Updated: Feb 8
Inspired by our "All about Special interests" Instagram post.
Originally Written By: Pablo, Updated By: Lauren
Image Credit: Author, MissLunaRose12
The Definition of Special Interests
Special interests are an intense focus on a particular topic, activity, etc that commonly manifest as an Autistic trait.
Clinicians have historically called them circumscribed interests, and they belong to the category of diagnostic criteria for autism called “restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests or activities,” which also includes movements such as hand-flapping and an insistence on rigid routines.
Image Caption: Flappy Hands sticker from Ausome Doodles Shop on Etsy, https://www.etsy.com/shop/AusomeDoodlesShop
A distinguishing aspect of special interests is their intensity: They can be so absorbing that they are the only thing the person wants to do or talk about.
Here are some memos from the executive team on special interests:
Lauren, Founder and President at DiverseNeuro: “Through engaging in my interest in neuroscience as one of my special interests, I have been able to create diverseneuro and connect with others all over the world!”
P.S This entire account was founded on a special interest from an autistic person!
Pablo, Director of Design at DiverseNeuro: “I have a special interest in educational materials. I hope to one day create a social enterprise meant to compete with College Board so I can bring higher quality, more accessible education to all. This has also contributed to my desire to design future posts for this account.”
Many of us are shamed for these interests and punished for engaging with them” there is also a quote from @theexpertally that says “Special interests are often described in negative terms such as “restricted”, “circumscribed”, “preservative”, and “obsessive”.
Both Autistic children and adults are often criticized for their interest not being “age-appropriate” or “socially expected”.
Special interest shouldn’t be stigmatized, rather viewed as a source of great potential (regardless of what it may be) and as “narrow but deep”.
Special interest should be encouraged in autistic children as they can lead to amazing feats.
Special interest in bugs lead to the creation of Pokémon
Greta Thunberg created her career in activism through a special interest.
Special interest may be the stepping stone for this account, and what it may become.
The article from spectrum news, while it may have flaws, highlights this experience from Autumn Van Kirk.
“She built a computer from stray parts when she was 13 or 14, and in college, she programmed a website that she ran from a server in her closet. Today she is a team leader for a top global tech company in Houston, Texas.
Experience From: @bahautistic on instagram.
My special interest has not only given me joy, but they’ve saved my life. There were times when I was ready to give up and I’d remember that another day on earth means another day with my interest. They’ve brought me closer to my friends and family, as I’ve been able to use my interest to relate to them and express my understanding of them. I was bullied a lot for my intense love of my interest and was embarrassed about them for a lot of my life. But now, I believe they’re God-sent.
Every time something happens in my life where I need stability and support, I discover a new interest and it keeps me afloat until I can get professional help.
If you or a loved one has a special interest that’s not hurting anyone or isn’t supporting bigotry, please nurture it. Validate it. Love it like your own child.
Overall, special interests are vital to neurodivergent individuals by allowing them to thrive and grow. We hope through reading this blog post that you too learned something regarding special interests.
"The Benefits of Special Interests in Autism: Spectrum: Autism Research News.
Spectrum, 11 May 2021, https://www.spectrumnews.org/features/deep-dive/the-benefits-of-special-interests-in-autism/.It's Accessed 3 February 2022
Forman, Yulika (PhD) 'Special Interest In Autism': 'Highly Restricted, Fixated' and 'Abnormal in Intensity or Focus' 'or Narrow but Deep?"
3 November 2021 https://www.instagram.com/p/CVOEAd8LyUi/?um_medium=copy _link
Accessed 3 February 2022