Monday, May 20, 2024

Do All Autistic People Have Special Interests

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Causes Related To Socialization Education And Therapies

Ask an Autistic #13 – What are Special Interests?

Many children with autism are educated in small, special-needs settings, protected from potentially negative interactions, and provided with therapies that support the idea that every positive behavior will be rewarded.

In many cases, the bar is lowered for children with autism. They may not be taught the same skills as their peers, and they may be included in activities that require little or no competition.

These experiences have the potential to keep children with autism from learning the social, physical, and emotional skills they need to engage appropriately with their typical peers.

Children with autism may be offered opportunities to engage in sports without fully understanding how a game is played and without demonstrating the skills required to play the game correctly. They may be included in school plays without being asked to learn lines or manage their own costume changes.

They may be part of buddy programs that suggest a level of mutual friendship that doesnt really exist. These experiences, while pleasant, make it easy for a child with autism to avoid the hard work of skill-building that is part of their typical peers lives.

Applied behavioral analysis , the gold standard of autism therapy, is based on the concept of reinforcement, or rewards, for appropriate behaviors or actions. While children do learn a wide range of skills through ABA, some get stuck in the expectation that every positive action deserves a prize.

Strong Interests Support Success

One example of a trait of autism is called restricted interests. This is a type of restrictive behavior. Restricted interests have to do with how the person with ASD has an intense passion for a certain topic. Whereas people without autism often have a range of interests and can easily switch focus from one topic or activity to another and may not commit to excelling at one particular thing, people with autism may have a limited and narrow range of interests.

This characteristic may contribute to the success that many people with ASD experience in life. By being able to focus and maintain one core interest for years or even for most of ones life, the person with ASD can use this interest to accomplish great things.

Carry On The Conversation

Lets be honest, a list containing 20 entries isnt even close to scratching the surface when it comes to available options for activities, sports and hobbies for people with autism, so let me know what I have missed in the comments below.

As always, I can be found on Twitter and via my email:

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Thank you for reading and I will see you next Saturday for more thoughts from across the spectrum.

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Why Do Autistic Kids Do That

It is still not certain why children with autism exhibit restricted and repetitive behavior. There are various theories.

One of the theories is that restricted and repetitive behaviors are a result of attention deficits. In addition, recent advancements in technology lead scientists to think that these behaviors could also be a way to relieve stress for the individual.

Depending on the severity of the repetitive behaviors, certain interventions could be tried.

If the behavior is dangerous and hurting the child, for instance if they are banging their head on the wall, this behavior should be altered.

One way to go about altering the behaviour could be using behavioral techniques like rewarding to extinguish the behavior. However, before going about this way, the parents and caregivers should really understand the purpose of the behavior. If it is helping the child, extinguishing might not be such a great idea .

If these are helping the child to calm down or manage some sensory challenges, the child should be supported while they modify their routines.

Parents should also work with a therapist to find the best approach to handle the behavior, making life less stressful and difficult for them.

If you feel like these behaviors are caused as the child is trying to self-calm themselves to block out sensory overload, you can utilize sensory integration techniques to help them regain a sense of control.

How To Stop Repetitive Behaviors

AUTISM: Do ALL My Kids Have It?

The real question here is whether the repetitive and restricted behaviors should actually be stopped?

Recent studies showed that stimming is actually a way for the individual with autism to calm themselves when they are overwhelmed with certain emotions.

Autistic individuals are sensitive to some sensory stimuli. They can feel discomfort if the light is too bright or the fabric of the couch is too scratchy.

Sometimes they express their emotions through using repetitive behaviors.

There used to be a section in repetitive behaviors definition that stated non meaningful acts. However, there is some evidence indicating that this might not be the case.

If the act is not hurting the individual or way too disruptive, the behaviors could be helping the individual in some manner.

However, if the repetitive behaviors are hurting the individual, then there are some interventions that can be tried to modify the behavior in a positive manner. We have discussed some of them above.

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Fictional Struggles They Relate To

One story James mentioned was that people with autism have trouble getting up in the morning. So, he could really relate to Ash in the first episode of Pokemon, who gets up late and rushes to Professor Oak’s lab in a panic, worried that the three starter Pokemon are already taken. They are, and that’s how Ash ended up with Pikachu.

That’s just one example, but oftentimes a character need not be autistic canonically to have some of the same as some people with autism. Many anime characters face school problems, bullying, harassment, social uncertainty, communication problems, social mistakes, and other problems common for people with autism spectrum disorders. For some people with autism, anime can be a way to see how best to handle their “worst case scenario” situations. Knowing how one might handle a worst case scenario helps people face a potentially awkward social situation with more confidence.

