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Graelwyn
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17 Nov 2009, 6:42 pm

This is one of the criteria where I am a little bit unsure.
I mean, I have always had one or two interests that are obsessional and that most of my focus goes on, but not to the total exclusion of all else.
As an example, when I was younger, one of these obsessions was poetry...reading it, writing it, copying it, memorising it, talking about it.
But it was not literally all I did each day. I also watched television programmes (the same ones every night actually) and movies.

If someone were to ask me about harry potter, because I had a 4 year obsession with it, I can go on and on about it, but if they ask me about movies in general, I don't find myself unable to talk because I have watched a lot of movies over the years. Granted, I obsessively watched a few of them til I had memorised all the lines, but I also had movies I watched just once.

So where is the line for narrow interests?
Does it mean you quite literally only pursue one thing, and have no interest in television, movies and other learning?



pandd
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17 Nov 2009, 7:10 pm

The criteria stipulates that the interest must be unusual in its intensity or focus, and that it either interferes with other activities or development in other areas.

So it’s not necessary that one does nothing else besides engage with an interest to meet this criteria.



Graelwyn
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17 Nov 2009, 7:17 pm

What would be considered unusual in intensity and focus? I know some NTs collect things a lot etc.
Usually when I get what I term an intense interest, I read all I can about it, I talk about it whenever I can (and if I can't, I get edgy and irritable), think about it... in the past, I would even make lists regarding the interest. I used to have obsessions with actors, and it would involve collecting and watching as many of their movies I could find, getting photos, magazine articles, interviews, making lists of all their films and the dates, their heights, weights...if I went out, I would look for things relating to that actor, xmas time, I would ask for things relating to that actor, along with other things of course.

To me, it was just normal. My mother never picked up on it as abnormal other than to frequently ask me if that was all I cared about, and to say I cared more about it than her etc.

I think Harry Potter was my most all consuming obsession. That and Doctor Who. With both, my whole life revolved around them. I literally didnt want to do anything else as they were a total escape. But not all my obsessions are as intense. Those both lasted 4 years. And once I have pursued all I can about them, it is as if something else swings in to replace them. I never regain the same intensity of interest again.



PlatedDrake
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17 Nov 2009, 7:29 pm

I think they mean in the sense that you become a walking encyclopedia who is OCD with respect to details on the interest. For example, if an NT was occupied with trains (early in age), they might read a few things, watch Thomas, and collect a few. For one on the ASD, they would go beyond in figuring their routes, make/model, steam/fuel/monorail, etc . . . and that level of interest would probably continue into adulthood. Admittedly, ive been into fictional robots (ie Transformers, Battletech, Exosquad, etc) since i was at least 10, and can dish out some random unit names and specs/roles.



miserylovescompany
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17 Nov 2009, 8:04 pm

Well there are obsessions, which many of us don't want to do, but have to in order to releive other less welcome feelings, and interests, which we enjoy pursuing.

I think sometimes with aspies the lines get blurred, and some interests turn into obsessions, which you cannot help but plug until every last corner of the given subject is explored. I have OCD too (albeit undiagnosed as yet), and there certainly is a difference between an interest and an obsessive compulsion.

I used to be very interested in computers until I developed an OCD which was about changing the settings & doing things on them that could break them. Now I really couldn't care less about the interest, the only time I ever really think about it is when my brain is running through a huge list of things that 'could' mess the computer up, and all my energy goes on stopping myself doing that.

Not much fun at all, and certainly not interesting.



pandd
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17 Nov 2009, 8:28 pm

Graelwyn wrote:
What would be considered unusual in intensity and focus? I know some NTs collect things a lot etc.

Graelwyn, the criteria describe interests the way they do because it’s not possible to be precise.

“Autistic interests” entail dysregulation of attention and neuro-resources, hence the interference in other activities and development in other areas. You describe a need to engage in these interests that results in irritation and being edgy if you cannot do so. This would probably interfere with other tasks (although you do not directly state this).

What you are describing is not inconsistent with AS type interests. I cannot tell you that these are AS interests, but none of the comments you have made give any particular reason to doubt that these are AS interests that you are describing.



JohnnyD017
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18 Nov 2009, 8:24 am

Yeah the criteria is bogus. According to my parents i never had a narrow interest, or anything else in part 2 of the DSM criteria for that matter. But that also sucks for me cos the ability to focus on that narrow interest can provide some kind of meaning in life or employment in that field, etc.

Quote:
“Autistic interests” entail dysregulation of attention and neuro-resources, hence the interference in other activities and development in other areas. You describe a need to engage in these interests that results in irritation and being edgy if you cannot do so.


The is the best way ive heard it described. This eliminates normal kids who have strong interests in general, and also repetitive behaviour due to boredom.



