After the awesome response we got from our “Reflecting on Diagnosis” piece, I thought it’d be great to seek out some more #ActuallyAutistic opinions, this time on the subject of special interests. For almost everyone on the spectrum, these play a crucial role in our lives. But how do these interests make us feel?
To find out, I asked a whole bunch of Autistics from different walks of life. Here are their responses.
Max Williams, Editor
“When I sing I feel in power, like I’m one step closer to accomplishing my dreams. I feel at home with my special interest, and I feel that with the correct mindset, everything comes together with a song.” – Frances, 21
“I see my special interests as very personal to me and a form of escapism like exploring another world. It makes me feel excited, natural and comfortable as I’m investing time in something I love doing.” – Michael, 32
“Usually the world is exhausting and scary, but when I am absorbed in my special interests, I feel inspired, energised, and the world is exciting. Knowledge about my special interests is so easy for me to acquire, and my memory and recall of this information is amazing – it feels like I was created on purpose to do these things. I doubt myself less when talking about my interests, so am more confident and less likely to experience issues with my speech. Those moments when I am fully engaged in my interests is how I refuel and what gives me a sense of purpose in life.” – Cathy, 40
“My special interests generally have to do with my fandoms, whether they be in the form of books, TV shows, movies, comics, or something else. I honestly love it. My Autistic hyper-focus allows me to become invested and absorbed to the point where I can escape from the monotone or challenging reality that I live in and immerse myself in another person’s wonderful creation and mythical universe. I also absolutely kill it on trivia nights and in themed quizzes because I know so much about the subjects!” – Lana, 17
“The feeling behind a special interest is close to the feeling behind a relationship – you meet an idea, or a hobby, and in the early stages you have to spend time with it and learn more about it. When you’re busy, your day revolves around the next time you can go back to it. Then, even years later when you’ve changed interests, having an older one to go back to is like going back to an old friend or a family home you haven’t visited in years.
The problem is… relationships with people can turn sour, and so can special interests. I always hear people saying that, unlike a person, special interests will never let you down, and in my experience that isn’t true. Sometimes your special interests are people. Or they can be hijacked by other people, they can lead you down roads of self-destructive behaviour, especially if your infatuations are all-consuming and you see them through the world’s strongest rose-coloured lens.
The simplest advice I could suggest [would be] to keep a healthy perspective while still allowing yourself to enjoy your interests.” – Mike, 30
“My special interest makes me feel relaxed and calm. I feel like I can escape to another world for a day.” – Ellen, 25
“My special interest is not a singular topic or issue. Instead mine is a general love of learning and the accomplishment that come from retaining knowledge. So my interest makes me feel like I have something valuable to bring to a conversation.
My favourite saying is “those who do not learn from history, are doomed to repeat it”. When I’m able to learn something then teach it to another it gives a deep sense of pride and makes me feel the regardless my the sensory difference I am still valuable and able to help others, even if that’s just with a cheesy quote every now and then.” – Kyal, 22
“I think special interests make me feel engaged, in the sense of being absorbed in the interest. This sense of engagement then gives me comfort.” – Marcus, 35
“Whenever I’m madly focused on something it becomes this intense love affair. I feel excited, frustrated and full of joy all at the same time. It’s like my interests make me fall into another dimension and I get completely lost in it. I absolutely love it!” – Caitlin, 22
“I’d say my special interest makes me feel like I can do anything I set my mind to.” – Ben, 20