Rigidity And Need For Routine

Once a child with autism has learned and mastered a particular routine, it can be very difficult for them to change it. However, in the United States, children are expected to master multiple routines at once: a home routine, a school routine, and a summer routine. And these routines change constantly.

The kindergarten routine may include learning centers and nap time, while the first-grade routine may include lining up at the cafeteria and sitting still in rows.

For a child with autism, the change can be overwhelming, especially if it comes without warning. The outcome can be age-inappropriate behaviors or interests that come from well-learned and well-loved routines.

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Using Special Interests To Your Childs Advantage

As one of the best known autism self-advocates, Dr. Temple Grandin, has insider knowledge to help those on the spectrum thrive. In a presentation she stressed the importance of focusing on the strengths of children with autism. These strengths should be identified, and built upon.

Dr. Grandin shares how she used to love drawing horses heads repeatedly as a child. She was not discouraged from doing so, instead she was pushed to paint other works of art too. She believes her art skills led to her work designing livestock equipment.

Parents should identify and build on the strengths their children may have whether it is in music, math, or art. Children will often excel in the areas where their interest is most intense. A great way to help them thrive is to build on interests and strengths, and incorporate these skills to help them develop in other areas.

A study by Winter-Messiers stressed the importance of treating special interests seriously. The study showed that, when children with ASD talked about their special interests their behavior, communication, social, and emotional skills improved.

The study, From Tarantulas to Toilet Brushes: Understanding the Special Interest Areas of Children and Youth with Asperger Syndrome , emphasized the critical need for teachers to try and understand and find value in the special interests of children on the spectrum.

Bonus Suggestion: Join The Scouts

What Are Autism Special Interests – Are They Important?

The Scout Association is an all inclusive, ongoing adventure which, despite my own preconceptions, is welcoming to both boys and girls . Although many may associate the Scouts with outdoor activities, in my experience this is only a small percentage of what they do, making them welcoming to people with autism who, like myself, prefer solid walls.

It would be hard to cover everything The Scouts do in just a few paragraphs, so make sure to check out their site to see everything on offer. While youre there be sure to make note of their specific autism policy section, which outlines their understanding and willingness to welcome those who may have difficulty embracing each and every activity the group offers.

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What Is The Difference Between An Interest And An Obsession

Well, to be cynical: normal people have interests. Autistic people have obsessions.

Sometimes they are one and the same- its other peoples perceptions that differ. Mainly because the way we express our love for things is less normal than the way others do.

For example, when I was about seven my main interest was dinosaurs. But whereas most young children would express their love of dinosaurs by pretend roaring and stomping around the playground, I expressed my love by telling people I wanted to be a palaeontologist , memorising geological eras from Precambrian to Pleistocene, learning Latin words so I knew what dinosaur names meant, and reaching the stage where I could grab a piece of paper and write down 91 different species by memory .

If teachers had known about autism back then, Im pretty sure this would have been an autistic obsession, rather than a legitimate interest.

The above does sound rather cynical, but I have to admit other peoples perceptions do change for autistic people.

For example, during my time in education I ran 16 different chess tournaments in six different schools, and some of them became er slightly competitive. My record was running two clubs in two schools at once, each with 32 competitors. It was insane. And awesome. But mostly insane.

I do not love chess just because Im autistic.

Harriet Describes The Pleasure She Gets From Technology Science Driving Tennis And Her Allotment


Barbara: And of course we did some programming. I dont know whether that helped you, but he got all this gobbledygook. And I dont know whether you are supposed to do it or not, but he does it, well these simulators and he gets all this stuff and he alters it to adjust to how he wants it, you know.

So does your simulator beat the real thing or do you still like to go on real train journeys?

Howard: Well a bit of both really.

And what is your favourite train journey in the UK?

Howard: Well I cant really say I have a particular favourite.


Howard: I have been up to Scotland.

Howard: Yes. That is when they used to run the excursions then.


Barbara: And he would come back .

Were you sleeping on the train?

Howard: Yes.

Barbara:Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Daniel: Its a nice interest youve got there

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Diagnosis And Levels Of Autism Spectrum Disorder

Medical professionals can carry out screening for autism in the first few years of a childs life.

Doctors diagnose ASD by assessing the differences and signs listed above, interacting with the child or observing interactions between the child and parent or caregiver, and asking parents and caregivers questions.

There were previously four different types of autism. However, the DSM5 now lists three different levels of ASD, which doctors determine according to the amount of support an individual requires.

However, it is important to note that many mental health professionals do not find these levels helpful, instead preferring to diagnose people with autism based on the spectrum as a whole rather than classifying them using levels.

