Autism and Special Interests
A week or so ago, I ended up discussing an old special interest with my dad—history. I’d completely forgotten this was a thing, even though it’s probably the longest standing special interest I’ve had to date, until my dad reminded me how much I used to throw information about complex subjects at people like it was nothing.
For those of you who don’t know what the term ‘special interest’ is, it’s a term that’s used to describe interests autistic people have that exceeds the focus neurotypical people have towards things. In my official autism report, my interests are listed as ‘favourite interests’, if that makes it easier to understand.
They’re basically one or a few different interests which an autistic person becomes intensely interested over. Depending on the intensity, the individual may be unable to focus on anything else without thinking about their interest(s), and may accidentally end up spilling lots of information at once (coined ‘info-dumping’ by the autistic community).
I think I always knew there was something different in the way I was interested in things and the way my peers were. Perhaps not when my history special interest first came on when I was somewhere around eight years old, but definitely as time went on. By the time I reached secondary school, I did everything I could to pretend I had no interest in history whatsoever, sitting at the back of the class and messing around with friends instead of listening to what the teacher had to say.
Other special interests weren’t so easy to hide. I’ve read countless times online that it isn’t uncommon for autistic girls to obsess over celebrities, and that was definitely true for me during my pre-teen years.
From the age of ten to twelve or thirteen years old, I had an intense interest in Justin Bieber. Everyone my age was interested in celebrities to some degree, but I always managed to take it one step further: I used to talk about him constantly, giving my friends facts about him that they definitely didn’t care for. It’s really not a surprise that they hated him so much when, looking back, he was all I’d talk about for months at a time.
Since the age of fourteen, I’ve done everything I can to avoid getting too interested in celebrities and other famous people. It’s a personal preference, 100%, but I’d reached a point in my life where I didn’t—and still don’t—want to attribute a god-like status to another human being.
After deciding to pull away from special interests involving real people, my interests turned a lot more towards knowledgeable and creative outlets.
My first interest to come back after making this decision was history. I dropped out of school when I was fourteen for reasons I’m not yet comfortable going into, and had agreed to home-school so that I didn’t fall behind my peers. Despite my promise, however, the only book I actually completed and kept up with for more than three weeks was history. This is a prime example of special interests and their ability to come in and out of your life throughout different periods.
Since then, my special interests have continued to grow and expand. While there’s no doubt I’ll forget to mention one or more of them, I’ll mention some of my most prevalent ones below.
One of my main special interests is psychology, with a special focus into acts of consciousness and developmental psychology in general. I could count this as something else entirely, but as a result of my interest to psychology, I’ve also become super interested in the brain. I love researching what different parts of the brain are responsible for, and find it fascinating how much information we have available to us already, when we don’t know much about the way our brain works at all.
Another main special interest is writing. That’s been a hobby of mine for years, and it took me a long time before I chose to regard this as a special interest at all. It’s something I do on an almost daily basis, though, and something I read information about just as regularly, so it definitely deserves the title.
If you couldn’t tell by what I’ve been blogging about recently, reading is a big special interest of mine at the moment. I kind of go through stages with this one, where I’m so focused on it that I can read several books a week and then won’t read anything for months at a time.
Another big special interest of mine at the moment is The Walking Dead. I started watching this from the beginning after seeing all the hype around the first episode of the seventh series, and after the first series, I was getting through a series every two days. I got super behind on assignments, and other programs I was watching, but it was worth it. I can’t wait for this show to return next Monday!
I also have a special interest in makeup and everything hair care, which started when I was about thirteen. You could talk to me about either of these topics for hours and I guarantee I wouldn’t get bored. I love talking to people about products I’ve used to dye or fix my hair, or about a new piece of makeup that’s been released. This is probably the most stereotypical interest of mine, but what girl my age isn’t interested in makeup, to some degree, anyway?
This might sound strange to some people, but I also regard autism as a special interest. This one started when I’d just turned seventeen, almost immediately after I received my diagnosis. First, I used it as a way of getting to know myself as well as I could by absorbing all the information I could get my hands on, and then, as a way of educating myself and those around me and becoming involved in the community which has been so welcoming and accepting throughout the last year and a half.
With that said, I think I should end the blog post here. I could go on for hours talking about my special interests, but then I’d bore you all, and that’s no fun for anyone.
Do you have any questions you feel I didn’t answer in this blog post, or want clarification about a point I made? If so, feel free to comment down below!
Thanks for reading, and until next time,