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I need help managing special interests. Please reply to this thread.

I was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism (HFA) at age 3. As a result of the intense special interests, I cannot make any NT (neurotypical) friends as they all think I am 'weird' and that I have 'unusual' or 'odd' interests. All the NT social skills are very hard for me to learn.

When I was 4 years old, I was obsessed with Disney Cars, Thomas the Tank Engine, and Disney Planes. Four years later, the obsessions subsided.

At age 9, I was obsessed with the FIFA World Cup (football/soccer tournament). I wanted to know everything about who won the World Cup from 1930-2018. That obsession went away in a couple of months. I still remember the facts to this day!

At age 10, I was obsessed with the American Revolution. I wanted to know everything about it. After some months, the obsession went away.

At age 11, my special interest was Apple devices. I wanted to know everything about iOS software updates, release dates of iPhones, iPads, Macs, iPods, etc.

From age 12, my special interest was electrical plugs and voltages. The special interest is still ongoing.

However, at the same time, I was addicted to some video games such as Clash of Clans and Grand Theft Auto/GTA. I was addicted to those games from 2016 to 2019.

When I started high school at age 14, my special interest was clocks/time zones and electrical plugs and voltages. It was the only thing I talked about. A special interest on time zones and electrical plugs/voltages started intensely increasing. I wanted to know everything about the time zones and the electrical plugs and voltages used worldwide. The fascination with reading about time zones and the electrical plugs/voltages used worldwide had got to such a point that it was the only topic I talked about in school and at home.

The special interests about time zones and electrical plugs and voltages are still ongoing since August 2019.

Recently, in April 2022, two more special interests popped up, this time about electronics and plane-spotting.

So, now I have four special interests: time zones, electrical plugs and voltages, electronics, and plane-spotting.

I have some questions:

1. How is it possible that we autistics can focus on a special interest topic for many hours of the day?

2. Why do we autistics have intense interests?

3. Why do we autistics suddenly become fascinated with random topics which become our special interests?

4. Why can’t we autistics choose our special interests?

5. Why do we autistics want to know everything about our special interests and become experts on it?

6. What is the cause for our autistic special interests lasting a long time?

7. How can I manage the special interests to avoid info dumping about the special interests with neurotypicals (NTs)?

8. Is it possible to not have a special interest?

Regards,

SRSAutistic
 
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Nervous Rex

High-functioning autistic
V.I.P Member
This is a hot topic right now! There's a thread here (Autistic Special Interests) with some speculation as to why special interests exist.

As for managing them, the best thing I have found is to remember that not everyone else is interested in the things I am interested in. It's painful to accept, but it's okay to do something that makes me happy, even if no one else cares.

For the "being perceived as weird" thing and making friends, the best thing is to learn to make small talk - or learn to fake your way through it. There are three topics that people are usually willing to talk about: Job, Family, and Hobbies. If you ask them about one of those, then ask one or two questions to elicit more detail afterward, you'll come across as someone who genuinely cares about others (I learned this from a salesman, so it doesn't mean you actually care about them - it's just a more intricate form of masking that even NTs do).

When it comes to sharing my own personal interests, I've learned to share just a little bit (one or two sentences) and then wait to see if the other person asks for more detail. They almost never do, but that's why I have to just accept that this thing makes me happy even if it doesn't make anyone else happy.
 
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Nervous Rex

High-functioning autistic
V.I.P Member
Question 5 is really interesting, but I don't have an answer. I just know that when I find a new math/game theory/algorithmic problem, I have the exact same reaction - I need to know everything about it. And then once I have thoroughly explored it, I lose interest.

I actually had a great conversation going with someone on this site about a math problem we both found interesting, but once it was thoroughly explored, my interest petered out - made me feel like a terrible friend/conversationalist.

Perhaps it's something like the thrill of acquisition people get when they buy new things, but this is directed toward knowledge or trivia instead of physical things. We're collecting mental treasures.
 

Au Naturel

Au Naturel
The answer to all the questions except for number 7 is: That's how we are wired.

Number 7 is the only one that really matters. But if you didn't want to info dump, it wouldn't be considered an autistic special interest. :)

I think a bit of self-censorship is a good thing. I can wax poetic on anime or military history or the joys of hiking naked in the wild or any of many other things I've been caught up in over the years but I have to remind myself that this person I'm talking to doesn't want to hear it. So instead I pour it all into blog posts that I don't care if anyone ever reads. Although, "likes" are nice.
 

Misery

Photo-Negative
V.I.P Member
The answer to all the questions except for number 7 is: That's how we are wired.

Yeah, I'm gonna second this.

It's one of those things where there's really little point in trying to question the "why". It just IS. People have all sorts of theories but nobody *really* knows how autism works, not completely. Instead of worrying about the "why", be more concerned with how you yourself deal with the results.


And as for that last point... it's important to manage expectations.

I usually dont even talk about my interests to anyone IRL. At all. If directly asked I may say "I'm interested in these things" and then abruptly cut off there. I go in with the (usually correct) expectation that nobody I meet is going to give a fart about the things I like, so... I just dont bother.
 

VictorR

Random Member
V.I.P Member
...

So, now I have four special interests: time zones, electrical plugs and voltages, electronics, and plane-spotting.

...

Actually, you have a fifth special interest right now: the topic of special interests itself.

(If you're wondering, taking an interest in autism itself is pretty common for those on the spectrum)
 

Ronald Zeeman

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Iv'e had a special interest in how does the universe work for over 50 years. Very seldom discuss with any one, even family occasionally close friends. Part of the reason I joined this site, getting so many insights that I could no longer keep it to myself. Like I told my wife, not looking for a legacy. if some of the stuff is correct at least is it is documented some where.
 

clg114

Still crazy, after all these years.
Staff member
V.I.P Member
I have a main lifelong special interest, machines and other special interests that come & go. I read or hear about things that get my attention and then I have new special interest for a while.
 

Ronald Zeeman

Well-Known Member
V.I.P Member
Other than my main interest, others come and go. I don't think a special interest is a requirement to be a member of the club, after all it is a continuum.
 

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