The three levels of ASD are:

Can A Person With Autism Spectrum Disorder Live An Independent Adult Life

Autism signs &  diagnosis in children

The simple answer to this question is yes, a person with autism spectrum disorder can live independently as an adult. However, not all individuals achieve the same level of independence. The focus of intervention services is to help the individual achieve their highest possible level of independence, and that wont look the same for everyone.

Because ASD is variable , treatment plans should be individualized and focused on each persons passions, interests, and skillsets. With the scientifically-validated Applied Behavior Analysis treatments available at Therapeutic Pathways, your family member with ASD will develop skills that will help them tremendously in navigating everyday life and meeting goals.

There are various degrees and stages of independence. Depending on how early your family member was diagnosed and began treatment, you should treat the journey to independence as just that a journey. It wont happen overnight it will take patience and perseverance to help your family member become more independent.

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Examples Of Special Interests In Autism Spectrum Disorder

So what’s an example of autistic special interests? I can give you some from my own experience: My son has specific special interest in fans, wheels, anything that spins. He was in heaven when fidget spinner became popular. He’s been interested in spinning toys since he was a toddler, and now, five years later, that interest has evolved, but not changed!

And thinking back to when I was a kid, one special interest I had was horses – I knew so many things about so many different breeds of horses! This wasn’t particularly useful information for a 12 year-old. But, it was something that brought me a lot of joy and pleasure just to learn a lot about different kinds of horse breeds.

Other special interests I’ve had during my life include:

  • Queen, the band
  • sooooooo many TV shows and books

Autism And Social Skills: The Complicated Role Of Special Interests

This Autism Speaks research fellow is studying how restricted interests compete with social learning in autism with the goal of improving interventions and supports

2015 class of Autism Speaks Weatherstone Predoctoral Fellows. Her fellowship supports her study of visual attention, special interests and motivations in toddlers affected by autism. The goal of this research is to guide the development of personalized early interventions that improve social learning and development. She is pursuing this work at Vanderbilt University under the guidance of developmental psychologist James Bodfish, an expert on severe and treatment-resistant forms of autism.

From the first moment of life, experiences shape brain development. A childs brain development, in turn, shapes his or her social behaviors. Research shows, for example, that most newborn babies like to look at human faces more than anything else. At the same time, their brains tend to respond strongly to the sound of language. These preferences shape our brain development and behavior. They likewise influence how we learn to understand and communicate with each other.

A large and growing body of research also suggests that, early in life, the interests and brain responses of children with autism tend to differ from these typical patterns.

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Taking Up Real Estate:

The drive that people with autism bring to special interests is akin to a non-autistic persons focus on personal relationships, says neuroscientist Kevin Pelphrey of the University of Virginia Brain Institute. Looking at other people, looking at their faces, reading emotions thats something that for the vast majority of typically developing people, theyre born with it, and then they develop a high level of expertise and never stop adding to it throughout development, Pelphrey says. This consuming focus on other people could conceivably fit the definition of a special interest, Pelphrey says, except that its not very special because its one that everybody does.

The parallel between ordinary sociality and autistic fascination may have a biological basis, Pelphrey says. Multiple areas of the human brain evolved to manage social cues and relationships. Thats a lot of real estate, he says. A new hypothesis suggests that if an autistic child is born without the pull toward people, those brain areas adapt to focus on objects or concepts instead. Scientists know that the brain can divert unused structures to other purposes. For example, in blind people, the area usually dedicated to sight can rewire to manage a tactile activity: deciphering Braille.

The Eyes Yield Further Clues

Autism and Special Interests | What are they? How do they help?

In addition to eye-tracking, I use a method called pupillometry to measure how the pupil of the eye expands or contracts as the child focuses on pictures and their details. Though we commonly think of our pupils responding to dark and light, pupils also expand and contract in response to our interest in the subject of our attention. In particular, Im studying whether children who have autism show a different pupil response to objects than to faces.

These differences, I hope, can deepen our understanding of how a child is processing social versus nonsocial information.

For example, if eye tracking shows that a child with autism spends more time looking at certain images, I can then look at his or her pupil response. A pattern of extended looking paired with a larger, longer pupillary response may suggest that the child is experiencing pleasure looking at the image and thinking about what it represents.

To put it all together, the goal of my research is to show how and why nonsocial information can affect and potentially interfere with social attention.

The findings might even lead to earlier intervention. We know, for example, that some of the most obvious differences in social behavior dont typically emerge until around 2 years old in children who have autism. Distinctive nonsocial interests, however, might emerge earlier and could help us identify children who would benefit from personalized intervention at a younger age.

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