Special interests

by maximusaurus

One of the big parts of having autism (in my experience anyway) is having very strong interests. And when I say “very strong” I mean in the same way as Absinthe, Carolina Reaper chillis, and the Incredible Hulk.

Some people with autism love steam trains. They can tell you how many of each class were built, the boiler volume,  engine length, horsepower, and wheel circumference of each different class, and the year that each was first manufactured. Others have similar passions for video game hardware, space exploration, or the Bible/Quran.

Of course, you don’t have to have autism to have hobbies, but for people with autism, these interests are to hobbies as a skinny latte is to an intravenous espresso drip. For me, it’s like if my brain was a computer, and it always has a window open for my current interest, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. I spend a huge amount of my time thinking about it, simply because it’s enjoyable to do so. (As well as both relaxing and energizing. That may sound like a paradox, but it’s more like cold ice cream on a warm apricot pie 😉 )

For the most part it’s one of the upsides of autism, but like the caffeine hangover from that coffee injection, or chillis leaving you feeling like you just tongue kissed Smaug, it can be difficult sometimes.

For one thing, it can be very hard to concentrate on something like work when there’s this vastly more appealing tab on your brain’s toolbar just waiting to be clicked on; it’s like trying to do homework and watch an episode of Game of Thrones on the same computer. Yep, we all know how that one’s gonna end!

The other issue can be the curse of caring too much. For instance, I know people with autism who become anxious and depressed if, say, the film they are a fan of flops at the Box Office, or their favourite football team loses. That may sound silly, but when an interest or passion is so intense and personal, not being able to look forward to your team being in the next game or your favourite film getting a sequel can be disproportionately upsetting. Losing that excitement that sustains you and gives you reprieve from the stress of the world is like suddenly going off anti-depressants.

In my experience, however, the positives FAR outweigh the negatives, and its one of the great strengths of autism, because when we channel our special interests, we’re unstoppable.