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Nervous Rex

High-functioning autistic
V.I.P Member
Thank you, @SRSAutistic. These are all questions I want answers to, too. I've been pondering this a lot lately and was actually thinking of starting a thread like this.

Here are my best guesses for answers. Keep in mind that I'm generalizing and "right in general" means "wrong about specifics".

I think that special interests start out as a topic in which we feel comfortable. I started out with a specific list of things I am comfortable talking about. Science was one, religion was another. But outside of those topics, I couldn't hold a conversation - I just wasn't comfortable talking about them. Slowly, I added more topics.

Since we're comfortable with a more limited set of topics, we will spend more thinking about and participating in them. That leads to learning much more about a topic than the average person.

I think that "comfortable" and "uncomfortable" are also euphemisms for symptoms of anxiety. Other subjects cause anxiety, but special interests do not. They are our own personal safe spaces. That also leads to a stronger devotion to them than other people have, since they have more options (or "areas of comfort").

I had heard once that anxiety is about 90% correlated with autism (from rough memory - don't quote me). If special interests are anxiety coping mechanisms, then I think the correlation is much higher than 90%.

...so that's my best attempt at figuring it out. I really would like to see this formally studied.
 

mcampos75

New Member
HI guys,

Regarding to how the special interests come to us (and become our profession). I will tell a little story of mine...

I am an economist and I have always been in love with mathematics. Numbers fascinate me! I never really understood why other people couldn´t remember their own sequences of numbers if I could remember mine and im many cases theirs (i.e 10 number sequence on my and their trash cans, licenses plates, phone numbers, birthdays, and so forth). It felt sometimes like an insult to me. Like I cared about them and there was no reciprocity. And in my universitarian years Economics and specifically behavior became a very special interest to me due to the fact that I could mix two obsessions I had : (a) numbers and (b) the need to understand people's behavior.

few weeks ago, after being diagnosed (at age 46) and started therapy I realized something completely unexpected. While talking about the imaginary friend I had when I was 3 or 4 and who "stayed around" tili I was 6 or 7 I told him that I remember that I "Picked" him out of a commercial of a Brazilian Bank (I am brazilian) in a format of a cartoon that was on in late 70's early 80's. . The commercial took place in a brazilian forest and talked about how a litle bumblebee (the bank's mascot) was the only one in the whole forest who could understand everyone's needs and connect with them all . The bee interected so smoothly and perfectly with everyone that I automatically felt like she would also connect with me too, be my friend (the only one) understand exactly how I felt and teach me how to connect with people.

The little bee , however, in order to connect so well with everyone in the forest basically sold "401 investment plans and bonds to foxes, birds, owls and so forth" and even became friends with the dragon who spitted fire all over the place (the dragon represented inflation)...and I knew it was about people and money.

So , I believe I became an economist because I saw a possibility in understanding people through their relation with savings, investiments and spending money. So, it became my special interest and my profession due to the combination of these factors: the Need to understand people and connect with them(still a secret for me sometimes) and the possibility to use numbers (my passion) in the very fashion in which the little bumblebee taught me to do...lol

Sorry to tell such a long story, but my point is that sometimes we choose our interests based not only on what we like but also based on our own needs and "limitations".

anyways..all the best to everyone
 

Nervous Rex

High-functioning autistic
V.I.P Member
Special Interests (SpIns)

Now my answers:

1. Why do we autistics have intense interests?

I am not sure, but my guess is that most humans have intense interests. Children may have strange intense interests that go away with time to be naturally replaced with interests that make sense for the group. For example a child may have a strong interest in the clouds but in some years he may become more interested in football so he can share that interests with the group. The intensity of the futboll thing may be very strong, they may memorize hundreds of players, teams, invest money, etc.

That's very insightful. I hadn't considered the single-person vs group dynamic.

My wife is an Early Childhood Education teacher and has mentioned several times about how at a certain age, children transfer from individual play to group play. Perhaps, in Autistics, this transfer to group interactions is delayed or never achieved - hence a tendency toward more individual-based interests. Also a tendency to info-dump because there is no/less ability to see the other person's viewpoint.

Again, this is a lot of wild generalization. Your results may vary.

A funny, supporting story: When I was in high school, I was studying a proposed "phonetic alphabet" for English and practicing writing words in it. One of my classmates asked me what I was doing, and I infodumped. Then he said, "How would you write 'antisocial' in that alphabet?". I showed him, then went back to my own practicing. It was months later that I realized he was calling me antisocial. I don't think I was antisocial - more "a-social" in that I hadn't discovered or perceived social connection at the time.
 