ToughDiamond
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18 Nov 2009, 10:09 am

I never quite got what the "special interests" criterion was all about.

As the neurotypical mind is something of a mystery to me, I can't easily compare my own behaviour and feelings to theirs. I knew I had an obsessional streak in me that wasn't as evident in others. I would tend to find myself concentrating on hobbies in preference to social things - e.g. I'd be late visiting friends because I hadn't been able to put down a computer program, or I'd go and see them and then take an electronic circuit out of my bag and start working on it.

So I suppose it could be said that I have special interests to the detriment of my social life, though there was always a limit, I'd notice if it was making me ignore people too much, and reluctantly compensate. I had to learn that if I tried to use up a few idle minutes on an interest, that it would often turn out to be a lot more than a few minutes. A lot of the compensatory thing was simply to avoid starting a session.

I can even drop a special interest completely, if it seems to have got to a ceiling in its development or if I want to go in other directions. I even dropped music for a year or two when I moved to another town, simpy because I didn't want to be distracted when there were so many other things to do. I still played a bit, but I mothballed most of the recording equipment, and didn't put my studio back together for a long time.

I think it's an area in which coping strategies have a big effect. Once you know how your obsessions conflict with the rest of your life, you're likely to start questioning them. I heard that one way to tell if it's Aspie behaviour is to ask whether the special interests are of any practical importance - but I noticed that I'd acquired a healthy tendency to ask myself "is this activity really likely to get me anywhere?" and to more or less keep away from anything that seemed wasteful, so by the time I'd discovered AS, most of what I did was probably no less practical than what anybody else does with their time. But it's difficult - what looks to me like a waste of time, e.g. paying top dollar to drink taxed alcohol in a crowded pub while jabbering inane small-talk to others probably has more to reccomend it than are allowed for in my scheme of things.



jawbrodt
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18 Nov 2009, 10:56 am

I do pretty much the same thing as the OP. I find something that catches my interest, pursue it obsessively, then eventually tire of it and move on to something else. With most obsessions, they last 1-3 years. I also do other things, but there's always some kind of pattern to them, too, like they're mini-obsessions.

So, I guess that would qualify as a "yes" if you ask me. No, I don't stick to one thing, and one thing only. But, my interests are always focused on one area or another, or a very small range of them, moreso than the majority of pople. :nerdy:


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Mdyar
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18 Nov 2009, 9:10 pm

ToughDiamond wrote:
I never quite got what the "special interests" criterion was all about.

As the neurotypical mind is something of a mystery to me, I can't easily compare my own behaviour and feelings to theirs. I knew I had an obsessional streak in me that wasn't as evident in others. I would tend to find myself concentrating on hobbies in preference to social things - e.g. I'd be late visiting friends because I hadn't been able to put down a computer program, or I'd go and see them and then take an electronic circuit out of my bag and start working on it.

So I suppose it could be said that I have special interests to the detriment of my social life, though there was always a limit, I'd notice if it was making me ignore people too much, and reluctantly compensate. I had to learn that if I tried to use up a few idle minutes on an interest, that it would often turn out to be a lot more than a few minutes. A lot of the compensatory thing was simply to avoid starting a session.

I can even drop a special interest completely, if it seems to have got to a ceiling in its development or if I want to go in other directions. I even dropped music for a year or two when I moved to another town, simpy because I didn't want to be distracted when there were so many other things to do. I still played a bit, but I mothballed most of the recording equipment, and didn't put my studio back together for a long time.

I think it's an area in which coping strategies have a big effect. Once you know how your obsessions conflict with the rest of your life, you're likely to start questioning them. I heard that one way to tell if it's Aspie behaviour is to ask whether the special interests are of any practical importance - but I noticed that I'd acquired a healthy tendency to ask myself "is this activity really likely to get me anywhere?" and to more or less keep away from anything that seemed wasteful, so by the time I'd discovered AS, most of what I did was probably no less practical than what anybody else does with their time. But it's difficult - what looks to me like a waste of time, e.g. paying top dollar to drink taxed alcohol in a crowded pub while jabbering inane small-talk to others probably has more to reccomend it than are allowed for in my scheme of things.



I can relate almost 100 % to this post.

But it took a lot of effort on my wife's part (years AND TEARS) along with a visit here at W.P. for me 'to finally see this as abnormal '.

Since then and only then have I gotten a handle on this .



