paint brushes showing one of many special interests for individuals on the autism spectrum

Common Special Interests For Individuals On The Autism Spectrum

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Two major core aspects of autism are repetitive behaviors and restricted interests. It’s widely believed that children with autism have a decreased interest for socializing and therefore seek out other interests. These interests can be narrow and quite focused on certain topics, subjects, and hobbies. Some of these examples of these special interests in autistic youth can be observed when they’re playing. Examples include lining up toys, sorting them by color and type, focusing on only specific toys such as cars, trains, etc…While this type of play may seem ordinary and normal at first, overtime it will reveal a pattern of lacking common engagement, such as typical imaginative play. And this makes sense, because imaginative play, is a social component.

Although some professionals view the lack of social interaction and the formation of special interest that takes place of imaginative play, as a deficit, some researchers, are beginning to view and treat these interests as an avenue for learning and growth rather than a deficiency that needs correction.

What Is Considered a Special Interest In Autism?

These interests usually hold focus around how things work versus how society functions. Therefore, individuals on the spectrum, have strong and almost obsessive levels of focus on things that spark their interest. Oftentimes, these potentially lifelong interests form in youth, and continue through adult hood.

Why Are Special Interests So Important To People With Autism?

Individuals on the spectrum find their focused interests as highly important and meaningful. Similar to an intense hobby, they may have little interest outside of them and these traits can lead into development of sophisticated reasoning and great memory of facts.

How To Encourage Special Interest Development.

Incredibly meaningful things need to be nurtured and developed in a healthy manner. They may provide a source of imagination while developing expertise in certain areas which are all key elements in successful development. These interests can lead to professional development, and act as a safe space in times of stress. And although nurturing interests can be challenging, it’s probably the best investment of time any caregiver can put forth.

We suggest to start by talking about it together as a family or with a mental health professional and then targeting books or YouTube channels that can expand on a foundation that already exists.

The goal here is to help the child to further develop the interest rather than steer them to one that may be more appealing to outsiders. Easier said than done, but nonetheless very important. Developing new activities and learning them together can be a profound way to garner respect and trust, which are integral to growth related to that specific special interest.

And because special interests can turn into a successful career we should explore some of them in a little bit more detail below.

Examples of Special Interests For Individuals On The Autistic Spectrum.

While there are many other topics that can be classified as special interests, these are just a few common ones we typically observe.

  • Woodworking
    Woodworking can be a perfect marriage with higher functioning autistic individuals because it’s very systematized and routine. The process of creating anything out of wood is always a step by step course of action. and the skills involved can be developed and just like with anything, get better overtime the longer you practice. It’s great for fine motor development because if forces you to move your muscles in a patient and meticulous manner to accomplish all necessary steps to completion. We found an insipirational story about Gregory Chabolla, which you can find here and if this something of interest you’d like to pursue, a great place to start is with one of the most popular programs online, Ted’s Woodworking Modules. It comes with 16,000 projects with new plans constantly updated.
  • Computers
    Similar to autism, computers encompass a wide spectrum of interests. From programming, repairs, software, and building the machines themselves. This special interest can get a bit cumbersome to explore, so we recommend starting with the small things first. Does the child exhibit interest in using the computer? If so, do they want to know how computers work? If the answers to those two questions is a resounding Yes, then maybe registering for a programming course is something to consider. Although, there are plenty of books available on the subject, one of the more popular platforms to explore and learn this on is Coursera. With thousands of classes available, Upon successful course completion, you’ll earn a professional certificates of completion. Not only is that a great reward for completing a task, but it could also lead to a real career in both a desired and highly sought after field.They literally have every course to learn anything imaginable. But don’t take our word for it, try it and see for yourself! Here’s a class that’ll teach you how to solve complex problems from all disciplinary perspectives. Learn how to analyze, evaluate, and solve complex problems. Join Today!
  • Art
    An interest in art can reduce stress, boost self esteem, increase a sense of accomplishment, boosts observational skills, and stimulates the imagination. All these benefits, when coupled together creates a perfect environment to enhance problem-solving skills while building on a special interest that could always turn into a meaningful journey.In fact, many autistic individuals turn this hobby into a worthwhile career. Emily, from 21andsensory, is a graphic designer and illustrator. She blogs about her journey online and posts her art to her Instagram channel where people and companies can reach out and commission her for their art projects. Her work in our opinion is phenomenal, and it all began with a special interest in art.The possibilities with art are endless. You can be an illustrator, graphic designer, animator, photographer, and more! Best of all, starting with art is super easy and affordable. A sketchpad and a set of pencils is all you’ll need.
  • Cooking
    Talk about a special interest with a delicious reward at the end, cooking as a special interest not only makes us feel good, but it improves our health in ways that we can’t even imagine. It saves money and is a great way to make new friends. After-all, everyone loves and respects the cook! If this is a hobby you’d like to get into, picking up a keto or paleo book is a great start.Why keto? While most adults choose keto for weight loss, parents with children on the spectrum, may choose it for potential dramatic improvements in symptoms. How exactly does this diet help children with ASD is still not understood, but many researchers suspect that it has everything to do with gut health.If this is something you’d like to get into and while staying frugal, we highly recommend you sign up for kindle unlimited because it’ll provide you with means to explore thousands of books for one low monthly price .However, you will need some sort of reader. A smart phone, ipad, computer, or kindle work best.
  • Music
    Boosting your child’s interest in music can be a fun an exciting activity. You can start by just singing songs together in the car, cycle through multiple genres and find one that really sticks as the favorite. Classical is always a solid foundation, play some Chopin, and maybe it’ll spark an interest in the piano. If that doesn’t work, try something else, maybe guitar and drums are their thing ?We know what you’re thinking, and yes it’s true. Instruments are expensive! But they don’t have to be. You can use facebook marketplace and craigslist to purchase older instruments to begin with.

