feelings of safety they provide for the Autistic person
- in the intrinsic motivation to engage with the interest they illicit from the Autistic person
Autism Special Interests can feel like:
My special interests have always involved researching and words .
It is different for each Autistic individual.
What I realised for myself and have learned from talking to other Autistic individuals including my Autistic sons is that Special Interests are incredibly important, meaningful and personal to each Autistic individual.
If I couldn’t access my special interests it would be like losing a part of who I am.
Here are some of the ways Special Interests can make me feel:
- I can access immeasurable information in my mind on the subject.
- My brain flashes imagery lightening fast.
- I am in hyper focus, all of my attention and energy is focused only on this topic.
- Everything else that is happening or I am thinking about fades into the background and disappears.
- I am in a flow state.
- Everything feels in sync.
- I feel safe and grounded.
- I feel calm and in control.
- My body feels alive with energy like how I would imagine electricity feels.
What an Autism Special Interest can mean
When I say I have a Autism special interest, what I mean is :
- Intrinsic Motivation
- Attention Tunnels
- Accumulating information
- Love languages
- Feeling safe
- New insights
- Extension of self
- Making connections
- The list is endless.
The Benefits of an Autism Special Interest
Autistic SpIns are an integral part of Autistic Culture.
If an Autistic person feels comfortable with you they may wish to “infodump” about their focused/special interest. If you want to be a caring individual to an Autistic person, ask about their SpIns, and actively listen to their infodumps on their focused interests.
Autistic SpIns can bring about Autistic joy.
There are many benefits to having a special interest as an Autistic person, including:
- Can provide a sense of pride
- Support Autistic well-being
- Empower and increase Autistic self-esteem
- Provide comfort and as a result can reduce anxiety
- Can be grounding for an Autistic person experiencing overwhelm
- Supports Autistic self-advocacy – autonomy – agency
- Promotes cognitive and learning development
- Can lead to expert knowledge base
- Can build a professional knowledge base for future employment