OddDuckNash99
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19 Nov 2009, 5:59 am

You don't have to only stick to one thing. Very few Aspies have one interest only. From what I define it as , you just have to have at least one special interest that occupies most of your time, to the point where it does become obsessive. Abnormal in focus doesn't have to mean an odd subject, although that certainly can be the case. But I consider it to be what another poster said about memorizing minutiae about the subject or having some sort of ritual related to it. For intensity, I really don't think it can be a special interest unless it literally is all you want to talk about and all you think about if left to your own devices. I am able to have conversations about other things, but if you let me have control of the conversation, it will be a monologue on the special interest only. I also find that I'm never truly happy unless engaging in my special interests. They really are the only joy I get out of life.
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TPE2
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19 Nov 2009, 10:12 am

A thing that I think that is not very clear is what are the level of focus that an interest has to have to be considered "stereotyped and restricted". If you have a strong interest in ants? In bugs? In animals? In natural sciences?

Other point - if we can have several "narrow interests", if these "narrow interests" sometimes can be very broad and if these interests change with time (sometimes in months or weeks), what is exactly the big difference between these and the "normal" people?

After all, everybody has a set of interests and has a big difficulty with things outside of this set of intersts (try to talk with a "normal" person about, let's say, the genealogy of Ismaeli Imans...)



persian85033
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19 Nov 2009, 12:48 pm

My neuropsychologist seemed to want to narrow my interest. He didn't seem bothered by the fact that I was so interested specifically is Isabel I of Castile's setting up the Inquisition, and expelling the Muslims and all that. Though I do know very little about medieval times in general, I love to find out everything I can about her. Every time I learn something new, it's great.

I really wish I was more like her and that my Faith had a much more influence on my life. I know she and Fernando were related, and they needed a dispensation to get married. Though when they got married, it was a fake one. She immediately went about to get a real one.



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19 Nov 2009, 5:07 pm

TPE2 wrote:
Other point - if we can have several "narrow interests", if these "narrow interests" sometimes can be very broad and if these interests change with time (sometimes in months or weeks), what is exactly the big difference between these and the "normal" people?

In my view the difference is dysregulation of attention. In the instance of someone with unimpaired capacity in the domain of attention, things will catch their attention, where appropriate, based on their experience within their environment. Most people no matter how focussed ,will hear their name if called and come to attention. Equally, with unimpaired attention capacity, people can very flexibly shift their attention from one thing to another. These capacities are impaired in Autistic people.

Special interests are an example of the Autistic brain devoting ‘immediate attention” to things that are somewhat random in the context of the environmental stimulus. So where most people can be immediately brought to attention if their name is uttered in their hearing, those with an Autistic interest will respond the same way to anything and everything that could be associated with their interest, and their brain will find many ways to associate many things with their interest. At the same time, there is a lack of attention flexibility so that people with Autistic interests find that once their mind turns to their interests in any capacity, it is very difficult to shift their attention elsewhere.

Importantly for making a distinction between an Autistic interest and a strongly held interest of someone with typical attention capacities, is the contextual impairments that will also occur if the interest is subsequent to attention dysregulation. Such people will have other indicators of attention dsyregulation, for instance they will commonly manifest an inability to halt a task or to transition to another task until some “natural” stopping point (in the current task) is reached. Signs such as hyper focus, picking out details that seem unimportant and over focusing on them might be apparent in the interest itself by the way the person is able to connect or associate nearly any stimulus with their interest (this often is described in literature as a particular talent in the area of turning conversations to the topic of their special interests).

So while there may be some non Autistic individuals with such strong interests that these could be superficially confused with Autistic interests, these individuals are not likely to manifest co signs of attention dysregulation, their interests are therefore very unlikely to actually interfere with other activities or prevent development in other areas, and their interest is less likely to manifest indicators of neuro over association and inflexibility in the form of an inability to shift thinking away from interests, and a tendency to over associate things with their interests in a way that causes their attention to be constantly redirected back toward their interest.



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20 Nov 2009, 1:54 am

I think I am milder AS, and I can say that I have always felt the "need to read" when I am stressed.

Apparently when I was 3 for my birthday party my mother asked me to invite some little girls from my preschool. So I did. My mother ended up entertaining 5 little girls in the lounge, I spent a lot of the party alone in my room reading my books apparently... :) I dont know, perhaps I was given some new books and I found them more interesting than the girls and the party.

I dont think my interests were that narrow when I was a child, because I had some favourites to read about, novels being the top thing..... (I used to often read the same novels over and over).

But I also used to read anything I got my hands on, from encyclopaedias, gardening books, nursing journals, road map books, the phone directory even for a while, looking at all the different names and numbers and areas, flipping through my mothers novels and magazines (not really understanding what was happening though), so I was quite a generalist, but I used to read probably 5 times more than my peers, and learn about things that other kids my age would not have been interested in.

Strangely I have become more stressed and anxious as an adult and my interests have indeed narrowed... :?


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