This week, the online community The Mighty in their weekly e-mail has a theme on Special Interests. It couldn’t come at a better juncture in my blog writing than this week when we are indeed talking about interests earlier this week, particularly as we age that may not seem appropriate to others our age. I feel that this e-mal has been a Godsend in delving why I feel the ways about special interests, like others and what defines them between hobbies and specific interests.
The first article entitled “The Necessity of Special Interests for Me as a Person on the Autism Spectrum” by There Kari Hass is one that I can entirely relate to. They specify that that “so-called special interests” are what defines autistic characteristics. They are similar yet different, like hobbies they can turn into an obsession, however it is not a default setting. The author also defines the difference in the two as where you can put a “hobby on hold if life changes make it impractical or if stressed or pre-occupied.”
Sometimes hobbies, for myself included can be a good stress reliever and can lay the foundation to being functional. They are defined as the “brain’s way of regaining balance from everyday chaos by creating a safety zone in which to restore energy, order and sanity.”
A special interest to many autistics is a place where they can control, fully define the rules of play and it is predictable, accessible and free from unwanted disturbances. The interest can also require investment to make it functional as well. As such for many autistics you just can’t “snap out of it” and when you need it you really need it to decompress. This can occur when control mentally when you cannot gauge your own emotional or stress levels, the ability to read facial expressions, vocal tones, social contest, intent or trajectories. The need to turn to interests is when one can lose sense of temperament, vocal amplitude, or other stimulated features.
Social interactions can also cause an autistic person to become run down thus the need to refocus and be in solitude when seeking quiet time. This is where special interests come in. Also, in cases of when one nears autistic burnout, the need to blend special interests into the routine may be needed more than ever, especially when aging in school years and later when adulting.
Now for me, I personally need the special interests to take my mind off of things that can be complex and overwhelming like a conservation with a friend or a trip with extreme sensory overload. It with the help of music can take me to my own world where I can make creations of my own works as I see fit and to my liking. Furthermore, sometimes I chose not to answer my phone or answer messages directly as a result of being hyper focused on something and it can cause havoc at times. So sometimes the need to be aware of time constraints is critical in being well and this can be done by sitting alarms in my Fitbit, Alexa, Cellphones, whatever device that is helpful to me. If it works, use it, we won’t judge.
As an ally to the autistic individual, please recognize their interests as more than an obsession or a nuisance, unless of course it is destructive. It can server as a purpose and be beneficial to them. However, it should be balanced with everyday life, as it can get out of hand, but having a healthy balance and relationship with those special interests can reduce meltdowns and enjoy the remainder of the time more enjoyable.