Meet Nick & Toby – both are autistic. Both have felt socially isolated and previously unable to attend school due to anxiety and bullying.
🚘 This past weekend they spent two days stripping down a motor. Neither of them have any formal training. So how did they do this? Because they have a deep interest, what we call a ‘special interest’ in the autistic community.
✨ But what even is a special interest? ✨
A special interest is when a person has an intense focus on a specific subject, and wants to learn about that subject, think about that subject, and talk about that subject, above all else.
For many neurotypicals, this can be a foreign concept and under-appreciated. Unlike neurotypicals, autistics often have an intense focus on a specific topic that extends past the range that’s functionally useful. 😵💫
🤓 Autistic people are more interested in learning everything there is to know about the topic that’s interesting to them.
What it’s not – a “special need”. It’s also important to note that not all autistic individuals have special interests, and those who do may have different interests and levels of intensity. Additionally, special interests can change over time or be temporary.
For individuals outside the autism community, it’s important to understand and respect the importance of special interests for autistic individuals, and to avoid dismissing or trivialising them as simply a “quirk” or “obsession.” By recognising and valuing the significance of special interests, we can better support and connect with autistic individuals.
Special interests and friends
For both Nick and Toby, they found pure joy in connecting over a shared interest.
It didn’t matter that they shared a similar diagnosis, it was their special interest where they found a deep connection 🤗
It is with these shared experiences that memories are created and a sense of camaraderie found which can last a lifetime.
Being around people who share our special interests can provide a sense of belonging and acceptance. This can be especially important for people who feel isolated or different from others due to their interests.
Sharing a special interest with others can provide an opportunity to practice and improve social skills, such as communication, turn-taking, and collaboration. It can provide a way to connect with others
What about special interests and work?
As mentioned, for neurodivergent individuals, the concept of a “special interest” goes beyond a mere hobby or fleeting fascination, so imagine the excitement you get when you get paid to learn about your special interest!
For employers, leveraging a special interest in the professional sphere can unlock a world of potential, fostering creativity, productivity, and a sense of purpose.
For both these young men, they are pursuing careers in this special interest.
Find your joy!
👯Finding a bestie who gets you, is really just pure joy – as both Nick & Toby have experienced.
If you’re neurodiverse, and want to connect with like-minded people who share the same special interest, join the growing global community on Kaboose.