Do all autistic people have special interests?

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MagicMeerkat
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24 Oct 2023, 4:03 pm

Special interests have always been my strongest autistic trait. They've always remained the same since childhood. Okay sure maybe as a preteen I had one species as a special interest, but another as a teen and another as an adult. But my main thing was animals, zoology and veterinary medicine. I cannot recall one special interest I ever had that was not animal related.

A real one anyway. I used to pretend to be intrested in Goosebumbs books becuase that's what all the other kids at my school were into at the time and everyone kept telling me if I showed interest in their interest, even if it was fake, they would show an interest in mine. NEVER happened so I never faked my special interest ever again. I later found people who shared them as an adult and I don't have to pretend. I'm also discovering adults don't tend to change special interests. My South African and German pen pals are probably going to be friends of mine for life.

Taking away my special interest as a punishment usually resulted in suicidal ideation. My special interests are my identity.


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25 Oct 2023, 6:48 am

MagicMeerkat wrote:
My special interests are my identity.


I think that may be something much more common among autistics than non-autistics. For most people, hobbies are something they do; for many NT it's a critical part of who we are.

When a hobby/interest/fandom is a critical part of a NT person's life it's more about tribalism than identity.



Readydaer
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25 Oct 2023, 6:51 am

MagicMeerkat wrote:
Taking away my special interest as a punishment usually resulted in suicidal ideation. My special interests are my identity.


THIS. no one seems to understand how important my special interest is to me!


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The_Wolf
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25 Oct 2023, 9:17 pm

Special interests are my main autistic trait and I have had so many over the years, but several have managed to stay as my main interests, such as the American Civil War, motorsport and firefighting :)



Mikurotoro92
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25 Oct 2023, 9:35 pm

My current special interests and obsessions are Nintendo, SpongeBob SquarePants, finding love and getting married & having sex

Sometimes I even combine all of them hehe :heart: :heart: :heart:


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Elgee
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29 Oct 2023, 5:10 pm

Knowing every fact and detail, or encyclopedic knowledge, aren't the only ways a special interest can manifest.

Sometimes it's what the person does to gain access to the interest. For example when I was fixated on woodchippers and their spinoffs (men in trees cutting off limbs), I actually trespassed into the backyard of a townhome unit down the street, and stood on their patio to watch a man with a chainsaw in the backyard of the house their yard abutted. The homeowner came out and asked what was I doing on her patio.

Whenever I heard a woodchipper in the neighborhood, I'd drop what I was doing (I worked from home), even if it was client work with a tight deadline, get in my car and follow my ears to locate the chipping operation. I'd park nearby and watch. This was years before I knew I was autistic.

For my treadmill obsession of why it's wrong to hold onto the machine when walking on it, I wanted to approach every single person at the gym, whenever I was there, who was holding on and give them a lengthy explanation for why it was wrong. I so badly wanted to do this that whenever I was in the locker room, I hoped some woman -- complete total strangers -- would start small-talk with me so that I could then use this as a gateway to ask if she was a treadmill user. If you go to a gym often enough, invariably someone in the locker room will initiate small talk. Every so often I got a hit: She said she used a treadmill. I'd ask if she held on. If she said yes, LOOK OUT, the dissertation followed. I also actually DID approach strangers while they were using the treadmill -- got on the machine beside them -- kept glancing at them to get eye contact, and if they smiled, I'D start small talk, then work my way into telling them they shouldn't be holding on. I did this to MANY people.



PhosphorusDecree
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29 Oct 2023, 5:55 pm

I have an awful memory for stuff like facts, figures, names and dates, so that's not how my interests manifest. I'll read or watch a particular series intensively, but not memorise everything about it. Learn a lot about a topic, but more the general principals - to recall precise details I'd have to refer to books or my notes. And a lot of my interests involve learning to do things, like playing musical instruments.


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05 Dec 2023, 11:18 pm

mine are neopets (other virtual pet sims to a lesser extent, but it usually ends up back to neopets eventually), pinball, and video essays. i have other cycling ones, and the intensity for each of those 3 comes and goes, but they'll always roar up and become a huge part of my life again one way or another. i also will have periods where i don't really have one at all for a few weeks/months at a time. most of 2023 has been like that for me

the main one right now is neopets. earlier this week i spent hours and hours on neopets poundchat boards looking for abandoned pets for people to adopt. this process just involves typing in names like sweetpea_123, sweetpea_124 etc and looking at their webpages manually.

it gives me so much serotonin whenever the pet says "owner: none" somewhere and i can put it on the daily stuck pets board. it sounds silly but i find this incredibly calming and could do this literally all day and be happy. i think when i realized i felt that way and wanted to go on neopets during almost every free moment of my time is when i realized it became a primary special interest again lmao



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06 Dec 2023, 1:24 pm

ImagineDragons wrote:
Weight Of Memory wrote:
I think special interests can be affected by other factors.