Gerald Wilgus

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Turning a special interest into a career, probably takes a combination of luck, considerable education, and does the career exist.
Sometimes it is making your own opportunities. While trained in molecular genetics at a time when funding was collapsing, I got into Nuclear Pharmaceuticals first as a chemist. Then I found that I had a facility for designing process systems and moved into process development. Eventually I received two patents in cyclotron targetry and processing. Being observant I had the ability to identify needs and move to satisfy them, sometimes creating positions for myself through my work.
 

Nervous Rex

High-functioning autistic
V.I.P Member
Sometimes it is making your own opportunities. While trained in molecular genetics at a time when funding was collapsing, I got into Nuclear Pharmaceuticals first as a chemist. Then I found that I had a facility for designing process systems and moved into process development. Eventually I received two patents in cyclotron targetry and processing. Being observant I had the ability to identify needs and move to satisfy them, sometimes creating positions for myself through my work.

I've got some experience with patents, so I looked up your patents. It would take me quite a while to get my head around them, but they look impressive. Very nice!
 

Crossbreed

Neur-D Missionary ☝️
V.I.P Member
I think that we derive pleasure from the positive feedback.
Our particular special interests fit with the particular qualities of our divergent neurologies.
After failing in the "social instinct" department, it is nice to find some things that we CAN succeed at.
(Sadly, it does not improve our popularity in most arenas, though... :()
 
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1) Not all autists do, however i feel its fair to say the majority of us do. To answer why we have them, I suspect its to satisfy the hyperfocus, for me personally if I'm at a point in the day where I have no task/chore or plan I feel I'm left without direction; my mind would wander, time would pass and I'd feel unfulfilled, almost guilty. Having the 'special interest' fills that void in my opinion.

2) Again, the hyperfocus, the insatiable appetite for knowledge. I feel I don't often give my focus to things I'm not interested in, but sometimes as I'm sure many will agree, something just catches your attention for long enough to start analysing and asking questions about it; maybe you google search and are satisfied with the resulting answer to the question asked and move on, but sometimes the answer you find doesn't satisfy you, and then you delve deeper.

3) I feel that's the nature of it, simply to 'know' is fulfilling, and if we become satisfied we often move on to find another topic, while some topics have so many questions that the interest never leaves us.

I'm a single father and raise my son whom also has ASD, and he has a fascination with the mechanics of the world; life, death, what happens, reproduction, space, dinosaurs, nature and the animal kingdom. His 'special interest' is most definitely dinosaurs, he can tell me easily 100+ different species of dinosaur, compartmentalise them by diet (herbivore, omnivore, carnivore, piscivore), then again by family branch (sauropods, ceratopsids, psterasaurs ect) and then be able to explain why each one is different by the aesthetic differences; for example number of horns, placement of things, if they had a crest ect. Essentially, the anatomy. He is 7 and now corrects me if I pronounce 'Quetzalcoatlus' wrong :grimacing:

4) feel I've answered this in the first 3, hyperfocus and fulfillment.

5) I feel its because we're looking for a response, not necessarily an answer but more of how they view something and if it differs to our own views.

I really don't speak much, I don't do chit chat and small talk, and unless its my son I generally don't speak unless spoken to and can even then be unresponsive if I feel what they said didn't require an answer. When I've tried to be talkative, I often find myself oversharing and found it's easier to just be mute alot of the time, and observe.

Then on the other hand, if I found myself in a conversation regarding something I'm interested in, I can easily as you say Infodump you with details about said interest; i feel because our 'interest' doesn't usually leave our mind, for me atleast. My interests are always at the front of mind when doing other things, even dreams are relative to the interests at times, that when it does get brought up it's like you have a Script of details ready to offload.

6) I feel as ive answered this one.

7) How does one turn an interest into a career? Now that's something I believe every person with ASD wants the answer to. Some people do manage to turn there interest into a career, I've been thinking about the same thing to and am currently looking at putting myself through university.

You may be an animal lover and simply working with animals at a farm or zoo fulfills you, maybe you have a pet related business. You may be into STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering,Maths) and apply your life to study. Others on said spectrum also are great at art, whether that be crafting something or painting, also singing and playing instruments.

I feel commitment, dedication and perseverance are the answer.

This is just my own understanding of it, but my understanding may not fit with others.

Hi @SpiltPaint,

I agree with your post. I have also had special interests in many things, from Disney Cars, trains, and planes to electric plugs/voltages and plane-spotting. When an NT (neurotypical) mentions something about my special interest topic, I start infodumping about it, and when I'm done after a minute, the NT person says 'Oh wow, I didn't know that!'

Regards,

SRSAutistic
 

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