Some autistic people don’t like the term ‘special’ because it feels patronising, so intense or deep interests may be a more accurate way to explain it for you.
If you are autistic, you will almost certainly have at least one special interest. They don’t always last long, although some can last a lifetime. Special interests can be pretty much anything. You might be really interested in a particular object, place, person or animal. Alternatively, your interest might involve taking part in an activity or skill. Interests can happen in several ways
- multiple – several interests at once
- serial – one interest replaced by the next interest
- solo – one interest for a lifetime
Some of us may not be aware we have a special interest because a lot of other people like the same thing too. Or we may not have found something we are interested in yet.
Your special interest will probably be something you think about a lot. It will also be something you want to do or talk about whenever you can. It will almost certainly bring you joy.
Special interests can also be predictable, reliable and therefore feel safe. You will likely feel calm and relaxed doing your special interest. Research has also shown that engaging in your special interest can help you sleep better.
Having one or two deep interests fits the way autistic brains work.
You often experience ‘flow’ or great satisfaction when doing your key interests. Connecting with someone about your interest, or with someone who shares the same interest feels good too. You may share your in-depth knowledge in large chunks all in one go. This is called ‘info-dumping’. Sharing in this way is being your true, authentic self. You may feel most able to do this with people you like and feel comfortable with. It helps when other people show they understand the importance of your special interests.
Occasionally, having a special interest may be something you feel is less helpful. You may lose track of time, or not notice that you are hungry or need the loo. You may even feel that others do not understand your interest and that you need to mask or hide your interest. With these examples it is good to be able to share any worries with someone you trust.
Overall, your special interests are part of who you are as an autistic person. Knowing what they mean to you, and feeling confident to share them with others is an important way to help you feel and be your best self.