If you have ADHD in addition to autism you will probably shift between several interests. Higher levels of ASD probably trends toward more intense interests.

If your memory isn't as great or you have dyscalculia then memorizing statistics or other numerical data is a lot less likely.

Yes that makes perfect sense as my grown up daughter recently tested positive for ADHD and she reckons I’m more ADHD than her ! !

I’ve also got a dreadfully poor memory for most things especially short term but a good for things that intrigue me

That's not surprising, ADHD, OCD, ASD and savant syndrome all share some weirdness in how the brain works. The first three all have an element of executive dysfunction.

One of the nice things about ADHD is that it's harder to misdiagnose, especially if it's they kind that responds to stimulant medication.



MatchboxVagabond
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06 Dec 2023, 1:28 pm

Elgee wrote:
Knowing every fact and detail, or encyclopedic knowledge, aren't the only ways a special interest can manifest.


That's arguably not a special interest. That's more descriptive of splinter skills. The lone between autistic special interest memorization and savant splinter skill can be blurry.



CockneyRebel
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06 Dec 2023, 11:17 pm

My three life-long special interests are London, The Kinks and the Internet.


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MatchboxVagabond
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07 Dec 2023, 2:22 pm

CockneyRebel wrote:
My three life-long special interests are London, The Kinks and the Internet.

I'm all fairness, that should be everybody's special interest.



ToughDiamond
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08 Dec 2023, 5:35 pm

DSM V wrote:
Diagnostic Criteria for 299.00 Autism Spectrum Disorder
........3. Highly restricted, fixated interests that are abnormal in intensity or focus (e.g., strong attachment to or preoccupation with unusual objects, excessively circumscribed or perseverative interests)..........

Of course you don't have to have that at all. In my case I kind of fit the bill, but I don't think my intense interests are particularly unusual. The enduring ones are music and certain aspects of the use of computers. I see nothing unusual about being a musician and nothing unusual about a musician having a strong enthusiasm for performing and recording as a lifelong thing. And my computer interests are more of a means to an end than a great love of the means, though as with music I've come to greatly enjoy operating the skills I've acquired and getting results that (I like to think) not so many people could surpass. Nothing unusual about becoming skilled in a few specialised fields.

My intense interests rarely last longer than necessary for achieving a particular goal. It's just that a musician usually wants to do another performance or make another recording, and a computer is a highly versatile machine that can do all kinds of things quicker, easier and better, so it's not surprising that I'm often developing the techniques necessary to acquire the goodies, and naturally a lot of them are to do with music. It's not my choice that there's no affordable producer and recording engineer who would do the technical legwork while I concentrate on the art.

I just write or find programs and utilities for getting whatever perfectly normal thing I might want, and I'm always interested in reducing the amount of necessary effort to get those things. Indeed, a good computer program essentially provides a way of getting what you want by just pressing a couple of buttons.

So I think it's just that I have a tendency to solve problems myself, by focussing well and thinking clearly and critically. Perfectionism pushes me into working rather longer and harder than NTs might, in order to go the extra mile instead of being satisfied with 90% of the result for 10% of the work.

Being a problem-solver is a big part of me, and I can't imagine life without it, without pitting my wits against whatever discomforts I run into and whatever ambitions I take a fancy to. As such, I've covered a pretty broad range of challenges.

So it's not quite the stereotype of having a chronic, weird obsession to the detriment of normal life. But they're certainly special interests in the literal sense of the phrase - I take a strong (but often temporary) interest in getting the myriads of results that I want.



naturalplastic
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08 Dec 2023, 7:07 pm

The answer to the question is.....no.

Many autistics do not. Many do. Some do not.



MatchboxVagabond
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08 Dec 2023, 9:09 pm

naturalplastic wrote:
The answer to the question is.....no.

Many autistics do not. Many do. Some do not.

And sometimes the special interest is kind of meta where you wouldn't even realize that it was one. For example, people who just memorize lots of random stuff.



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08 Dec 2023, 9:46 pm

I'm in between special interests. My last one was postage stamps and I had many albums. Then I had to pack them away because our house was being renovated (all walls and ceilings repainted and our floor replaced). Now that it's all done, I still haven't unpacked my stamps. Maybe I'll go back to it, maybe I'll find something else to fixate upon.