• Understanding Autism from the Inside

    “Academics came easily to me. The rest of life—not so much.”

Focusing on Special Interests

Asperger’s Syndrome and Special Interests

 

Asperger's Special InterestsSpecial Interests, For When My Well Runs Dry.
I can focus for hours and hours on end on reading, writing, or playing poker. The rest of the world disappears; I can forget it exists. It calms me, and the stress melts away. When I’m focused on one of my interests, I lose track of time, forget to eat, and am annoyed at even the interruption of needing to use the bathroom.
Interruptions invoke immediate anger. This is not a conscious response. It’s my first knee-jerk reaction. I can’t control it; anger is just the first response. I can, however, control my reaction to that anger. But make no mistake about it—that is not something that comes naturally or easily.
Controlling my immediate reactions is one of those things that are easier said than done.
To other people it is a mystery that I can focus so intently on special interests but have no sustainable focus for anything else. What they don’t understand is that being absorbed by my interests is how I decompress.
Focusing on and sustaining life activities…jobs, budgets, housekeeping, etc. takes from me. It is an exhausting struggle; a desperate attempt to tread water while drowning.
Life drains my well. Special interests fill it back up. I need that time, I need that filling, that relaxing, that decompressing, in order to accomplish the other tasks in my life.
My special interests have changed throughout my life. I just wrote about my very first special interest in my blogged book, Twirling Naked in the Streets; I was four years old.
Today, my interests look different; they include reading, writing, and autism. When I decided I wanted to be a writer, I read every book I could get my hands on, consumed as much information as I could, and enrolled in writing classes. Beware: I tend to do more learning about doing than the actual doing, but I’m working on it. (See, I’m actually writing.)
Several years ago, when I decided I wanted to learn how to play poker, I went about it much the same way. I joined a training site, spent uncountable hours playing, and recording sessions, studying hands that I won, and lost, and of course, reading everything I could find.  I have a pretty extensive poker book library now.  I still love playing poker, but I don’t do it as much as I used to.  It is another interest that has come and gone so to speak.
For a long time I was frustrated by this. It fed the idea that I can never stick with, or complete anything (OK—maybe I can’t). But, now I know that it is normal for these intense interests to change, and I will try to not feel so bad about myself for putting so much energy into something only to have it lose its awe.
I began writing this post from the dentist chair yesterday. Actually I began writing many things from that chair yesterday, which an example of how this interest (writing) calms me. When I returned home I found that a wonderfully insightful woman on the spectrum wrote an article on her blog, Musings of an Aspie, about special interests. She writes, “What’s So Special About Special Interests?”
Considering my contemplations for the day, her post was timely and I needed to share it with you. Read it, it’s a great article. I hope you find her answer as insightful as I did.
What are some of your special interests?
Have they changed throughout the years?
Do you have any that remained the same?
(For me, reading and obsessive learning has stayed the same–can I consider that an interest? Hmmmm??)

Jeannie Davide-Rivera

Jeannie is an award-winning author, the Answers.com Autism Category Expert , contributes to Autism Parenting Magazine, and the Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism. She lives in New York with her husband and four sons, three of which are on the autism spectrum.

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    Twirling Naked in the Streets and No One Noticed

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