    Trying various genres of music can also get pricey. But lucky for us, streaming services make that task cheap and affordable. Most platforms come with free trials so you can move from one service to another, and when you find one you enjoy using then feel free to continue the subscription until you no longer need it.

    We recommend Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music.

  • Taking Things Apart
    Making by breaking is a great way to learn how things work. Have some old electronic laying around? Provide the tools necessary and get to work on taking them apart. But before you do, be sure everything is unplugged and safe to work on. Break it, fix it, a truly great way to learn this special interest while fostering imagination.
  • Coins
    Collecting coins can be a great way to challenge and educate yourself. It forces one to expand on historical knowledge while appreciating the beauty and detailed craftsmanship that goes into forging each coin. And believe it or not, collecting coins can be a great investment of time and resources too. Prices for rare coins can fluctuate dramatically but you must learn how to spot those gems first. The good news is that there’s no shortage of both guides or coins in the world.
  • Books
    Want to cultivate a reading habit? Start by always having books around and setting special times just for reading. It doesn’t have to be long either. 10-15 minutes a day may compound into an excellent daily habit.Make a list, find a special quiet place, reduce browsing on the internet, and set goals. If digital reading on kindle isn’t your thing, try visiting some used book stores and getting lost in them once a week.
  • Video Games
    The video game market is projected to grow to $300 billion by 2025. With that much money on the table, there won’t be a shortage of gamers and content creators. Platforms like twitch offer game lovers an audience that can be monetized in many different ways. So if gaming is what you enjoy doing, there’s a way to earn a living with it.With that said, moderation is key here. You’d want to avoid an unhealthy obsession and the best way to do that is to limit the time spent on the interest. In moderation, this special interest may improve coordination, problem solving skills, enhance memory, boost brain speed, and improve your social life through online gaming.

    And if creating video games is something you’d enjoy more, Coursera offers a great 100% online course in game design through Michigan State University that could be of tremendous interest.

  • Education
    Some kids are just lifelong learners. They love different subjects and just learning everything they can in general. And for those that do, getting on Coursera is the best way to learn online while earning certificates of completion. The best part of having education as a special interest is that it may lead to a healthier lifestyle and expand on socialization skills.
  • Photography
  • Calligraphy 
  • Math
  • Animals and Pets
  • Movies, Shows, or Cartoons
  • Politics
  • Science
  • Nature
  • Sports
  • Collectibles
  • Clothing
  • Chess & Checkers
  • Plants

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