Interest? Special Interest? What's the difference?

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Angnix
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11 Nov 2018, 9:27 am

Special interests can be seen as especially odd behavior too. Like most people buy a bird guide then page through it when they see a new bird. As a child, I would memorize the field guide to the point I could name every bird in the book by sight, but back then I cared little about other details about the birds, that's bizarre behavior for a child to do.


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AceofPens
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12 Nov 2018, 9:48 am

Glflegolas wrote:
Exactly, that's what I'm thinking.

TBH, I think the entire ASD definition by the new DSM is too broad and handwavy (if that's not a word, well too bad, I just made it one); under their definition two people with the same diagnosis could present so differently that what's helpful for one is of no help at all; i.e. one doesn't know how to start a conversation at all, but does fine once the ball gets rolling, while another tends to talk excessively about a topic of interest to them. It doesn't do much good to place a label on somebody if it doesn't help them receive support. Furthermore, I firmly believe that professionals over-emphasize one's ability to socialise, and prioritize that over any academic difficulties.

Sorry for going off topic here, I have a slight tendency to do that sometimes.


No worries. I never end a conversation without a tangent or two myself.

It's definitely true that the current diagnostic labels aren't very useful, especially when they're used among nonprofessionals. And many professionals use the DSM loosely, exacerbating the issue. I've thought that perhaps if there were more functioning levels defined (as opposed to the three that exist now), it could improve things, but your last point brings up another issue - the severity of different autism traits often varies within the same person. One individual could have severe sensory problems and mild social clumsiness. Another could have an obsession with sameness that drives all their other traits. How do we put an autistic population into groups based on severity when the notion is so complicated by the diversity of prominent traits? Social skills have long been considered the central aspect of autism, but I've never seen it explained why that is the case. I know of several autistics who have worse social skills than I do, yet they are higher-functioning than me in the sense that they are more independent. If "kinds" of autism were to be redefined, what could serve as the basis, unless we devise mix-and-match labels like "high-functioning-autism-with-sensory-dysfunction-prevalence"? Or something like the Myers-Briggs labels that combines traits into a four-letter tag, which might be more complicated than beneficial.


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Glflegolas
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12 Nov 2018, 3:26 pm

@AceofPens: I think I may have an analogy to describe what you're talking about.

Let's say you want to travel to Newfoundland by car. No matter where you came from in North America, you still have to go to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to catch the ferry.

If this analogy seems off topic, in my analogy, the starting locations are the genes & environmental factors that can cause autism (there are around 100 known so far), and North Sydney is autism. The people who are headed to Newfoundland may have come from all over North America, but they all ended up in North Sydney. By the same token, the genes causing one person's autism might be completely different from those behind another person's, this could explain why the condition can present itself so differently between individuals.

@future posters, please don't mind my offtopic rambling. Just continue on with the regularly scheduled programming as if I said nothing.


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naturalplastic
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13 Nov 2018, 9:28 am

Glflegolas wrote:
@AceofPens: I think I may have an analogy to describe what you're talking about.

Let's say you want to travel to Newfoundland by car. No matter where you came from in North America, you still have to go to North Sydney, Nova Scotia, to catch the ferry.

If this analogy seems off topic, in my analogy, the starting locations are the genes & environmental factors that can cause autism (there are around 100 known so far), and North Sydney is autism. The people who are headed to Newfoundland may have come from all over North America, but they all ended up in North Sydney. By the same token, the genes causing one person's autism might be completely different from those behind another person's, this could explain why the condition can present itself so differently between individuals.

@.

ummm…..

But..they all still hafta to take the North Sydney Ferry to ...get to autism????

WTF are you talking about?

Ok..what I mean is what IS the equivalent of "the North Sydney Ferry" in your analogy? I was waiting for you to drop the other shoe, and you never dropped it.



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13 Nov 2018, 9:36 am

Part of becoming a professional is learning exactly what terms mean.

Different professions often use different terms for exactly the same thing! For instance, mathematicians use the "i" to denote imaginary numbers. Electrical engineers use "j", as they already use "i" for current.



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13 Nov 2018, 9:40 am

North Sydney ferry.

You don't have to take it if you are fabulously wealthy. Just take a helicopter.



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13 Nov 2018, 9:57 am

AceOfPens wrote:
Social skills have long been considered the central aspect of autism, but I've never seen it explained why that is the case.

I think primarily because autism has historically been defined in terms of the behaviourist model of psychology; hence the most externally obvious aspects of autism (to a non-autistic person) have been prioritised, because behaviourism dismisses the internal experience of cognitive and perceptual differences. That leads to an emphasis on communication differences and socially "inappropriate" behaviours, notably at the expense of seeing any advantages to the way that our minds might handle information and model the world differently.

Glflegolas wrote:
I think I may have an analogy to describe what you're talking about.

Yes, I think I can see where you're coming from. The way that I see it, and given the concentration on social skills mentioned by AceOfPens, is this... In order to be seen as having social impairments, all that matters is that our internal model of the world is sufficiently different from the majority that it interferes with theory of mind. Exactly what those differences are, in terms of our internal experience and mental models, doesn't really matter very much, the effect is essentially the same - we have difficulty reading other people, and they with reading us, regardless of the specific reasons why for any particular individual (hence autistic people often struggle to understand each other.)

An analogy might be foreign languages - to any individual person, all foreign languages are unintelligible, regardless of the fact that they are all very different from each other and mutually unintelligible to speakers of those languages. It is enough that they are sufficiently different from what we know; but exactly how they are different is not apparent unless we immerse ourselves in learning them.


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casuard
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13 Nov 2018, 2:59 pm

I also struggle with this distinction and wish there was a more black and white definition/distinction of what makes a special interest. For instance, as I continue to do research about ASD and try to determine if I am on the spectrum, I have read countless articles about ASD and done hundreds of hours of soul searching to the detriment of my health, at times. Does this constitute a special interest? I also like NCAA football, which is a very standard NT interest. But, as a child I invented my own college football board games, and as an adult I've developed computer ranking systems to rank each team objectively. I dig much deeper into the statistics of the game than anybody I know, and enjoy that aspect of the sport more than just 'pulling for my team' to beat a big rival. All this may tip a normal NT interest into ASD special interest territory. I also enjoy hiking and backpacking, which is another thing that NT's enjoy. But I am thought of by other people as 'the guy with the encyclopedic knowledge' of every hiking trail in my area. I am able to recite elevations of mountains, miles of trails within certain national parks, maintain a list of mountains I've climbed and national parks I've visited, spend hours each day daydreaming about future trips to a mountain range I've never been to, etc. Again, a regular interest that I engage in with much more 'intensity' (as my wife describes it) than others. This can be off-putting at times for other people. Just my 2 cents worth.