One of the things that comes hand in hand with being on the spectrum and being an Aspie is the fact that we have our special areas of interest or obsessions. These are specific topics that we feel strongly drawn to, to the point that we will become a little bit fixated on it, and actually learn every single thing about that particular topic whether it be an interesting fact or a trivial one. These areas of interest may come and go at times, but for the most part, these areas of special interest do accumulate over time. However, they are usually pretty narrowed topics, and we usually have a very intense focus on them. These areas of special interest are very much a core part of someone with ASD or is an Aspie, that you can actually learn more about us by taking a look at what we obsess over.
As for me, what I find interesting is that even though I may not be overly obsessed with a particular area of interest at the time being, I know that it will always be there, and that if a topic comes about that skirts the edge of that particular special interest, it will come out.
Special interests are definitely a safe haven, a comfort zone for those on the spectrum, as it is something familiar and safe to us. I have found that I can always fall back on one of my areas of special interests when I’m feeling down, and it usually helps lift up my spirits and energy.
This is definitely different from having hobbies. When an ASD or an Aspie has a special interest, we can spend hours reading and learning about that particular topic, and in the end, it really becomes part of our lives.
However, one of the downsides of this is that there is also the tendency that we get so absorbed by it, to the point that we can get lost in it for hours, to the point that it can hinder you from doing the other things that you need to do, up to the point of something as simple and basic as eating or sleeping. So, of course, we have to be reminded and learn that even though it is a good thing, we must not forget the other things we do need to do.
Some special interests are there from childhood, and some interests you come across over the years. What makes these things different is that these are topics that you have strong and intense feelings about. Also, well, for me, it also means collecting particular items that do coincide with your area of special interest. (I’m a hoarder and a collecter. As of the moment, I have all Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and Artemis Fowl books, I’m almost complete with my Batman New 52 collection, a complete set of Cornelia Funke’s Inkspell trilogy, a complete set of Sherlock Holmes mysteries, several Doctor Who figurines, two Doctor Who Novels, two Star Wars novels, a handful of manga, a Star Wars Funko Pop, an album full of stamps, and an Aladdin card collection).
Aside from the fact that special interests are our “happy places”, I do believe that these can be leveraged in order to help individuals when it comes to their career and work. I have found that I am happiest when I am doing things that I am passionate about, or at least, I have projects in which I am engaging in my special area of interest. Of course, the best solution is to find a particular line of work in which you can use that particular area of special interest. For example, if your special interest is in math, computers, or animals, it would be good to try for careers in those areas. Since we already know so much about those particular topics and will never stop learning about them, then having careers that focus on special areas of interest will allow them to be their very best.
I consider myself quite lucky as I am able to pursue my own special areas of interest and consider them as work, apart from the projects that I am getting paid for.
As for me, here is a list of special areas of interest that have built up over time:
- Mark Twain
- Stories and literature in any form- Movies, TV shows, Comics, Graphic Novels, Books, New Media, etc. (I also can somehow watch a lot of tv shows at once, and get you up to speed as to what’s happening in the show’s I’m watching, without you having to ever watch it. Same goes with books, although I tend to read those one at a time.)
- Theater, Broadway & Music (I also love listening to soundtracks.)
- Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction & Spaceships (Doctor Who, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next Novels, Ship Schematics
- History (The Fall of the Roman Empire, shows and movies that deal with fantastic artifacts & relics like “Warehouse 13” or “Indiana Jones”, European & American History).
- Mysteries/Crime Fiction (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the new Sherlock series, Broadchurch, anything that gives me a good mystery).
- Fantasy (Lord of the Rings, Artemis Fowl, Cornelia Funke books, Diana Wynne Jones, Harry Potter, Narnia, Chronicles of Prydain, Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom novels,etc.)
- Disney (I am a champ at Disney trivia.)
- My American Akita Puppy (We just got her a few months ago.)
- Cosplay (I’ve always loved dressing up in costumes, however, it is only know that I’m finding the courage to go all out. Here is me as Sarah Jane Smith and as Twilight Sparkle.)
- Superheroes & Comic Books (Daredevil, Batman, Loki, Captain Marvel,Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Descender, I also watch almost all superhero shows available to me.)
- Anime & Animated TV shows (Fullmetal Alchemist, CLAMP, Rave Master, Rurouni Kenshin, Avatar the Last Airbender, The Legend of Korra, Voltron: Legendary Defender, My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic etc.)
- Asian Dramas & Music
Some of these interests have been around since I was a child, such as my love for books, science fiction, fantasy, movies and tv shows, music, stamps, Disney, history and Broadway. Some of these things got added along the way, such as my interest in cosplay, superheroes and comic books, anime, Asian Dramas and music, and, of course, my five month old American Akita puppy.
Some of these have taken a back seat for now, such as stamp collecting, Asian Dramas & Music, and Theater and Broadway, but I know that it will always be there, and that I can always take it up again when I’m in the mood for it. However, ask me about any of my areas of interest and I can give you entire lectures on them.
Now, for any of you on the spectrum, or Aspies out there, what are your topics of special interest? For non-ASD/Aspies, feel free to ask me anything on any of these topics, and I’ll be glad to impart my knowledge to you.